On April 28, a top-notch lineup of musicians from around the globe will play for North Coast audiences as the 32nd annual Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland swings into town. The festival, which runs through May 8, will feature more than 20 live performances at venues across Cleveland, making the Sixth City the undeniable epicenter of cool. "Each year we strive to present new artists who've never been presented to our community, and to craft special programming that might only be available in the context of our festival," says Willard Jenkins, Tri-C JazzFest artistic director. "We've got a very exciting and intriguing JazzFest on tap for this year on a number of fronts, including those elements of presenting new artists and presenting programming that would only happen at Tri-C JazzFest."
The Shaw High School Mighty Cardinals kick off the Fest with a lively parade through Tower City to Public Square. Not your average marching band, the troupe from Shaw High earned numerous accolades in 2010, and performed at a rally for President Barack Obama at Cleveland State University.
An unprecedented who's who of jazz luminaries will converge on Cleveland, including Trombone Shorty, at the House of Blues on April 28. The New Orleans legend – real name Troy Andrews – will be joined by his Orleans Avenue band, kicking out their eclectic "Supafunkrock" sound. Despite his name, Shorty is a multi-instrumentalist, sharing a virtuosity on the trumpet and trombone. Friday, May 6 brings the "Tri-C JamFest" at PlayhouseSquare's State Theatre, featuring Medeski, Martin & Wood; the Jazz Journalists Association's “Organ Keyboardist of the Year” from 2003-2005, Hammond B3 master Dr. Lonnie Smith, a veteran player for more than half a century, featured on 70-plus recordings and bandmate of Dizzy Gillespie; and Will Bernard, recognized by Billboard Magazine as “one of the best-kept jazz guitar secrets on the planet."
On Friday, April 29, France's inimitable Orchestre National de Jazz plays at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, performing "Around Robert Wyatt," a set inspired by English drummer and vocalist of prog rock innovators Soft Machine, whose songs openly flirted with jazz improvisation. Paying homage to the greats, those players who continue to inspire musicians and fans alike, is a recurring theme at this year's fest. Singers Evelyn Wright and Charenee Wade, backed by the Dominick Farinacci Quartet, will perform "Women in Jazz – A Tribute to Betty Carter" at Olivet Baptist Church on Saturday, April 30, honoring the "Godmother of Jazz" and first woman to write, produce, record and distribute music under her own recording label. Among the other highlights is TCJF SoundWorks' "Miles & Trane @85 - Re-Imagined," on Thursday, May 5 at Tri-C Metro Auditorium, with American bebop and hard bop tenor sax–playing composer, arranger, lyricist and producer Benny Golson leading the show. "NEA Jazz Master Benny Golson, who grew up with John Coltrane; and the great drummer Ndugu Chancler, who drummed with Miles Davis, joining our resident JazzFest SoundWorks ensemble to re-imagine the mastery of Miles Davis and John Coltrane in the 85th year anniversary of their respective births certainly represent the kind of JazzFest–only programming that is our hallmark," says Jenkins.
As a member of Motown's first vocal group, the Miracles, and as a solo artist, Smokey Robinson has landed 37 Top 40 hits from 1960 to 1987. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Kennedy Center Honors recipient and "King of Motown" performs at the State Theatre at PlayhouseSquare on Saturday, May 7.
(pictured, l-r: Trombone Shorty, France's ONJ, Smokey Robinson; ONJ photo by Annabelle Tiaffay)