Though the summer jazz schedule has been plenty robust so far, this weekend takes it to a whole different level. The main reason for this is The 2014 Columbus Jazz & Rib Fest. The annual rebirth of my favorite local jazz URL (www.hotribscooljazz.org/) always brings excitement, along with possible concern about the lineup, but this year’s program packs more wallop (and surprises) than it has in some time. The American Electric Power and North Bank Park Stages offer a solid mix of national, regional, and local acts, and the Jazz Cafe provides a strong (mostly) local lineup in what should be an intimate setting (especially for a festival). After I rundown some bands I recommend seeing at the Fest, I will also highlight some of the other great jazz happening around town. Of course, don’t forget about Billy Wolfe’s large ensemble shows either!
Jazz & Ribs Fest:
(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 18th: Friday’s schedule looks like the strongest to me. Dueling 11am sets from the Insane Jazz Posse (NBP) and the Kate Ross Quintet (JC) will get their respective stages off to strong starts. The Ross Quintet will only be a quartet, however, as the band will be playing in tribute to bassist David Irwin, who passed away from colon cancer earlier this week. Following Ross at the JC will be great local duo Knots (see more below) at 1pm. Cincinnati’s Brandon Coleman Quartet hits at AEP at 1:30, a strong modern group that I missed at Dicks Den earlier this year (but previewed here). 3:30 at NBP brings the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra, a groovy yet avant-garde trio led by Scales’ blistering work on his steel pans. Mucca Pazza (5:30, AEP) is probably the biggest surprise on the whole lineup, an “indie rock big band” of sorts that played downtown indie arts space Skylab in previous visits to Columbus. Their infectious energy and genre-bending madness should start an epic dance party. In an unenviable task, Organ Monk featuring Reggie Woods (7:00, AEP) follows Mucca Pazza, but they will give it their best with a modern B3 organ soul jazz take on the great Thelonious Monk. All 3 stages will be cooking with 9:30 sets to end the night, as headliners Terence Blanchard (Grammy-winning modern jazz trumpet, AEP) and the Soul Rebels (Excellent New Orleans brass band with a current twist, NBP) will do battle and local drummer extraordinaire Jim Rupp presents a quartet featuring baritone saxophonist Denis DiBlasio (JC).
Saturday, July 19th: 1pm sets from the Mark Lomax II Trio (JC) and the From the Five Jazztet (AEP) are both strong early choices, whether it’s the unflinching improvisation of drummer Lomax or the spot-on hard bop virtuosity of the Jazztet, who will feature Dave DeWitt on piano as they pay tribute to the dearly departed Mark Flugge. Bassist Eddie Brookshire played on Rusty Bryant’s 1970 classic Friday Night Funk For Saturday Night Brothers – his quintet (3:30, NBP) will feature a mix of bop originals and ’70s standards. Local jazz jam group Jumbo Chimps (5:00, JC) is intriguing, as they seem to be split down the middle between solid jazz funk instrumentals and their own jammier vocal tunes. St. Louis-based Funky Butt Brass Band (7:00, AEP) will play their own feisty spin on the brass band tradition, featuring plenty of soul, rock, and blues in the mix. Spanish Harlem Orchestra (9:30, NBP) is my Saturday night headliner choice, as the two-time Grammy winners are leaders in the field of fiery NYC-style salsa jazz.
Sunday, July 20th: Sunday’s schedule is a bit shorter, but there’s still plenty of action. Top on my list is the Dan White Sextet (2:30, AEP), playing their last full-band Columbus show until September, as their arranging and performing of varied material (including some uniquely family-friendly tunes) will be great for a lazy Sunday afternoon. CJO Director and trumpeter Byron Stripling and his Quartet (AEP, 4:30) will keep the local vibe going on the big stage, as he will get a chance to step away from the usual CJO fare and play with an excellent group featuring Kenny Drew, Jr. on keyboards. La Charanga Tres (6:30, JC), Kris Keith’s terrific Cuban project, will closeout the Jazz Cafe with some educational entertainment.
(Other) Shows To See This Week
Thursday, July 17th: Pete Mills Quintet: Music from Art and Architecture at Natalie’s. During a summer hiatus from his (presumed to return) Side One Series, Mills will present a rare look at his 2004 album in its entirety, which featured a robust mix of standards and originals. Read a 4-star review of the album from All Music Guide here.
Saturday, July 19th: Knots Presents: Us, Today & Cimmerian Shade at Ruby Tuesday. Modern jazz duo Knots (read me gush about them here) continues their monthly gig, which is successfully bringing exciting jazz back to Rubys. The duo will be playing its 4th show in three days (including a Cincy show with Us, Today on Friday night), but will surely cook with its unique rock-and-electronica-tinged style. Cincinnati’s Us, Today, a drums, guitar, vibraphone trio, plays an experimental blend of styles with plenty of jazz at its core. Cimmerian Shade is local guitarist Zakk Jones’ new project, promising “power trio destruction” of Jones originals and tunes by Scofield, Pastorius, Pat Metheny, and Snarky Puppy in its debut performance.
Sunday, July 20th (6-8pm): Chase Potter & Dennis Hodges at Hodges Concert Hall (1264 Elmore Ave, Columbus, OH 43224). After taking June off while the Hodges family moved, guitarist Hodges comes back with Hodges House Concert #6. This time, he is in a duo with violinist/multi-instrumentalist Potter, who is tearing it up while home from Berklee College for the summer. The Hodges mission of presenting family-friendly house shows featuring interpretations of pop songs continues, as previewed here and here. As always, if you can’t make it to their home, the show will be streamed online.
No excuses this weekend, let’s go see some jazz! Here’s videos of some of the above artists: