15-year-old takes stage at NC Jazz Festival


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Sultry sounds and swinging songs will flow through the streets of downtown Wilmington starting tonight. The annual North Carolina Jazz Festival hits the stage.

The line-up of performers includes a young man with some big talent.

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At just 15 years old, Jonathan Russell is the youngest musician performing at the festival. But just because the violinist was born almost 100 years after the birth of jazz doesn’t mean he can’t work the strings with the best of them.

“My grandparents would always take me to their house and corrupt me by playing old 78s of jazz music, and I just really liked it,” Russell said.

Russell picked up a violin at three years old, started improvising jazz at five, was playing in jazz bars by seven and began composing film scores at eight. He loves the freedom of jazz and being able to do whatever he wants.

“Jazz is a rhythm that propels you forward,” he said. “It makes you wanna move; it makes you wanna dance.”

Russell’s mom Eve Weiss said she doesn’t use the word prodigy, but said her son certainly has prodigious talent. His music has taken them all over the world, and although his childhood is about as traditional as the music he makes, he’s still a kid.

“They go to the diner every day after school, they have parties on weekends, but they understand if you say, ‘I can’t. I’ve got a gig. I’ve got a practice,'” Weiss said. “They come to each other’s gigs. This is his childhood.”

Weiss said the North Carolina Jazz Festival is the gig to come to if you’re skeptical about the sound.

“This is the kind of festival that has, instead of a hundred artists, they hand-pick some of the best musicians in the classic jazz world,” she said.

She’s proud to call her son one of the best, and he loves being part of a movement that spans generations and is as sweet and sultry as the day it was born.

“It’s kind of like jambalaya,” Russell said. “It’s a mix of all kinds of things, and you don’t know what they are, but you know it sounds good when they mix together.”

You can hear russell and many talented musicians tonight, tomorrow and Saturday.

For ticket information, visit http://ncjazzfestival.com/tickets/