Started With A Bang, Ended With An EXPLOSION: Tri-C Jazzfest: TCJF Soundworks @ Nighttown

Hello Jazzians!

I have sat here in front of the computer for a good while now trying to figure out the best way to explain what took place last night.  Most definitely, it was one of those “you had to be there” types of events, but I will try my best.

Held at Nighttown, Cleveland’s most elite Jazz supper club, the place was beyond packed.  So much so that it was inevitable to get an elbow or hip in the head [or in my case, hair in your face from the long haired woman in front of me]; you’d have to play assistant waiter and ‘pass it down’; at one point in the middle of their talking 2 of the musicians had to step off the stage so that a late patron could navigate her way thru the microphones and music stands to her seat up front. But the crowd was friendly and lively.  For the first show, my friend and business partner Andrea Green and I were blessed to sit next to Betsy and Jim Sampliner.  They have been regular attendants for 32 of the 33 years that Jazzfest has been in operation – missing only the first one. “When we met, she [Betsy] was not even a Jazz enthusiast!” Jim said.  They took our breath away as they relived the history of the artists of Jazzfest, especially a rare opportunity they had to sit the the undisputed Queen of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald.

The room while totally full was very friendly.  Everyone knew everyone, or instantly accepted everyone.  I have noticed that about Jazz.  It’s very elitist – but in a good way.  This family of music admirers truly appreciate all of the intricacies that music affords, and the pure joy that it can bring.  99% of it’s format is simply an artist and their art. No flashing lights [unless you are Trombone Shorty which so fits him!], no video girls or hip hop guys. No disappearing acts and bells and whistles.  Just real musicianship, and real vocals. You MUST be at the top of your form to earn a spot. But once earned, you are well appreciated and supported.  I Like That!

The TCJF Soundwords concert is, as explained by Terry Pontremoli and Willard Jenkins, the culmination of the whole Jazzfest.  The band members are their resident ensemble which this year was comprised of some of the best musicians ever presented, as all agreed.

Shown from left to right: John Clayman – Baritone Sax/Flute; Chris Anderson – Trumpet/Music Director; Sean Jones – Trumpet; Howie Smith – Soprano/Alto Sax

Glen Holmes – Bass Chip Stevens – Piano

Chris Baker – Drums

As I said, this was one that you had to attend.  Because there was more than just an amazing concert.  If you observed, there were so many interesting factors that made the whole event even more special, like the change in the chroma of the sound of the trumpet when Sean Jones played with a martini glass as opposed to a brass mute.  It was a brighter but more reverberated sound.  Then of course, the man that I totally fell in love with, Chip Stevens, who is a total mad scientist on the piano, who never, ever looks at the piano, not even in the most intense of solos, and often plays with his hands crossed over each other or plays the lower octave keys reserved for the left hand with his right.  The Bass player, Glen Holmes, who is vocal with the notes that he plays on the bass, ala’ George Benson style.  Chris Anderson served as Musical Director, however John Clayman was also instrumental in helping the band navigate thru their material.  So many nuances on the stage, and off.  The crowd was super enthusiastic, clapping and whistling, cheering and asking for more.

I stayed for both shows, and it was a musical feast.  Everyone was treated to a night of incredible music, all composed by the resident band members.  3 of the highlight pieces for me were “Searching” by Chris Anderson, “Off The Mark” by Howie Smith, and “Sadness & Soul” by Chip Stevens.  They all show a very interesting ear when it comes to composition, in that there were serious progressions from easy listening slow to progressive straight ahead, varying time signatures, all often within the same song.

Sometimes in a band, you will have that stand out musician that just takes the night.  Now I expressed super love for pianist Chip Stevens, but that is more attributed to my love for piano jazz.  This night was super Jazziliciously incredible, because each musician, when given solo room, was over the top exceptional.  Regardless of your choice of love for instrument representation, you were given some of the most exemplary available.  It was my extra super treat thanks to the piano, and the flute, played by John.

Surrounded by great friends and people, including 2 gentlemen that were walking history buffs of the Cleveland  jazz scene, indulging in hands down the BEST Lobster Mac & Cheese in the Tri-State area, and being blown away by the array of talent and sound coming from a stage 6 feet away, this night could not have been any better.

