Tri-C has just announced the lineup for its 32nd annual Tri-C JazzFest April 28-May 8. As usual, it runs the gamut from avant-garde to smooth jazz to barely jazz, from local artists to international stars, from big-ticket special events to free events around town.
The festival has a sort of “soft opening” on Wednesday, April 27, when the Eddie Baccus Organ Summit with special guest, Columbus-based keyboardist Bobby Floyd, performs at Karamu House for free. The official festivities kick off the next day with what’s become a JazzFest tradition in recent years — a New Orleans-style parade in the streets from Tower City Center to the House of Blues, starting at 5 p.m. Those who want to spend a little money and buy a ticket to continue the Crescent City party can stay to hear Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue at the House of Blues.
On the light end of the scale are four shows at Playhouse Square’s State Theatre. The “Smooth Jazz All-Stars” — Mindi Abair, Rick Braun, Dave Koz, Kenny Lattimore, Ray Parker Jr., and Brian Simpson — will soothe listeners with their soft sounds on Saturday, April 30. On a slightly livelier note, “Jamfest” on Friday, May 6, features artists — Medeski, Martin & Wood, Dr. Lonnie Smith and Will Bernard — who blend traditional and modern sounds. On Monday, May 2, Cleveland’s Sammy DeLeon Y Su Orquesta will be “Celebrating the Music of Tito Puente.” And in the “hey, that’s not jazz!” category, Motown legend Smokey Robinson performs at the State on Saturday, May 7.
JazzFest meets another local music institution when jazz singer DeeDee Bridgewater performs with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall on Friday, April 29. They’ll be offering a tribute to the late “First Lady of Song” Ella Fitzgerald, herself once a JazzFest headliner.
Many of the other events are free or low-cost, at venues ranging from MOCA and the Rock Hall, to the East Cleveland Public Library and the Cleveland Museum of Art, to the Brothers Lounge and Nighttown. Two of Cleveland’s major churches will host programs on successive Saturdays. Olivet Institutional Baptist Church offers “Women in Jazz — a Tribute to Betty Carter” on Saturday, April 30, likely to be a highlight given the number of outstanding women jazz vocalists in Cleveland. On Saturday, May 7, at Antioch Baptist Church, trumpeter Sean Jones, artistic director of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, will join Present Day for a program of gospel jazz.
Local jazz musicians always play a prominent role at Tri-C JazzFest, and this year is no different. The Dave Sterner Quintet and the Tri-C Jazz Studies Performance Combo will be at the Brothers Lounge on Monday, May 2. Local sax legend Ernie Krivda will lead a program called “Thunder from the Heartland” at the Hermit Club downtown on Tuesday, May 3, featuring some of the best area players. And there’s even a program for kids at the Children’s museum of Cleveland Saturday, May 7, hosted by local jazz pianist Joe Hunter.
For a complete schedule of concerts and other activities, and updates, go to tricpresents.com. Call 216-987-4444 to buy tickets.— Anastasia Pantsios