SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Savannah-Safe Jazz Festival kicked off live performances Thursday with some passionate blues players from the Hostess City itself.
The festival, now in its 39th year, has partnered with WSAV to livestream all 16 performances online. Not only does this keep attendees and musicians safe, but allows jazz lovers beyond Savannah to enjoy the event each night.
Watch the full performances from Blues Night below.
A native of Savannah, Willie Jackson has always been a songwriter with a passion for writing blues songs, playing bass and singing with various configurations of his Tybee Blues Band at venues across the Coastal Empire. Jackson’s original music is in the South Georgia tradition of soul-stirring blues, with clever lyrics.
His debut EP, released March 2017, features original songs that carry the heart of traditional blues into musings on contemporary everyday life. He is a crowd-pleaser, ensuring people have a good time.
The Tybee Blues Band plays covers of some of the greats like Muddy Waters, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton, along with Jackson’s latest original songs.
The members change from time to time, but they often have Jim Simmons, known as the “Blues Hog” of Tybee Island, playing blues harmonica, Brandon Riley delivering his drumming expertise, and Rodney Smith, one of the best bass players in the area, completing the rhythm section.
The Eric Culberson Band, a Savannah Blues legend, has graced the Savannah Jazz Festival stage for years as a beloved regional act.
Culberson has been playing music since the age of 6. In 1992, he caught the attention of Kingsnake Records’ head, Bob Greenlee, and was signed as a solo artist. Since then, he has performed in major festivals, toured the Midwest and even played a bit in Europe. In 1998, Culberson opened Savannah Blues, a live-music nightclub hosting legends including Bobby Blue Bland, Sean Costello and Derek Trucks.
Dolette McDonald joins Culberson again this year as a featured guest to inject some female blues vibes into the festival. A recent resident of Savannah and board member of Savannah Jazz, McDonald is no stranger to the big spotlights.
As a professional background vocalist, she distinguished herself performing such wildly different styles of Laurie Anderson, the Talking Heads, the Rolling Stones, Steve Winwood, Sting, and El Divo de Juarez, Juan Gabriel. She is also prominently featured in concert films by Sting and Laurie Anderson.
Savannah is lucky to have Dolette during what she calls her “Act III.”