Thu 6/27-Sat 6/29
Tri-C Jazz Fest has reached the ripe old age of 40 but since it moved away from its former model of events all over town strung out over several weeks to a single weekend at Playhouse Square, it’s only seemed to pick up momentum. Playhouse Square, with its central location and multiple theaters, proved to be an ideal place to present its mix of ticketed indoor events and free outdoor entertainment and activities.
This year, there are nine indoor theater shows and 17 music acts playing for free on the outdoor stage.
Things kick off Thursday evening with 50-year-old Oakland horn-driven funk/soul ensemble Tower of Power, performing in the State Theater. Though they’ve had dozens of personnel changes and their best-known tunes— “You’re Still a Young Man,” “What Is Hip,” “So Very Hard to Go” — date from the early-mid 70s, the group released a new album, Soul Side of Town, just last year, and are still a touring machine.
On Friday concertgoers can choose from three shows. At the Ohio Theatre, the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra and vocalist Dianne Reeves play tribute to Cleveland-born jazz composer/arranger/pianist Tadd Dameron (1917-1965) who wrote charts for Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Artie Shaw, among others. Banjo player Bela Fleck & the Flecktones will perform their hard-to-categorize music at the State Theatre, along with Howard Levy & John Scofield’s Combo 66. And the Akiko/Hamilton/Dechter B-3 Trio performs a late-night show in the Allen Theatre.
Saturday night features three Cleveland-centric concerts. Christian McBride, Nona Hendryx, Avery Sunshine and Nigel Hall offer a tribute to the late soul singer Bobby Womack, one of the few Clevelanders in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. At the Allen, trumpeter Dominick Farinacci, a regular at Tri-C JazzFest who got his start in Tri-C’s high school all-stars program before heading to Juilliard in NYC, will perform his newly commissioned arrangement of George Gershwin’s 1924 Rhapsody in Blue, with 17-year-old pianist Matthew Whitaker also on the bill. Cleveland percussionist Jamey Haddad will perform with his global music ensemble Under One Sun at a late-night concert at the Allen.
At the State Theatre, those who like their music smooth will find Dave Koz/Kenny G producer Jeff Lorber performing with his ensemble Jazz Funk Soul, and Sax to the Max, featuring a trio of sax players who blend soul and jazz.
Meanwhile, on Friday and Saturday, things will be bustling outside, with food, a beer garden, street performers, vendors, a kids’ area, cooking demos, a jazz talk tent with discussions about jazz, a dance floor, jazz trivia games, Saturday morning yoga and a lineup of local and regional acts kicking off at 3pm each day: not only jazz, but also blues, Americana, rock, R&B and reggae. If up-and-coming is your thing, be there at 3 on Saturday to hear the next generation with the Tri-C JazzFest Academy Summer Camp. Stay late and hear Sammy DeLeon y su Orquesta shut things down when he hits the stage at 11:10pm. The popular local reggae act, Carlos Jones & the P.L.U.S. Band, play last on the outdoor stage Friday, starting at 11:25pm. Still not ready to go to bed? There are free afterhours jam sessions at Bin 216, the Crowne Plaza and Cowell & Hubbard, all located at Playhouse Square.
Find out more details about all events and get tickets here.