Tri-C went above and beyond this year bringing in incredible talent.  We celebrate every artist, from the upcoming youth in the Shaw High School Marching Band, Paul Sanders Ensemble, Salty Dog Brass Band, Esperanza Spalding, Walter Beasley, Peter White, Brian Simpson, Maysa, Norman Brown, Gerald Albright, Ki Allen, Kellylee Evans, Aretha Franklin, Ben Williams, Marcus Strickland, The Tri-C High School All Stars, Dominick Farinacci, Jerome Jennings, Steve Enos, Bob Hurst, Ernie Krivda, Matt Wilsons’ Arts & Crafts, Jack DeJohnette, David Sanborn, Joey DeFrancesco, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Diana Krall, Oikos Ensemble, TCJF Soundworks, and every accompanying musician not named here [but are listen in their event blogs].

We Thank You, for your discipline to your craft and your hard work.  For bringing us quality music night after night, making us laugh, cry, and providing great medicine for the soul.

And I thank you Tri-C.  As a music lover, you have tirelessly provided quality music to us in the Jazzfests for over 33 years, and as your blogger this year I was treated to some of the best of todays’ representations in Jazz, Blues, Soul, and just feel good music.

STAY TUNED everyone – Coming up, some interviews with some of the artists, directors, programmers, volunteers, stage hands, and of course, video clips.  This is not an easy feat to pull together a large festival like this one.  Let me show you how this comes together!

In Rhythm and Blue


Official Blogger,

2012 Tri-C Jazzfest

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Jazz of A Different Order: An Evening with Diana Krall : Tri-C Jazzfest

Hey Jazz Lovers,

This evening was a bit different for me, as not only was I not familiar with a lot of her music or style, but also had never heard her live.  I like the events that have been like that, because I can give a fresh ear to something and give an honest recap.

Not a diminished view at all when I say this. But it was the most night and day experience of my attendance of music concerts series ever.  For the previous night [Sanborn & Shorty] there was pretty much casual and semi dressy attire.  For Diana, People dressed up – I saw sequins, furs, capes, and couples out on serious dates.  S&S, there were blazing light shows and booming music. Her set was intimate, very soft lighting.  S&S was everywhere including in the aisles.  Diana’s was more collective; all 4 musicians in a nice little 4 square group hug: Karriem Wiggins – Drums; Anthony Wilson – Guitar; and Robert Hurst – Bass.

                                [note: this was a no ‘informal’ media event.  Picture is from media site]

Her intro was from the man himself, legendary Super Producer Tommy LiPuma, who has produced her as well as Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, and Paul McCartney to mention a few. The music was totally different.  Kind of Easy Listening Jazz, but she also plays a mean blues piano.  Girl can go!  I did recognize a few songs, like the guitarist killin the Isaac Hayes anthem “Walk On By” [by Burt Bacharach] and most notably “So Nice”, which I enjoyed.

The thing that I took away most of all from her performance, was an appreciation for Diversity. I have heard nearly every form of Jazz that could be represented this week: Straight-ahead, Smooth, Alternative, Jazz/Soul fusion.  I have heard every instrument, except a flute I think [may have been one with Re-Re].  Vocally I have heard powerhouse vocals from Maysa, sultry from Ki Allen, innovative from Kellylee.  So it was good to see some Girl Power again! [lol], and see a female that has mastery of her voice and an instrument at the same time, and come from Jazz/Blues/Bossa Nova, the contrast to The Queens Jazz/R&B/Gospel.

The diversity was nice.  I came away having an even deeper love for music’s expression, which can satisfy the palate of even the most discerning listener.  One thing’s for sure, those that came to see her, truly appreciate her style and were very enthusiastic.  Personally I more absorbed the atmosphere and setting as opposed to the music, because it played a very big part in the whole experience.  Kind of made me feel like a kid who had walked in on grown folks business in my dungarees eating a sandwich to their gowns and caviar, lol. My quiet this time was a different silence.  At times I am silent taking in the beauty of the instrumentation.  This time, I took in the ambiance.  The hushed, subdued, but very enraptured audience.  Music.  Gotta Love it! [who doesn’t?]

JAZZFEST WRAPS UP TONIGHT! The last 2 shows are tonight! Please go to and check out tonight’s line up, then do yourself a favor and get that ticket, grab your honey, and have an incredible dinner as well at Nighttown, Cleveland’s premier Jazz Club.

You will NOT be disappointed.  I tell you.. you will NOT

In Rhythm and Blue


Official Blogger

2012 Tri-C Jazzfest

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Sanborn And Shorty Slam The State! Tri-C Jazzfest: David Sanborn & Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue

Greetings, Jazz Lovers,

Last Night? JAZZALICIOUS! And if you were there? You know that which I speak of is the gospel Truth!  It was a night of Sound, but also a night of Visual excitement, and I know that The State Theater will never be the same!

