One of Syracuse's biggest jazz success stories is likely one of its most unknown.
In the 1930s, Edward Chester Babcock, a Cazenovia College graduate, changed his name to Jimmy Van Heusen and headed for a bigger city: New York. Van Heusen started penning hit songs, eventually co-writing the top Frank Sinatra hits "Come Fly with Me" and "Love and Marriage" and winning four Academy Awards and one Emmy.
This weekend, Van Heusen’s legacy returns to Cazenovia through the 13th Annual AmeriCU Jazz-N-Caz festival. Kicking off the celebration is Wall Street Journal music historian Will Friedwald, who will explain Van Heusen’s career and importance tonight at 7 at the Catherine Cummings Theatre.
The theatre's director, Colleen Prossner, said the theme of this year’s Jazz-N-Caz is highlighting Syracuse musicians of the past and present.
"The premise this year is really focused on the Central New York talent that have gone off and become famous and done things in their own right. The theme this year is bringing the CNY stars back home. We really focus a lot on the tradition and how it all began."
To improvise around that theme, Prossner brought in top talent with ties to the area. The festival's Friday night lineup includes cabaret singer Marissa Mulder, pop-oriented vocalist Karen Oberlin and Brazilian and bossanova jazz stylist Paul Carlon — all locals who have since racked up loyal fans and awards in larger venues.
This year's Jazz-N-Caz also boasts recent Grammy winner Catherine Russell, a songstress who specializes in jazz and blues from the 1920s to the present, on the bill for two Saturday night sets (one at 8 and one at 9:30).
The festival will culminate with an open jam slated to include some students and young musicians who get the chance to play side-by-side with professionals. Prossner, who organizes the festival, said the 2014 lineup represents the past, present and future of jazz.
"I love to bring the students and the young kids into the event because that’s where our future in music is."