The M&T Jazz Fest is going back to school this summer.
And the legendary B.B. King will bring his guitar to educate everybody on how to perform the blues.
Founder and executive producer Frank Malfitano revealed in a news conference this afternoon that King will headline the second night of the free admission event, which will bring its 32nd edition back to the campus of Onondaga Community College on July 11 and 12 after two years at Jamesville Beach Park.
The first night of the concert will feature two popular bands that are being billed as co-headliners. The retro swing of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will be followed by the powerhouse funk of Trombone Shorty.
The biggest buzz come July will probably swirl around the guitar-based set by King and his orchestra. King's ringing guitar and gritty vocals have earned the veteran Kennedy Centers Honoree, 15-time Grammy Award winner and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Honoree. King will be joined by his 18-piece orchestra.
"Whenever you can bring in a legend like B.B. King, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Dizzy Gillespie, these are special years," Malfitano said, grouping King with fellow great performers who have headlined previous M&T Jazz Fests.
Malfitano said the move back to OCC, where the fest was held from 2001 to 2011, was predicated by the preference of fest-goers. "They vote with their feet," he said.
He added that the hiring of first-year OCC president Casey Crabill and her appreciation for what the event means to the community made the move obvious.
Crabill said she's a fan of the event, and invited fest-goers this July to visit the new music building on campus. "Music is not an extra-curricular program here," she said.
Malfitano said he shortened the event from three days last year to two because he thinks fest-goers are getting tired of "three-, seven-, 10-day festivals."
"We'd rather do our two power-packed days," he said.
Two talented scholastic singers will open the two days of music. Both Central New York high school-aged vocalists won the prestigious Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Competition in successive years.
Julia Goodwin, a sophomore at Baldwinsville's Baker High School, will open music at 5:30 p.m. July 11, and Nick Ziobro, a junior at Fayetteville-Manlius High School, will open music at 5 p.m. July 12.
The two students wonderfully entertained the conference attendees this afternoon with short and very sweet sets. Afterward, WSYR-9 News host Carrie Lazarus beamed at the podium afterward as she told the crowd of their achievements, and how they'd performed on her show "Extraordinary Talent."
Lazarus's fund of that name and a trio of anonymous donors will sponsor their fest performances.
The July 11 schedule will continue with a standout 10-piece Guitar Noir Band led by Syracuse Hall of Famer Mark Doyle at 6:30 p.m., Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at 8 p.m. and Trombone Shorty & New Orleans Avenue at 9:30 p.m.
The July 12 schedule will continue with Igor Butman & The Moscow State Jazz Orchestra featuring Vocalist Fantine at 6:30 p.m., Raul Midon at 8 p.m., and B.B. King at 9:30 p.m. The Price Chopper Fireworks Display will close the fest after that.
Malfitano said the set-up at OCC will feature "hipster-like" food trucks instead of the previous "carnival-style" setup. He said New York State Craft Beers will be featured in a beer garden. Update: Hear Chris Bolt's story on the Jazz Fest press conference: