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Trombonist returns to Thomson for festival

For as long as he can remember, Thomson's Chris Crenshaw has been around music -- listening, learning and playing it.

"I started playing piano when I was 3," performing by ear what he heard on the radio, he said.

There was his father Casper's gospel group, Echoes of Joy, and the Mama's Boys, a group of about 10 guys he played with at Thomson High School.

"I still remember those talent shows that we did in high school. We shut it down."

Then it was on to Valdosta State University and later the Juilliard School in New York, then playing with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

On Saturday, the trombonist will be back home for his first appearance at the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival. It's not just his first performance there. It's his first visit to the annual festival that celebrates a McDuffie County blues legend.

He'll be joined by his cousin Shantawn Kendrick on saxophone and other members of the Georgia Horns, a group put together especially for the festival.

"We're going to have a good time," Crenshaw said in a telephone interview last week. "I'm looking forward to it. We're all looking forward to it."

Crenshaw sees blues as a part of the jazz genre.

"Blues and jazz are all right there together," he said. "When we play our music it's going to be from a jazz perspective. ... We try to put the blues on our style plate."

And it's going to sound good, he said.

"You don't have to worry about whether it's going to sound good or not. It will."

The Georgia Horns also includes trumpeter Marcus Printup, a Conyers native; Kevin Bales of Marietta on piano; Kevin Smith of Atlanta on bass and Brandon McCrae of Valdosta on drums.

Another Thomson group, the Crosstie Walkers, are familiar to festival-goers and will return again this year.

Headliners for the festival are Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. Shorty, aka Troy Andrews, was nominated for a Grammy for Backatown , released last year.

Four-time Grammy winner Marcia Ball, a former headliner at the festival, also returns this year. She has also won eight Blues Music Awards.

Also on Saturday's bill are Sonny Landreth, Jimmy Hall & the Prisoners of Love featuring Jack Pearson and Atlanta's Mark Miller & Travelin Shoes.

Tourism writers have voted the annual one-day festival one of the top small cultural events in the Southeast.

It will be held at its usual site on Stagecoach Road, 300 yards off Washington Highway, north of Thomson.

Advance tickets for Saturday afternoon's show cost $25 and are available at the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce or online at

Tickets the day of the festival cost $35. Children 12 and younger are admitted free.

For more information, visit or the Blind Willie McTell Facebook page.

Web posted on Thursday, May 19, 2011

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