David Sanborn is without a doubt one of the most celebrated jazz musicians in the industry.  24 albums, 8 Grammys, Gold and Platinum sales.  His style is at once smooth and traditional so regardless of your genre flavor, there is something for everyone.  Accompanied by Byron Landham on Drums, and Joey DeFrancesco on the Hammond, he took us on a musical journey that began with  newer selections from his own works and compositions by Marcus Miller. Now over the past week, I have heard many variations of ensembles which have ranged from 3 [Kellylee Evans] to more than 20 [Aretha Franklin].  With it only being the 3 of them, I was impressed at how big their sound was.  Taking nothing from the larger companies, this was a cleaner treat to the ears.  It was simplified in that you could make out every instrument, however none the less large in quality and deliverance.  Even if it was not a solo, you could fully appreciate the skill level of each of them as they played and every nuance was much appreciated.  The fans oohed and aahed at their favorites, and laughed heartily at his jokes.  I must say, most of the performers for this year have been quite funny!

As I said, David has diversity in his art.  Ever the Michael Jackson fan and cover critic, my ears were marvelously caressed as they rocked the house with their version of “The Way You Make Me Feel”.  The crowd sang, clapped, and of course cheered. Ever the kidder, David gave acknowledgement to his musician cohorts, well deserved.  Byron’s solos were some of the best I have heard all week.  I promise you I tried to catch a smooth photo, even with shutter speed.  ha!  I got a flurry of sticks.  Period.  Quipping that he “plays fill-in solos for Joey DeFrancesco, David expressed that he himself is a fan of .  Far from the truth, as David is the Sensei of the Saxophone, BUT, Joey is as they say, A BEAST on that Hammond! Whew! The Hammond organ is by far one of the more complicated instruments to not play, but operate.  It has a double row of keys, floor pedals, sliding levers.. a lot like fast driving a stick shift car on Harvard Ave. [for those in other cities, Harvard Ave in Cleveland has the most red lights of any residential area, at one point every block].  The fluidity of motion is crucial to it coming off as a thing of beauty as opposed to a bunch of choppy notes.  Joey is smooth, and ferocious on it, not to mention is a pretty nice vocalist, displayed as he whipped the organ and sang “Let The Good Times Roll” by Louis Jordan.

Immediately after David Sanborn’s performance, the atmosphere changed as much as the set.  While the crew removed his set and unveiled Trombone Shorty’s, people milled around chatting, and from the snippets it was easy to tell that quite a few had not heard, or never heard of Trombone Shorty.  Because his style is the extreme opposite of David’s, I know they were in for a treat.  And their response was amazed, stunned, entertained.

Trombone Shorty is one of the rockstars of Jazz, successfully creating a sound that melds together Jazz, Rock, Funk, and pure New Orleans getdown which became evident as he along with his band called Orleans Avenue:- Mike Ballard – Bass; Tim McFatter – Tenor; Pete Murano – Guitar; Dan Oestreicher – Baritone Sax;  Joey Peebles – Drums, and Dwayne “Big D”Williams -Percussion set the crowd on it’s ear with their rock driven cut “Suburbia” from his previous release “Backatown”. The lights are racing, the guitar is wailing, the horns are giving up major staccato jazz structure, and I think I got in major neck calisthenics as I bobbed my head just as hard as Joey Peebles as he smashed on the drums.

Unlike a few bands where the front man is the main focus, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue are 100% charismatic.  They laugh and joke with each other while performing, and truly enjoy their type of offerings.  What I honestly love about them however, is that they are a group of young men in a time standard genre who are blazing a path within it, while maintaining the respect of those before.  As you know, my platform is live music, all the way.  I understand the necessity of technology, however many today have forsaken the true for the synthetic, forgetting those who have gone before and the path they navigated for them to walk thru.  With this band, you hear a wide range of the richness of Jazz’s history in the more than 90 minutes music they presented, including a spot-on imitation of Louis Armstrong in both vocals and trumpet solo by Trombone.  We heard a souped up version of “Minnie the Moocher”, as well as his signature version of “Sunny Side of The Street” where he held out a note for 2:20.  [I will do a video blog after the fest is over which will include this feat].  The crowd wend from applause, to cheers, to cheers and applause, to utter amazement.

