All That Jazz

public TV documentary highlights EC Jazz Festival

Tom Giffey, photos by Mike O'Brien |

I have an embarrassing confession to make: Despite having lived in the Chippewa Valley for more than 16 years, I’ve never attend the Eau Claire Jazz Festival. I don’t have a good excuse – I’ve just never set aside the time to attend one of the many performances, large and small, that are part of the annual jazztravaganza. Fortunately for my ears, I won’t make the same mistake next year, and I have a new Wisconsin Public Television documentary to thank. The hour-long show – already streaming online and debuting on the airwaves statewide Dec. 19 – was recorded at last April’s 50th annual festival. In between interviews with Bob Baca, UW-Eau Claire’s director of jazz studies, and many of the musicians themselves (ranging from high school students to saxophone legend Jimmy Heath), the program showcases performance from top high school and college jazz ensembles. There are tunes by the likes of Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and Morton Gould, as well compositions by featured performers Stefon Harris and Heath – who, although just shy of 90, still playfully traded sax solos with members of UWEC’s Jazz Ensemble I. Those and other sublime musical moments in the program demonstrate the vitality of America’s only original art form – and the festival itself.

Jazz Fest in Eau Claire on Wisconsin Public Television • Monday, Dec. 19, 9pm • WHWC-TV (Channel 28) in the Chippewa Valley • streaming now at