One of the performers in the lineup for the 14th “Thin Man” Watts Jazz Fest, the Jeff Rupert Quartet, led by Jeff Rupert, director of jazz studies at the University of Central Florida and a saxophonist, composer, record producer and recording artist.

New for 2023: Original music that links jazz and manatees

The 14th “Thin Man” Watts Jazz Fest is keeping its traditions, but adding new features for 2023.

The festival will draw hundreds of Central Florida jazz fans to DeLand Saturday, Feb. 11, and will feature fan favorites, including Sybil Gage, Dee Henry’s Vibe Band with female vocalist KB, and saxophonist Thom Chambers, accompanied by a guitarist and drummer.

Sybil Gage, award-winning blues and jazz singer from New Orleans

For the Saturday festival, six acts will perform between 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on two main stages: Cafe DaVinci at 112 W. Georgia Ave., and the Dr. Noble “Thin Man” Watts Amphitheater at 322 S. Clara Ave.

The stages are three blocks apart in Downtown DeLand.

The cost of admission to those six acts is $15 in advance or $20 at the gate, with tickets available online at

In addition to the main event, however, the community is invited to enjoy a free concert at noon Saturday, Feb. 11, featuring the gospel ensemble L.I.F.E. directed by Dee Henry, on the north side of the Historic Volusia County Courthouse.

After the gospel-choir performance, a New Orleans-style “second line” parade will lead the crowd to Cafe DaVinci nearby. Festival tickets and T-shirts will be available for purchase at the gospel concert.

For an even earlier start, there are two free events, also open to the public, on Friday evening, Feb. 10. And, for the first time this year, the festival will offer a lagniappe: more free shows on Sunday, Feb. 12.

Starting at 6 p.m. Friday, the Adam Kornecki Trio will play at Sidecar Home Market & Bar, 100 S. Woodland Blvd. Across the street in the Museum of Art – DeLand event space at 100 N. Woodland Blvd., a festival kickoff party will take place 6:30-8 p.m.

The kickoff party will be the last chance to purchase festival tickets at $15.

“What we present, we want to offer to as many people as possible,” festival organizer Jeff Shepherd said. “We want to engage the Downtown DeLand businesses and their customers.”

A highlight of this year’s festival will be a collaboration between Dee Henry’s L.I.F.E. gospel group and songwriter Tom Barratt. Barratt is a member of the board of a major festival sponsor, Riverside Conservancy.

Gopel ensemble L.I.F.E. The name stands for “love, integrity and freedom of expression.”

“Both Jazz Fest and Riverside are sharing the mission of conservation of our shared past and present,” Barratt said.

His original song, “The Manatee Song,” will be sung by Henry’s choral group at the noon concert Saturday on the north steps of the Historic Volusia County Courthouse.

How to buy tickets
Tickets may be purchased online at, and also at four DeLand locations: the MainStreet DeLand Association office at 100 N. Woodland Blvd.; the African American Museum at 325 S. Clara Ave.; Steve’s Downtown Music at 108 S. Woodland Blvd.; and The West Volusia Beacon newspaper at 110 W. New York Ave.

All proceeds from the “Thin Man” Watts Jazz Fest are given to the African American Museum of the Arts in DeLand, the MainStreet DeLand Association and the Watts-Greenlee music scholarship at Daytona State College.

An annual event in Downtown DeLand, the Jazz Fest commemorates the life and legacy of renowned saxophonist Dr. Noble “Thin Man” Watts, a DeLand native. The mission of the festival, in addition to fundraising for its three beneficiaries, is to unite the community in a shared appreciation of music and of DeLand’s jazz and gospel heritage.

The 2023 Jazz Fest signature artwork, inspired by a photograph of Noble Watts taken by Danny Sorensen, was developed by David Swanberg and Stephanie Mullins, staff members of the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority and the MainStreet DeLand Association. The image is featured on this year’s souvenir posters and T-shirts.

Jazz Fest tickets may be purchased online at

Mark your calendars! Here’s the Jazz Fest schedule

The schedule for the ticketed festival on Saturday, Feb. 11, is:

Cafe DaVinci – 1-2:30 p.m. Jeff Rupert Quartet. Rupert is the director of jazz studies at the University of Central Florida. He is a saxophonist, composer, record producer and recording artist.

Amphitheater – 2-3:30 p.m. Thom Chambers Trio. Chambers’ smooth jazz saxophone will be accompanied by guitarist Greg Pakstis and drummer Ron Cangro.

Poet Terry Odis

Amphitheater – 3:30-4 p.m. Poet Terry Odis, from Dallas, by way of Chicago, is an award-winning slam poet as well as an architect and teaching artist.

Cafe DaVinci – 3-4:30 p.m. Sybil Gage. Gage sings jazz standards with a New Orleans flair.

Amphitheater – 4-5:30 p.m. Chaz Underriner Quintet. Guitarist and composer Chaz Underriner and his ensemble will play some of Chaz’s original new jazz music.

Cafe DaVinci – 5-6:30 p.m. Ella and the Bossa Beat. This father-daughter duo on piano and drums will combine with guitar and cello to present a Brazilian jazz-and-pop style with bossa nova grooves and a soulful jazz influence.

Amphitheater – 6-7:30 p.m. The Vibe Band directed by pianist Dee Henry, featuring female singer KB. The Vibe Band is a jazz, R&B, soul and funk band that promises excitement, fun and great music for all generations and cultures.

Thanks for the ride!
Attendees at the Jazz Fest are encouraged to circulate between the stages, as their musical tastes dictate. Richard Prescott and Mainstreet Community Bank have generously agreed to provide golf-cart transportation at no charge to jazz fans.

Even more jazz at Jazz Late Night
In addition to the ticketed festival, venues in Downtown DeLand will host jazz acts for Jazz Late Night:
• 6-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, the Adam Kornecki Trio at Sidecar Home Market & Bar, 100 S. Woodland Blvd.
• 8-11 p.m. Friday, Feb. 10, Hot Club of DeLand at Abbey Bar, 117 N. Woodland Blvd.
• 7-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, Thom Chambers at The Lounge at the Historic Artisan Downtown Hotel, 215 S. Woodland Blvd.

Also, for the first time in its history, the Jazz Fest will present free Sunday shows.

On Sunday, Feb. 12, Sidecar Home Market & Bar will host Chelz Danielle from noon to 1 p.m., and the eight-piece DaVinci Jazz Experiment will play at Cafe DaVinci 1:30- 3:30 p.m.

Other locations may be added; check the website for updates.

‘The Manatee Song’

Tom Barratt of the Riverside Conservancy, a nonprofit devoted to preserving and protecting shorelines and estuaries, is a sponsor of the “Thin Man” Watts Jazz Fest, and now one of its musical composers.

Barratt’s “The Manatee Song” will be among the music performed by Dee Henry’s gospel group, L.I.F.E., at noon Saturday, Feb. 11, on the north steps of the Historic Volusia County Courthouse, 120 W. Indiana Ave. in Downtown DeLand.

But what’s the connection between the Conservancy and the Jazz Fest? Barratt explains: “First, we are both community-based. Our support and energy comes from the community. Jazz here, and “Thin Man” Watts are part of our musical history. The waters and springs are part of our natural history.

“Both the Jazz Fest and Riverside are sharing the mission of conservation of our shared past and present. And these are pillars that make a culture, a people — who we are. We must take great care to conserve and protect these, and to share them today and into the future.”


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