Each of the musicians play more than one instrument, and not within the same family.  Trombone plays his nicknamed instrument, of course, as well as Trumpet, Drums, and Percussion.  Joey plays the guitar, Dwayne plays the Trombone, Pete plays Percussion.  This I witnessed last year as they rotated instruments at The House of Blues in the 2011 Jazzfest.  I missed that element this year, but ever evolving they more than made up for it at the end of the show with a rousing version of “When The Saints Go Marching In”.  After a few bars of the song, Joey dismantled his drum set and gave parts to the percussion to Mike, Pete, and Big D.

The band formed a line in front of the stage and continued the song ‘ala New Orleans styled Jazz, then picked up their instruments and left the stage to march around the entire theater playing the song.  The house lights went up, hands and handkerchiefs went up, and all had an amazing time.  For those who have seen him before we were totally blown away and delighted.  And for those who have never seen him before? Well, let’s just say he has a whole new fan club.  After the show they signed autographs, walking straight from the back of the house to the front, no heavy security, no intimidating personnel.  Smiles, skips, high fives, handshakes, and genuine camaraderie as they shook hands and “Squeezed and Cheezed” as I say [hugs and pics].  The merch table was 100% sold out of CD’s in less than 45 minutes, so I happily purchased an LP [yeah, how novel!], got my autograph, and will put it on my wall of fame. [last pic from coolcleveland’s slideshow..I was still stage left]

Tri-C Jazzfest this year, as in the previous 32 has brought great music night after night.  There has not been a single event where the audience was left without laughing, clapping, dancing, cheering, and experiencing the richness of live musicianship from some of the best artists on the planet.

At the time of this posting, there is only 1 night left, and it is sure to be Amazing.  NOPE, not gonna tell you who it is.. go to and see for yourself.  Then, JOIN US

You will NOT be disappointed.

Cya There!

In Rhythm and Blue


Official Blogger

2012 Tri-C Jazzfest

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Music And Art Are One! Tri-C Jazzfest: Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts

Hello Jazzy Ones!

Ok I confess, when I saw the title “Arts & Crafts”, I thought hm.. does he Make drums?  And is he going to display how some of them sound?  I was intrigued.  Usually if I am unfamiliar with an artist, I will do my research on them.  This time, for some reason I did not, don’t remember why. But I am glad that I did not.

I hope that you, as the reader, understand the way I blog.  I do not do so as a Jazz Aficionado, though I am versed a bit.  I wanted to share the experience of the Jazzfest as a mere listener and appreciator of quality music.  I think that perspective is the underdog in music review.  Hopefully, relaying these experiences to you in an appreciative as opposed to editorial form will help you to understand more of Jazz and the real feel of it as a listener.

That being said?  I’m having trouble with words for this night, and I am very well versed in the English language, am a Spoken Word artist, and a Songwriter.  I’m at a descriptive loss.  I have enjoyed every concert that I have been to.  I promise you that.  To see real artistry, and hear live music has been like an indulgence of a different cheesecake every night.  Rich, and satisfying lol.

Tonight however, was the first time that I cried from the beauty of what I heard.  And I am still quite emotional from it. I don’t have a lot of pictures for this blog.  It appears that my hands were trembling a lot.  Seriously.  You could not be in the room and not be impacted by the beauty of SOUND.

Matt Wilson is not a drummer.  And he was not accompanied by some skilled musicians.  They are exactly what the name says.  Arts, and Crafts.  I heard the drums and various percussions tonight that I have never heard interpreted that way before in ANY genre.  At one point, he was playing a reed flute, and swirling it around the top of the high hat, while making some form of sound on the top of the high hat.

Not to mention playing the drums with his hands as the pianist, Gary Versace played the Steinway with his left hand….and the Hammond with his right!.  Unreal!

The display of artistry was Spectacular.  Opening up with “Little Boy With The Sad Eyes” Gary Versace played that organ from a place deep in his soul.  Every solo was skilled, and unique, with a display of mastery of their instruments that was next level.  Martin Winn was so nimble on the Bass that at one point it sounded like there were two bassists.

Finally I just gave up on trying to maintain my cool when Terrell Stafford on Trumpet delivered a haunting yet mindblowing performance on “Happy Days Are Here Again”.  They performed some of the material from his new CD “Attitude of Gratitude”, and I shelled out my last fistful of dollars to take it home with me [ask the volunteer, she will tell you!]

