SIMSBURY — Ed Tankus, owner of president of Blue Plate Radio, has teamed with Autism Speaks to organize the first Jazz 'N' Blue Festival at the Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center on Saturday, Aug. 16.
Tankus said he was inspired to hold an event at the Simsbury theater after seeing West Hartford musician Doug Jones perform there.
"I loved the facility … it's a beautiful stage, beautiful sound," Tankus said.
He said the Branford-based Internet jazz station has been looking for an opportunity to sponsor a large-scale event. "It's the first large jazz festival that we're holding," he said.
The one-day event, which starts at 4 p.m., will feature a combination of local artists and an internationally known band.
Jones, who will be the first performer, just released his second single, called "Almost Summer." Tankus described the multi-instrumentalist as a great harmonica player who also plays multiple saxophones and flute.
The second band is Airborne, a New Haven group that performs a variety of multicultural styles, including Latin jazz, Caribbean jazz, R&B, funk and fusion.
And the featured band is Down to the Bone, who's latest single, "The Sweetness," has been in Billboard's Smooth Jazz Top 10 since its release in April.
"They've been around for 25 years and last appeared in Connecticut about seven years ago," Tankus said. He described the group's style as a mix of funk, soul, smooth jazz and fusion.
Tankus, of Branford, said he decided to use the event to help raise awareness of autism and support a good friend, station disc jockey Al "DJ ACT" Taylor, whose son is autistic.
As an incentive to families, admission is free to anyone age 16 and under. Tankus said he's hoping to attract families with autistic children, who spend an average of $60,000 each year to support a child with autism.
He said, although every child is different, jazz music is likely to be more soothing and engaging than other genres for a child with autism.
Tankus said the festival is the last big jazz event in Connecticut for the summer and he's hoping to make it an annual event.
"Kids 16 and under are free, parking is free, you can bring your blankets, chairs, and you can bring your favorite beverage … We're trying to attract people who may have never heard jazz before," he said. "We're really looking forward to making an impact."
Tickets are $39 in advance and $45 at the gate. To purchase tickets, go to blueplateradio.com/tickets. Simsbury Meadows Performing Arts Center is at 22 Iron Horse Boulevard.