The opening party for the 34th Tri-C JazzFest is designed to set the tone for the annual event. Organizers boast that the free party, which takes place from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, April 19 in the State Theatre lobby, will be "funky, cool, spiritual and fresh." "[The zydeco act] Nadir & Distorted Soul from Detroit will perform and it's going to be a funk-out," says managing director Terri Pontremoli. "We're going to have a funky good time. I get a big kick out of saying that." The festival, which this year has expanded to encompass two weekends (partially in order to attract fans from out of town), will offer a youthful, cutting-edge line-up designed to appeal to both serious and casual fans. In addition to the concerts, daily jazz workshops will take place on Tri-C's metro campus. Here's Pontremoli's take on the acts slated to play.
Aaron Neville and Dr. John | 8 p.m. Friday, April 19 | State Theatre
That's swamp. What gets more funky than New Orleans? Nothing. Dr. John's latest record is so funky and so great. And Aaron Neville is making his comeback as a solo artist, which is really exciting. They're not performing together but are playing two separate sets. There's always the possibility of a walk-on. The beauty of jazz at its core is that the musicians are open to doing that but the big acts aren't quite as flexible.
Robert Glasper Experiment | 2 p.m. Saturday, April 20 | Ohio Theatre
He's one of the new young voices. His record just won a Grammy for Best R&B. It was kind of an upset. The Wave plays him. He's experimenting with the music of his time. There's a hip-hop element and he's done stuff with Erykah Badu and Common and Mos Def and those kind of folks. It's going to be an interesting concert.
Kenny Garrett | 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20 | Ohio Theatre
His latest project,Seeds from the Underground, is all about the influences of his teachers like [trumpet player] Marcus Belgrave and people he grew up with in Detroit. It's a wonderful tribute. He has a beautiful introspective approach. His projects are gorgeous.
Smooth Jazz All-Stars | 8 p.m. Saturday, April 20 | State Theatre
The college has been using Brian Simpson, who runs the smooth jazz cruises. He has quite the Rolodex. This is something he put together so it will involve Marion Meadows and Keiko Matsui and Richard Elliot and people of that ilk.
Dex@90 | 7 p.m. Sunday, April 21 | Nighttown
I'm particularly excited about this. When I'm in my car listening to satellite radio, anytime he comes on, I'm like, "Damn. It's so good." He would be 90 this year, and his widow, Maxine, is going to be with us. She's an archivist and scholar. What we're doing to do on that night is we'll have a pre-concert talk at 6:15 p.m. with Maxine and she'll show a 10-minute movie called Dex on Vacation. Javon Jackson has a wonderful voice and he'll play with local musicians of TCJF Soundworks. It'll be a great night.
Orrin Evans Trio & Jazz Academy of Metropolitan Washington | 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 23 | Tri-C Metro Auditorium
Orrin Evans plays in The Mingus Big Band. He's a different voice. He plays with Sean Jones. He's a sideman but he'll play this show with a trio. The opener is a high school act out of D.C.
Dominick Farinacci with Cecile McLorin-Salvant, Aaron Diehl and the Tri-C Jazz Fest All Stars | 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 24 | Tri-C Metro Auditorium
Dominick has this group with Aaron Diehl, who is a great young pianist from Columbus. The New York Times just did a story on him. They'll also feature this young singer that everyone needs to hear. She is part French and part Haitian. She is an old soul. Her name is Cecile McLorin-Salvant. I think she's the next big thing. She's 23 but you'd never know it to hear her sing. She's the real deal.
Anat Cohen & the Rimon Jazz Institute Ensemble and the Tri-C Jazz Studies Ensemble | 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 25 | Tri-C Metro Auditorium
Anat Cohen won clarinetist of the year in the Downbeat awards. She is joyful and has such a presence on stage. She grew up in Tel Aviv and the connection we're making is with the Rimon School and she will play with them. It will be a night of adventurous music.
Lionel Loueke Trio | 8 p.m. Thursday, April 25 Museum of Contemporary Art
He's from Benin and he's a great guitarist. It's jazz but African. It's like world music. He will play with his trio.
Michael Feinstein celebrates the Gershwin Songbook | 8 p.m. Friday, April 26 | State Theatre
Michael Feinstein is an expert on the American songbook. He's just written a book, The Gershwins and Me. He organizes his life story with 12 Gershwin songs. He will perform with a trio. He's also doing a panel discussion at 1 p.m. that day at the Black Box at Tri-C.
Bill Frisell's Beautiful Dreamers | 2 p.m. Saturday, April 27 | Allen Theatre
He's so interesting because he's a virtual chameleon. He's collaborated with so many people. He's an interesting voice. It will be a little esoteric. He has a violist and a drummer. He's an imaginative guy. He's whimsical, too. We'll have a meet the artist with him at 3:30 p.m. in the lobby of the State Theatre.
Joe Lovano's 60th Birthday Bash with US Five | 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27 | Allen Theatre
He's such an important voice in this music and he's so loyal to Cleveland. He honors his hometown and the people who influenced him. After his group plays, he's inviting Cleveland musicians on stage to play with him. We'll have a cake in the lobby.
Natalie Cole and the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra | 8 p.m. Saturday, April 27 | State Theatre
She comes from jazz royalty. She really does. There's almost nothing that she can't do as a vocalist. She will do some of the things that people associate with her dad and some from her pop days. This is where I'm keeping my fingers crossed where there might be a collaboration. The Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra is based in L.A. and it's expensive to fly a big band out here from the West Coast, but we're doing it anyway. They were an add-on to the program that we didn't initially book.