As hilarious as gifted, Matt kept us laughing about replenishing the community as part of the stimulus package [you had to be there], and was so passionate about the music that he made more noise than all of us haha!

Without a doubt, this was the most innovative, and creative display of artistry in musicianship that I have ever seen, heard, or experienced.  Thank Heavens that Tri-C has stayed dedicated to providing quality music in their Jazzfests each year.  This was Six Flags, Woodstock, a Family Picnic, Fireworks, and a Sunset over the Ocean at High Tide all at once.

I have said it all week.  I will say it again.  Attend a concert this year. You will NOT be disappointed!

In Rhythm and Blue [and tonight..awe]


Official Blogger

Tri-C Jazzfest 2012

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A Sweet Treat! Tri-C Jazzfest: “Thunder From The Heartlands ft. Ernie Krivda”

Greetings Jazzy Ones!

I called this one Sweet Treat, because I had never heard Ernie Krivda before.  And, I had always wondered what The Hermit Club was, since it is so exclusive looking lol.  Turns out, it is.

The Hermit Club is a very exclusive club that was established in 1904.  It is the nation’s oldest private club.  THE NATION’S.  So much rich history in Cleveland!  I spoke to some men that knew about it, and found that it was at one point a very exclusive men’s only club [may still be?] and was for the very affluent. More notably, it is known however to house in it’s beautifully carved English Tudor annals, a platform devoted to nonprofessional performing arts, and is headed by those who truly appreciate the arts as opposed to us common industry folk.  How rare!  To have a place that gives room for the art just because of the love for it.  There is a great history behind it.  I encourage you to check it out. 

As supporters of the arts, they often have Jazz events.  The interior is as the exterior: rich, elegant, and stately.  To me, the absolute perfect place to have Ernie Krivda play. When I saw him, he was, as they used to say, “dressed to the nines”.  Complete with a fedora, Ernie fit the atmosphere.  It was formal and friendly, as was he.  More conversational than most of the other participants to date, he at once kept us laughing, and shared some of the rich history behind the musicians that were with him on the stage:

Bobby Floyd – Piano;  Jeff Grubbs – Double Bass, Brad Goode – Trumpet, Renell Gonsalves – Drums, and Brad Goode – Guitar. [had to sit in the very back.  Place was standing room only!]

I like the name of the set “Thunder From The Heartlands” Each of these musicians are from the Midwestern state area [Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan], and each state is very heavily vetted in the Jazz community.  The atmosphere was elegant.  The music, was super lush.  He has been compared to Cannonball Adderly in his approach.  I have never heard the tenor sax played as beautifully as I had that night.

Now, that is no disparagement to others.  I am not a huge horn jazz enthusiast by liking; more of a guitar and piano kinda girl.  But this night, we got all of the above.  I sat in total rapture as did most.  Even the media barely moved, so intoxicating was the sound.  I was transported back to the rich sound of music that used to flow from the television in my youth.  Not just Jazz, but that lush feel to it, like the scene in Cinderfella with Count Basie, or numerous backdrops of great classic movies.  Yes.  That is the word for these gentlemen.  This night, Jazz was Classic.  I even felt underdressed.

Even more heartwarming was the demographic and cultural meld within those walls.  We were of every color and creed, as I met Anglo, African-American, Indian, Italian, Mexican, and Sicilian to  name a few. There were those who needed elevators because their mature state would not allow them to take the stairs.  And there was the moment that made me emotional: watching a grandmother come in with her granddaughter who could not have been more than 6-10 years of age.  Both were dressed very nicely, and the youngster sat and listened just as rapturously as her Nana.  Wow.. how often do you see that?

Tri-C has night after night provided us with quality material.  This night, it was beautifully represented in an expression that could be appreciated by Jazz enthusiasts, appreciators, media, volunteers, staff, guests, members, and the very young.

Again, I encourage you to not miss another night of this festival which runs thru Sunday night, April 29,2012.  Go to and treat your soul.  You will NOT be disappointed.

In Rhythm and Blue


Official Blogger

Tri-C Jazzfest 2012

Categories: Jazz, Music, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Life Changes and Decisions

This blog is not about the Jazzfest, but my life.  

For those who know me or of me, there have been some rumors going around about me leaving Ohio.  THIS IS TRUE.  I have actually wanted to leave for some time now for a multitude of reasons, but mainly my industry career needs to be planted in a place that lends room for a little more diversity based on availability, and my health with regards to the winters.

