Rusty (Russell) Jones knew all eyes would be on him when he soloed on Pat Williams’ “Oh Yeah Ballad,” but as a veteran performer, he’s used to that kind of attention.
What happened next at the PSU Jazz Festival Concert in March took him off guard.
To celebrate the 40th year of the festival and to honor Jones, who began the event, festival director Bob Kehle had secretly arranged for Pittsburg Mayor Michael Gray to present Jones a certificate designating the day as Rusty Jones Day.
“I’m not sure it was deserved, but it was definitely appreciated,” said Jones, chairman of PSU’s Department of Music. Jones retired from that post at the end of the spring semester.
This year, 66 bands from three states participated in the Jazz Festival and it has earned a reputation as the premier event of its kind in the Midwest. The festival began much more modestly, however.
“That first year, we had 13 bands,” Jones recalled.
Jones is quick to give the credit for the growth of the festival to Kehle.
“I attribute (the growth of the festival) to Bob’s tenacity and attention to detail,” Jones said. “There’s an awful lot of planning that goes into this. In fact, he’s already planning for next year.”