Tri-C JazzFest keeps adding new facets to the formula it's developed over 31 years. It's now the largest music festival in Ohio and the largest educational jazz festival in the U.S., offering clinics and workshops for local musicians, and performance opportunities for area high school and college bands. And a distinct Cleveland flavor runs through the festival: Homegrown young trumpeters Sean Jones and Dominick Farinacci, both starting to earn international reputations, offer a tribute to native son Henry Mancini, while bass legend and 2010 fest artist in residence Charlie Haden pairs with Cleveland-bred star sax player Joe Lovano, as well as JazzFest's house band TCJF SoundWorks.
After seven years, the Jazz Meets Hip-Hop series has given way to an out-and-out hip-hop performance by Grammy winners the Roots. And the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum will screen a film about Miles Davis' transition to electric music and devote its monthly Rock and Roll Night School to the progressive jazz/rock of Robert Wyatt and the Soft Machine.
The Shaw High School Marching Band kicks off the festival at 5 p.m. Thursday, April 15, with a parade through Tower City. At 8 p.m. Friday, April 16, the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and Jones, its new artistic director, lead the "Happy Birthday Henry Mancini!" celebration at the Allen Theatre. Joining this tribute on what would have been the noted film composer's 86th birthday will be Mancini's daughter, singer Monica Mancini, clarinetist/saxophonist Paquito D'Rivera, pianist Mulgrew Miller, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, Farinacci and others.
Two popular, long-running free events return on Saturday, April 17: Jazz for Kids with Joe Hunter and Bill Rudman, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Children's Museum of Cleveland; and Women in Jazz, featuring singer Evelyn Wright paying tribute to bossa nova composer/guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim at 1 p.m. at the Mt. Zion Congregational Church. The Roots thunder that night at 8 at the Allen Theatre.
The number of free shows at the East Cleveland Public Library has been cut in half from last year. But again, both concerts there should appeal to Northeast Ohio's devoted jazz fans. Riding the wave of his well-regarded 2009 release, Two-Shade, 25-year-old pianist Gerald Clayton and his trio will open the Debut Series at 4 p.m., Sunday, April 18, followed by trumpeter and Oberlin graduate Theo Croker. The festival will wind up at the library with a 4 p.m. show Sunday, April 25, featuring TCJF SoundWorks, now in its second year, comprising some of the area's top jazz musicians under the direction of saxophonist Howie Smith and bassist Glenn Holmes. They'll be joined by Haden to play the music of his sporadic political big-band project Liberation Music Orchestra.
The Rock Hall will honor a 2006 inductee at 7 p.m., Monday, April 19 when Murray Lerner's 2004 documentary, Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue, will screen for free (RSVP required — e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org). At the same time, guitarist Jack Wilkins and the Cleveland Jazz Initiative will hold court at Brothers Lounge. Tuesday, April 20, is organ night, with a free show billed as a duel between local Hammond B-3 legend Eddie Baccus Sr. and Columbus' sweaty B-3 maniac Tony Monaco at 8 p.m. at Karamu House. Preceding this wild affair at 6:30 p.m. is an hour-long panel discussion on the contributions of late local saxophonist, composer and arranger Willie Smith.
The Tri-C JazzFest High School All-Stars will give a free performance at noon on Wednesday, April 21, at the Allen Theatre. That evening at 8, MOCA Cleveland will host one of the more adventurous sets of the festival, this year with the angular, Afro-Cuban music of pianist Omar Sosa and his Afreecanos Quartet.
Tri-C's Metro Campus Auditorium will stage a not-to-be-missed performance by Haden's Quartet West, featuring Lovano, at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 22. Haden, perhaps the most lyrical bassist in jazz history, constructed Quartet West in 1986 as a tribute to Los Angeles' 1940s noir aesthetic. Lovano's hard-boiled playing should cast the requisite sharp-edged shadows.
The following afternoon from 4:30-5:30 at Tri-C's Center for Creative Arts, Haden will take audience questions after a screening of Rambling Boy, a 2009 film chronicling his life and career as a musician known for collaborations with fellow jazz greats like Ornette Coleman and Keith Jarrett. At 8 p.m. Friday, April 23, at the Allen Theatre, pianist Ramsey Lewis and singer Patti Austin perform. Two shows were originally scheduled for Saturday, April 24, but France's Orchestre National de Jazz had to cancel, leaving the night to the Smooth Jazz All-Stars (singers Brenda Russell and Phil Perry, saxophonists Paul Taylor and Richard Elliot, guitarist Nick Colionne and keyboardist Brian Simpson) at 8 p.m. at the Allen Theatre.