Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival Is Finding its Groove in Year Four

Fri 8/23-Sun 8/25

Going into its fourth year, Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival organizers were looking for ways to expand the already burgeoning Akron affair.

Open Tone Music executive director Chris Anderson, who helped create the event years ago with jazz pianist Theron Brown, said that goal is being achieved by adding jazz/R&B singer-pianist Robert Glasper for a festival-ending appearance in the Akron Civic Theatre.

“We’re continuing to move in that direction of just making the festival bigger and bigger,” Anderson said. “This year we got a lot of support from the city. So in conversations with Lock 3 and Akron Civic, we decided to have the Sunday evening featured event inside of the Civic. We’re going to be there for the first time.

“It’s a fabulous theater that’s being renovated to become even more glamorous, so it’s very exciting to have that partnership. We’re really glad we were able to work out having Robert Glasper at the festival.”

The three-day festival — August 23-25 — kicks off on Friday with an opening night soiree that includes performances by guest musician and basketball legend Jim Chones, as well as the Theron Brown Trio and Dan Wilson & Voices at Akron’s Blu Jazz.

The following day features both free and tickets performances from the likes of Dan Wilson, Sammy Deleon, Tom Lehman, Helen Welch, Holbrook Riles III and Elijah Gilmore at various Akron venues and locations.

Then on Sunday, opening for Glasper is Akron’s experimental R&B quintet Bluelight.

“We’ve been getting more and more people showing up every year,” said trombonist Chris Anderson, a Detroit native and Summit County resident who has performed with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Heritage Orchestra. “Everything is moving in the right direction.

“As far as growth, we look at attendance and also performances both on the student side and professional artist side. We’ve gotten more performing artists both locally and international artists.”

The Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival is dedicated to preserving Akron’s rich and vibrant history in jazz and blues, as well as showcasing today’s stars. Through the efforts of the festival, supporting organization Open Tone Music provides music and arts programming to youth in under-served communities throughout Summit, Lorain, Erie, and Cuyahoga counties.

Festival-wise, Anderson noted he’s already looking ahead to 2020.

“Next year will be our fifth year, so we’re looking to do some really special things with some surprises,” Anderson said.

[Written by John Benson]

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