Another big (the biggest?) weekend for live jazz is upon us: Jazz & Rib Festival Weekend! While we already provided the full schedule, I would like to share my personal picks here, before some live reviews and non-fest highlights. (NOTE: I refer below to the different stages with the following codes: AEP (American Electric Power Stage), NBP (North Bank Park Stage), JC (Jazz Cafe)) Friday, July 17th: After strong sets from locals Noe Salsa Project (NBP) and Perfect Storm (JC) get the festivities started at 11am, things really get cooking when the Keigo Hirakawa Trio takes the NBP stage at 1pm. The Dayton-based pianist for both the Brandon Coleman Quartet and the Eddie Brookshire Quintet, two of my favorites from the 2014 Festival, Hirakawa is promoting his very enjoyable 2015 release, And Then There Were Three. He will be joined by longtime collaborators Eddie Brookshire (bass) and Fenton Sparks (drums), and promises new tunes along with album cuts.
The trio is followed at NBP at 3pm by returning Columbus ex-pats Huntertones, fresh from teaching a DIY workshop this week at JAG’s Jazz Academy. Adding to the excitement of the band’s energetic, genre-destroying material will be appearances by graduates of the workshop, as jazz performance and jazz education collides on stage. The 3:30pm AEP set by James Gaiters’ MUV-Ment marks the band’s first local appearance since the fall 2014 release of the spellbinding Exodus, after many scheduling issues. The reunited quartet should put on a mesmerizing display of slightly modernized spiritual jazz. NYC’s Rad Trads follow the MUV-Ment at 5pm at AEP with a rollicking cross-genre set of classic American tunes and originals inspired by those classics, featuring an appearance by Huntertones’ saxophonist Dan White. Chicago-based Pharez Whitted, trailblazing trumpeter and a one-time resident of Columbus, will present his Sextet at NBP at 7pm, a band that includes members of the MUV-Ment putting forward their own creative brand of post-bop. A fine finale to a jam-packed day will be provided by the Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Septet (AEP, 9:30pm), as pianist and true living legend Palmieri will ignite the night with fiery salsa and Latin jazz numbers.
Saturday: Another serious schedule starts with pre-noon sets from some of Columbus’ finest, as the electronic jazz of Jim Maneri’s resurgent Flypaper (AEP, 10:30am) and the electrically mellow swing of guitarist Tom Davis’ Quartet (including tenor saxophonist Pete Mills) (JC, 11am) will kick the day off in style. The festival will move swiftly through the afternoon with great sets from jazzy hip-hop maestro B Jazz and the Jazz Hop Movement (NBP, 2:30pm) and up-and-comers Zakk Jones’ Screeching Owl (JC, 3pm). 5pm sets from local groove masters fo/mo/deep (AEP) and Cincinnati improvisational explorers Art & Science (JC), featuring talented bassist Matt Wiles, also a member of the Brandon Coleman Quartet, should provide a temporary delay to the quest for ribs. Willie Jones III, one of the top jazz drummers working today, brings his all-star Quartet to NBP at 7pm. The night ends with a feverish bang, including appearances by Akron instrumental soul band The Admirables (JC, 9pm) and “Brooklyn Bhangra party juggernaut” Red Baraat (NBP, 9:30pm), making their long-awaited Columbus debut. Their ecstatic fusion of myriad styles of music is an international party not to miss!
Sunday: As usual, the shorter schedule of the final day of the fest is less stacked, but there is still plenty great jazz to experience, including great opening sets from the Columbus Youth Jazz Orchestra (NBP, 11am) and the Randy Mather Quartet (JC, 11am). Athens’ percussion-centric 6:5 Quartet (JC, 12:45pm) returns to town after their recent great local debut, and local Latin jazz-fusion stalwarts Clave Sonic will heat up the AEP at 1:30pm. Kent, Ohio-based guitarist Bob Niederriter will bring his smoking blend of organ jazz, with a Quartet entailing organist Jon Eshelman, bassist Roger Hines, and drummer Joe Ong to JC at 2:30pm. The festival concludes with a trio of dinnertime finales, highlighted by jazz organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith and his Trio on the NBP Stage at 6:30pm.
Some Jazz Nights Out
I had a busy week, with multiple nights of great live jazz. On Wednesday the 8th, I caught the second half of NYC-based guitarist Lucas Kadish’s quartet performance at Brothers Drake. A Hudson, Ohio native, Kadish displayed the raw talent that has him moving up in the jazz world. The guitarist’s soloing on tunes like John Coltrane’s “Lazy Bird” and standard “Cherokee” were awe-inspiring, and vibraphonist Zen Groom was working on a very similar level. On Friday, I took a quick excursion to Cincinnati to get my first look at Urban Artifact, a new DIY-styled venue and microbrewery in the basement of a restored historic church. The night was a benefit for Cincy trumpeter Ty Sheets, who recently had his trumpet and flugelhorn stolen. What I heard of the debut set by Sheets’ quintet sounded great, but even better was Louisville’s Tiny Elephant, a sax-keys-drum trio that mixed crunchy electric originals with occasional arresting pop covers. Another new venue was on tap for Sunday, as Rick and I finally made it to The Walrus. The restaurant/bar’s well-appointed stage was a great setting for the Tom Davis Trio. Davis, bassist Greg Wolfram, and drummer Dan DiPiero whirled through Davis’ stately originals and classic standards like “OGD (Road Song).” Jazz has been well-represented on the Walrus live music schedule so far, so a trip downtown is highly recommended.
More Great Live Jazz
While Jazz & Rib Fest dominates the local live jazz schedule for the weekend, local venues are not without excitement. First of all, don’t forget that “Jazz & Soul Week” at Brothers Drake offers great jazzy entertainment every night through this Sunday, including a great kickoff to the weekend on Thursday night (Pauly & the Foundations, featuring many members of Huntertones). Alongside dependable offerings in the northern suburbs, the highlight of the remaining Friday schedule is a 5:30 happy hour show by the Danny Bauer Trio at the Brewer’s Yard Kroger Tap Room. Keyboardist Bauer promises hard-swinging standards, with assistance from Greg Wolfram on bass and the mighty Joe Ong on drums. On Saturday, the visiting Huntertones take the excitement to the “Jazz Dinner Club” for their 6pm show at the Refectory (more info here, phone reservations required). Four Jazz & Rib Fest bands will play 10pm shows in local clubs Saturday night, including James Gaiters’ MUV-Ment joined by Pharez Whitted for a blockbuster at Natalie’s and Jim Maneri playing his third gig of the day when Flypaper returns to Rumba Cafe. Sunday is topped by the Rad Trads’ third show of the weekend as they play Sundays at Scioto in Dublin at 7pm, and if you need a sanctified end to your weekend, Dick’s Den will present the Church of the Earth Choir backed by a trio of Tony Bonardi (keyboards), Steve Perakis (bass), and Joe Nelson (drums) around 9pm. And finally, if you don’t want the memories from this year’s fest to fade, 6:5 Quartet’s return to Jazz Wednesday at Brothers Drake at 8pm on the 22nd will keep the vibe alive.
Have a great week! Here are some videos of some of the great bands you can see downtown this weekend: