Happy summer, jazz fans! While Columbus maintains a strong listing of club and restaurant jazz over the warmer months of the year, it is truly the season for outdoor live jazz, and Comfest is this weekend’s source of great outdoor music. The “I Wish You Jazz” Stage is the dedicated home for jazz at the festival, and as usual, it provides a strong overview of most corners of the local jazz scene. I’m going to run down some highlights of each day of the festival, and then tweak my weekly show preview section to give you options for each night of this festive weekend, whether you brave Goodale Park or not! Like last year, the Friday schedule springs from the gate, as guitarist Zakk Jones’ Screeching Owl sextet kicks off the stage at noon and is followed by the Woodwork Trio, the Tom Davis Trio, and the Rorschach Quartet throughout the afternoon. This year’s lone installment of jazz (broadly speaking) on the “Bozo” main stage is an appearance by the lively swing-pop outfit The DewDroppers at 6:55pm on the heels of their recent CD release. The night ends in style with the emerging James Gaiters’ Soul Revival project (8:50pm) leading into the resurgent Flypaper, helmed by keyboard maestro Jim Maneri, closing the night with a 9:50pm set that should be a jazzy dubstep dance party!
Saturday’s schedule is also very strong, with the better-than-ever Insane Jazz Posse holding the noon slot. The jazz and poetry of Circus of Cool at 1:50pm preserves the legacy of Don Pavelcik, who helped create the jazz stage at Comfest. The local all-stars of Columbus Liberation Music Orchestra will recreate their Blues For Ferguson program at 4:10pm. The day’s schedule also ends in thrilling fashion, with Latin fusion purveyors Clave Sonic, with a special appearance by violinist Christian Howes, taking the stage at 6:55pm, and organ hero Tony Monaco wrapping things up starting at 7:55pm. Sunday’s finale gets off to another great start with a traditional opening by Vaughn Wiester’s Famous Jazz Orchestra at noon, followed by loving tributes to local greats Joe Diamond (Rhinestone), Alvin Valentine (Daddy Romance), Gene Walker (eponymous tribute), and Mark Flugge (From The Five Jazztet). The Nicole Sherburne Quartet plays their first of two CD release shows at 5:05pm, and in a last-minute substitution, groove masters fo/mo/deep close the “I Wish You Jazz” Stage at 7pm. Happy Comfest!
Shows To See This Week
Thursday, June 25th: Tom Davis Quartet at Carabar, 9:30pm. The guitarist will help kickoff the weekend with a performance at the Olde Towne East bar. He will be joined by Pete Mills on tenor saxophone, Greg Wolfram on bass, and Dan DiPiero on drums, and the band will be playing original tunes of different stripes, including material from Davis’ Home. Also recommended: Derek DiCenzo TRio at Trattoria Roma (7pm), Jazz at Cliffside Sports Bar (8pm), and Stan Smith Trio at Rambling House (9pm).
Friday, June 26th:
Ben Johnson/Derek DiCenzo Duo at Ethel’s on High, 9pm. For great jazz in a relaxed atmosphere in very close proximity to Comfest, this emerging Friday night hang can’t be beat. The varied standards of the debut of this particular pairing should go great with the bar’s handcrafted cocktails. UPDATE: This event at Ethel’s has been canceled. All following options are recommended equally! Also recommended: Sonikora at The Walrus, Wally Mitchel at Dick’s Den, and Tia Harris with the Hairston Trio at Natalie’s (all starting at 10pm).
Saturday, June 27th: Moon Hooch and Yojimbo at Park Street Saloon, 8pm. This pairing of touring bands on the jam band circuit will put their own distinctive twists on jazz and beyond. Moon Hooch employs two saxophones and drums to create something unexpected – a live band interpretation of electronic dance music. The sheer force and exuberance of the band is captivating, whether on recent (highly-recommended) album This Is Cave Music or on the live stage. Opening the evening is Yojimbo, a jazz-funk wrecking ball that features trombonist/vocalist Carly Meyers, who was very entertaining on this spring’s Charlie Hunter Trio tour. Also recommended: Louise Salvador Quartet at Haiku (7pm).
Sunday, June 28th: Burleson/Bayard/Hines/Gaiters at Dick’s Den, 9pm. This one time only event will bring together a quartet of some of Columbus’ finest jazz musicians, with Eddie Bayard on tenor sax, Brett Burleson on guitar, Roger Hines on bass, and James Gaiters on drums. From Burleson: “We will pay tribute to the great Ornette Coleman, who passed away earlier this month, with a few of his compositions as well as music by Sonny Sharrock, Miles Davis and a few of my own pieces.” Can’t think of a jazzier way to wind down another Comfest weekend. Also recommended: Nicole Sherburne Quartet at The Walrus (8pm).
I Wish You Jazz! Here’s a great snapshot of Moon Hooch’s unique style: