Another year has passed – Comfest is upon us! The free outdoor festival and “party with a purpose” also offers the second biggest jazz lineup of the year in Columbus, so I wanted to rundown some highlights. All performances mentioned here are at the I Wish You Jazz Stage unless otherwise noted. Friday afternoon is often a good time to catch great jazz at Comfest while the crowds are lighter, and this year is no exception with guitarist Aditya Jayanthi’s Turtle Boat ensemble at 1:50pm and up-and-coming drummer Ryan Folger’s all-star Octet (likely with an altered lineup) at 4:10pm. The night’s main event is Jim Maneri’s Flypaper hitting the stage at 9:55pm – Maneri will be joined by Jeffro Jam, Phil Maneri, Carlos Fisher, and numerous guests including Randy Mather on sax and a feminist flag corps for a boisterous meeting of jazz and electronic dance music.
Saturday’s schedule provides a excellent glimpse into the expanse of the local jazz scene. After getting warmed up with traditional-leaning sets from Vaughn Wiester (Noon) and the Kelly McLennan +5 (1:50pm), quintessential Comfest act Circus of Cool hits at 3:15. A combination of improvised jazz and poetry that was co-founded by Krista Kitty and the late Don Pavelcik in 1995, Saturday’s set will include a reading by Kitty of Pavelcik’s poem “I Wish You Jazz” that inspired the stage’s name. Fresh off the release of their new album, post-jazz explorers Radarhill play at 4:10pm before poetry returns to the forefront with the Jazz Poetry Ensemble at 5:05pm. They will be premiering a new jazz-poem that calls for audience participation – click here for details. Modern jazz-fusion supergroup Safety Squad (6pm) and jazz-funk groove merchants fo/mo/deep (6:55pm) set the stage for a return set from EOP at 7:55pm. Now based in New Orleans, world-traveling trombonist Evan Oberla returns home to revive his jazz/funk/hip-hop/etc. party for the Saturday night masses.
Sunday will be a bit more relaxed, but still alive with strong jazz variety. Space-jazz jammers Sonikora kick things off at Noon before Randy Mather makes his first of three Sunday appearances with Rhinestone at 12:55pm. Mather’s tribute to the legendary Joe Diamond boasts a stalwart cast of Jim Maneri, Greg Wolfram, Brett Burleson and Wally Mitchel. After a 6pm set of old school funk by the Wrecking Crew, which features Mather, Jim Maneri, Jeff Bass, Danny Aguiar, and Josh Hill, the festival comes to a rousing close with a conundrum for jazz fans – top-tier groups playing simultaneously at the southern corners of Goodale Park! The Tony Monaco Trio (with Hill and Tony McClung) returns to their traditional closing slot with assistance from Mather at 7pm, while veteran fusion outfit Descendre hits the Offramp Stage at 7:15pm. Hopefully you can catch some of both! Happy Comfest!
Shows To See This Week
Friday, June 24th (10pm – 2am): Flood: FLIPPO performs the music of Herbie Hancock & the Headhunters at Natalie’s. After a run of popular Steely Dan tribute shows, the jazz-fusion warriors turn their attention to the music of one of the all-time jazz greats. The supersized lineup for the night includes Michael Cox on saxophones, Dennis Hodges on guitar, Erik Augis and Lucas Holmes on keyboards, Andy Woodson on bass, Louis Tsamous on drums, and Zach Compston on percussion. The band will perform the entire Thrust and Headhunters albums, plus tracks from Man-Child and Mr. Hands. Tickets are available here while they last. Friday Comfest after-parties: Evan Oberla’s reunited EOP makes its first appearance of the weekend around 10pm at Skully’s, opening up for funk/rock band Sassafraz and “blues-rock/funk-hop” band Zoo Trippin’, who are releasing a new EP. Cover is $10. Brothers Drake will also be holding a star-studded funky after-party featuring drummer Justin Campbell & Friends for your dancing needs, $5 cover.
Saturday, June 25th (8pm – 11pm): 614 Trio plus Zakk Jones: Celebrating Miles at New Harvest Cafe and Urban Arts Center, 1675 Arlington Avenue, Linden. Campbell, like many others, is staying busy this weekend. His 614 Trio, including Christopher Hoyte on saxophone and Jeff Bass on bass, will be joined by special guest Jones on guitar for a night paying tribute to Miles Davis with some of their personal favorites from his catalog. Cover is $10.
Tuesday, June 28th (9:30pm – 12:30am): Tony Monaco Trio at Rumba Cafe. Organ superstar Monaco and his trio (usually featuring Josh Hill on guitar and Tony McClung on drums) have been holding down most every Tuesday at Rumba over recent months. However, this is the last one on the books for the near future (though they do have an appearance scheduled there for Thursday, July 14th), so come out to hear three master musicians cover the range of organ-driven jazz and keep the Comfest spirit alive. Cover is likely $7.
Have a great week!