When I say diversity, I mean that I am not the box that I have been tagged in, and there is more acceptance of that.  Now, that is not a blast to anyone so don’t take it that way.  But I am boxed in.  More than once, I have gotten an apology from someone that said “wow, I forgot you sing. I know you as a Poet, or vice versa”.  I’m quite simply an artist.  I sing.  I paint [yep!].  I make Jewelry, and I have some culinary and design skills under my belt – have been a seamstress since my twenties.

And I am also a writer, as some are seeing for the first time with our magazine and the Jazzfest blogging. I am blessed to have these outlets and very thankful to God for placing incredible people around me who have encouraged these gifts, mainly my business partner Reginald Ford and super friend Trissa Chaney, and total jewels Jasmine Sanders and Janice Williams.   Naturally there are more, and because I have lived a lot of places and worked in a lot of different art forms, there are far too many to mention.  I listed these 4, because they are strength additions to the next chapter of my life and daily, just knowing that they are available to me for encouragement, prayer, wisdom, and a laugh is the best motivation I could have!

I would encourage each of you that have a dream to seriously take inventory of it.  See where it is going and what is needed. Sometimes, we are the reason it is stagnant.  Other times, it has not germinated yet because God has not finished planting and soiling around it so that it can grow strong.  Be open to change and additions.  And subtractions.  I have had some very difficult conversations recently with some of my artsy friends.  Some were for the best in that they [and myself] have shifted to a point of growth.  Others, sadly, I know in my heart went in one ear and out the other.  That is a serious thing.  There are not many these days who will even take the time to say a full sentence to us, let alone share of their wealth of knowledge. I take no offense, I hold no ill will. I move forward as I am directed and should they come alongside in this next phase they are welcome.  If not I thank God for the experience of knowing them. [and yes, that is a them. Plural.]

A good friend of mine, D Nova, gave me the best piece of advice I could have ever had in my entire life when it comes to the shift I needed to make at that point.  And it hurt.  And I was angry.  But looking at now, after having applied these words, it was a necessary cut to my skin.  Has someone tried to do that for you?  If so, really look at what they did, and why. If there is room for it to be an opportunity for growth, it may be worth the pain.  It was for me.

I only have 2 1/2 more weeks here, then I will be leaving.  I don’t know who I will get to see, or when.  I have to be mindful of the time and put my family first, because they are the ones I am leaving first.  If I will be out, I will post something.  And if you see me, I’m not a super hugger, you all know that.  So please don’t be offended if I don’t let you squeeze me [lol].  Do however high-five and atta girl me if it’s in your heart to do so.  That is the best hug you can give.

Love and Kises

Neo aka Auntie [you know who you are]

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The Sound That Went Around The City! Tri-C Jazzfest: Marcus Strickland ft. Ben Williams

Hey Jazz Lovers!

On Sunday afternoon we were treated to the amazing music of Ben Williams who had as his saxophone player, Marcus Strickland.  I immediately left there and headed over to The Black Box Theater to then listen to Marcus as the front man for his own concert.

Marcus Strickland is one of the most accomplished saxophonists in the industry today, playing soprano, alto and tenor sax. The great Miles Davis once said, “The thing to judge in any jazz artist is, does the man project and does he have ideas?” If these are indeed the canonical essentials of a jazz artist at his best, then saxophonist Marcus Strickland is one of today’s truest exemplars”  He was voted Downbeat  Magazine’s Critic’s Poll ‘Rising Star on Tenor Saxophone’ [2008 & 2010], and JazzTimes Magazine named him ‘Best New Artist’ [2006] – all 3 by readers’ poll -indicated he is a community favorite.  He also placed 3rd in the 2002 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition.

I watched him as he prepared to go onstage, saxophones in hand, stands, and music.  No effects, handlers, or entourage.  Just a man and his music.  He was also very warm and friendly, joking about all of his “stuff” that he had to carry. The really cool thing about these concerts being on the same day, is that I got to see both of them [Marcus and Ben] as front men and accompaniment to the others gift. Chronologically they have been working together for years, but even with that, there is a harmonious union between the 2 of them that lends to their execution of their music.  It’s that brotherhood that made each concert distinctly unique alongside the difference in their catalogs.

The music?  WOW!.  Marcus was accompanied by David Bryan, Keys/Piano, Ben Williams, Double-bass, and his brother, E.J. Strickland on the drums.  Every composition executed, whether recognized as a standard favorite or from his new project has us in a cacophony of expressions.

