There’s no car keys involved, but the 16th birthday for Gulf Coast Ethnic and Heritage Jazz Festival (GCEHJF) is turning out to be sweet indeed. After all these years, our little event is growing up.

First, we heard that the annual multi-day cultural celebration was the recipient of a $4,500 gift from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. GCEHJF is slated put on five days’ worth of free clinics, competitions and shows this summer from July 30-Aug. 3; and every penny received is put to good use.

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Then word leaked out the headliner at this year’s centerpiece concert will be a member of America’s First Family of Jazz, vibraphonist Jason Marsalis. He was a founding member of the Grammy-nominated New Orleans combo Los Hombres Calientes before leaving at their height to take a job with pianist Marcus Roberts.

In the last half-decade, Marsalis put aside the drums in favor of the vibraphone and made a bigger splash with an instrument rare in modern times. He’s set to hit the stage at the Temple on Claiborne with six other musicians in a show that’s bound to impress.

Our jazz whisperers also said there might be another big announcement from the event in the weeks ahead. Though guarantees weren’t forthcoming, rumors of expanded shows for that week are making the rounds and the name attached is every bit as impressive as Marsalis.

It would appear new GCEHJF President Nathaniel Patterson has things on an upward track. The marketer and fundraiser from Tampa is but one of several recent board additions, including another with ties to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and local filmmaker Gideon Kennedy who are making their impact felt.

Stay tuned for more as we hear. If Mobilians can give Jason the rousing welcome his brother Wynton enjoyed in 2012 with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, he’ll likely leave with a great impression of the Azalea City.