The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

July 15, 2014

Musicians encourage people to attend the Simply Jazz and Blues Festival

Back for a second year with a new location, the Simply Jazz and Blues Festival promises three days full of jazz, blues and gospel music.  

This year’s event, Aug. 1-3, will be at Jim Word Memorial Park on Neville Street in uptown Beckley, and musician Bob Thompson said it’s a show you won’t want to miss.

“The music is fun,” Thompson said. “It really touches people, jazz and blues, and we need more things that feed our souls and our spirits these days.”

Thompson is the founding member of the band Bob Thompson Unit, which has been together for many years.

The band consists of him on piano, Doug Payne on saxophone, Ryan Kennedy on guitar, John Inghram on bass and Tim Courts on drums.

“We play original music and music from the standard jazz repertoire. We play funky music and music that swings.”

Bob Thompson Unit, based in Charleston, played at last year’s Simply Jazz and Blues Festival and they are looking forward to the second year in a new location — “We’re hoping for a big crowd.”

Thompson grew up in New York City listening to jazz and previously sang in a group called The Chanters, an R&B band.

He started playing jazz music while he was a student at West Virginia State, and the rest is history. He has since traveled to a number of locations to perform, including Europe and South America.

“One of the things that jazz allows is freedom of expression. Much of the music is improvised and it gives you a chance to express your feelings.”

He said his band always tries to leave their crowds with a positive and uplifted outlook on life.

Many people hear the word “jazz” and they think, “I don’t know anything about jazz,” Thompson said, which can sometimes steer them away.

“Once you hear it, once you come out and hear some of these artists, you’ll leave having enjoyed the experience.”

Thompson tips his cap to Doris Fields, aka Lady D, for organizing the event.

“She has been doing a fantastic job trying to get jazz and blues in front of the public in that area... It’s part of our heritage and I think it’s great someone has taken the initiative to get it out there. Next generations really need to be exposed to this music.”

For a full schedule of events, visit

To hear songs by Bob Thompson Unit, visit

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