What I both love and am intrigued about with the jazz audience, is that we are for the most part, very silent.  I love that.  There is a total absorption of the music, every nuance.  I look around and see eyes closed, feet slowly tapping.  Fingers of musicians in the crowd move in harmony with those of the instruments they play, while directors such as myself move ours to the time signature.  The intrigue of it comes in because more often than not, I have to contain myself! lol.  I mean, how can you be silent?  It is INCREDIBLE music!  There are some artists, like Trumpeter Sean Jones, who encourage the crowd to be free to dance, clap, yell, cheer, etc.  We are a refined class in this genre.  Full respect and appreciation is given to those who play.

Like I have said before, I am not one to just listen to Saxophone Jazz.  Many play, but few master.  It’s an instrument which if not skilled at, can come across stilted and choppy. But Marcus is a Master.  His etymology was still being spoken of 2 days later by those who had been in attendance as fluid, crisp, full of energy and highly charged with passion.  I concur on all points!

This was really a great night of music, and laughter, and we all left with a piece of him [he completely sold out of his new CD “Truimph of The Heavy: Volume I & II]. I  know that had it been video’d, a few of those whoops and whistles belong to yours truly!

The Tri-C Jazzfest is only halfway over.  YOU CAN STILL ATTEND!  Be sure to check out the remaining concert lineup, and treat your soul to some good musical medicine.  You will NOT be disappointed!

See You There!

In Rhythm and Blue


Official Blogger

2012 Tri-C Jazzfest

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Young Lions Roar From The Stage in a Doubleheader for Tri-C Jazzfest: Double-Bassist Ben Williams ft. Marcus Strickland

The first time that I heard Ben Williams, it was about 3am in the morning, and on a special Youtube channel the International Jazz Festival being held in Indonesia was on.  Pat Metheny was playing [who I love], and there was this amazing double-bassist.  I was super sleepy, just internet surfing.  Can’t tell you how I found him, or why.  All I know was that between the two, I was wide awake.  And when Ben began to play, the ears of this ultra Basshead were zero’d in!

Ben has accomplished a lot in his 27yrs. of living.  In 2002, he was a recipient of the Duke Ellington Society Annual Scholarship Award; took First Place in the 2005 International Society of Bassists (ISB) in the Jazz category as well as First Place in The 2009 Thelonious Monk International Competition for Double-Bass; Two-time winner of the Fish Middleton Jazz Scholarship Competition at the East Coast Jazz Festival; and a Two-time winner of the DC Public School Piano Competition [yes, he plays piano too!] . He has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Mulgrew Miller, Cyrus Chestnut, Ron Blake, Stefon Harris, Karreim Riggins, Hamiett Bluiette, James Williams, Bobby Watson, Winard Harper, Buster Williams, John Hicks, Anthony Wonsey, Me’Shelle N’degeocello, Gene Lake, Wycliffe Gordon, and Delfeayo Marsalis and more, not to mention performing with opening acts for artists such as John Legend, Kirk Franklin, and Eric Roberson. I happily included part of his pedigree, because it is a beautiful thing to see this type of history on a young artist while we are drowning in the land of “click and drag” [software music].

Held at the East Cleveland Public Library, a Free event, Ben Williams and Sound Effect did just that.  The effect of their music was totally absorbed by all that listened as we ooh’d, ahh’d, clapped enthusiastically at the individual solos, and treated our ears and hearts to the beauty of the double-bass.

David Bryan, Piano/Keys

Matt Stevens, Guitar

John Davis, Drums

Marcus Strickland, Saxophone

There is something to be said about this instrument.  In the Soul/R&B genre, it is the pocket or ‘money’ instrument as some call it.  This instrument sets the tone for the majority of music from early Motown [James Jamerson], is signature on Luther Vandross music [Marcus Miller for one], and is the absolute funk for Parliament [Lige Curry] – as well as the fact that these are electric – so we are familiar with the boom, especially with it being an absolute in Hip-Hop and rap since it propels cars down the street, lol. In the Classical, it is heard caressed with a bow and has more of an ethereal sound. But Jazz is a different order of addressing the bass sound. It’s impact extends well beyond the thump.  When played correctly, it interprets the feeling of the song without words.  In comparison, it is the butter on the biscuit; the purr under the hood of a new car; the sweet spot of a massage.  Rich, fulfilling, soothing like a medicine.  Whether it is straight-ahead with a 6/8 time signature or the sweetest of lullabies, this instruments’ potential is vastly overlooked at times in the midst of others on a stage; heard as only the backdrop.

Sunday evening, Ben Williams and his Double-Bass were front and center.  The combination of his fingers flying over the strings, the sound of the instrument filling the room, and the passion on his face as they performed one of his original works from his State Of The Art CD entitled “Home” was a Jazz delicacy.

Not yet 30, this young lion has already emoted a roar that more than identifies him as one.  It also marks his territory as a Tribe leader of musicians who are passionately picking up the torch of yesterday, adding a super charged fuel, and turning up the flame for all to see that the true artistry of Jazz lives on.

This was the 5th concert in a series of more than a dozen that are being presented by Tri-C, who have brought us quality entertainment for over 3 decades.  YOU HAVE NOT MISSED IT!  I have been asked.  There are still 6 days of concerts left!  Be sure to visit and select a concert.  Treat yourself.  You will NOT be disappointed.

See you there!

In Rhythm and Blue


Official Blogger

2012 Tri-C Jazzfest

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Royalty Comes to Ohio: Tri-C Jazzfest: An Evening with Aretha Franklin

Hello Jazzians!

Well, the night had arrived.  The Grand Dame’ of Soul, R&B, Jazz – and maybe we can invent another genre for her to rule over – was set to perform. Was I excited? Yes, and intrigued. [you know me, I want to know]. This is, after all, Aretha Franklin.  Many young women have aspired to sing because of Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, so many others. But they – Whitney, Jennifer and so on, were inspired by Aretha.  Without a doubt, her voice helped to define the music that we grew up on.  Lyrics that spoke of Encouragement “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, Love, “Daydreamin” and Strength “Respect”. She has won every award and received every accolade imaginable, and has the chops to step in for a world renowned classical vocalist, Luciano Pavarotti.

So, um.. yes.  I was excited.  It was her song ‘Dr. Feelgood” that made me want to open my mouth and see what would come out.

I wondered about a lot of things before the show started.  What would she sound like live?  Will I hear my favorites?  How long with the concert be?  I mean after all, her catalog is quite exhaustive.  I have to tell you, this was a serious production.  The picture above is missing the drummers’ cage, and a whole oterh percussion section behind one of the most fiercest tambourine players I have ever heard [she was very nice as well!, Kellylee and I had a good laugh offstage as I tried to teach poor Kellylee how to play the tambourine lol.  Hands down her most favorite musician of the night]

When Aretha came out, the house was on fire.  And she looked incredible.

As her voice soared over the full orchestra, I was at once transported back to my bedroom with my lime green faux alligator phonograph player, nappy hair in an afro, wig brush in my hand emulating this woman that stood in front of me. Song after song, she blew us away with the the strength and power of her vocals, not to mention her jazz chops.  I came to realize that you really have to come to a concert to truly appreciate the dexterity of her range and vocal stylings.

It was not merely a concert with the lady and her piano, although she did play.  and PLAY she did – we tend to forget she is just as skilled on the 88’s as she is with a pen and her voice – until she played her self happy.  This was a full on experience, complete with dancers, effects, and a huge disco ball for us to get on the Freeway of Love and boogie down.

There is so much that happens behind the scenes that we as appreciators of music really don’t know about in order for the show to be a total success.  I can only imagine what it took to pull together a show of that magnitude.  The dancers had wardrobe changes, the lighting, the stage setting.  Wow. A super huge THANK YOU to anyone and everyone that has the tiring and amazing task of making sure that when an artist steps on stage, all they have to do is create.  WE APPRECIATE YOU!

Many songs and 2 encores later, we were drained.  The audience laughed [she’s very funny], probably cried, got a little religion and shook their booties. I see now why folks say they leave her concerts wiped out.  You really will experience every emotion that you can connect to after an evening with Aretha Franklin.

I can definitely cross this one off of my bucket list.  It was a Night to Remember.

Tri-C has tirelessly for the past 33 years strove to bring to Cleveland some of the best music that the industry has to offer when it comes to Jazz.  From Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin and still to come: Sean Jones, The Oikos Ensemble, David Sanborn, Trombone Shorty…so many more.  Check out their site, purchase a ticket, and see for yourself.

You will NOT be disappointed!

In Rhythm and Blue


Official Blogger

2012 Tri-C Jazzfest

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Jazz Goes To Church! Tri-C Jazzfest: Tribute to Nina Simone ft. Ki Allen and Kellylee Evans

Gospel is the oldest form of music documented, and Jazz has been greatly influenced by a lot of former and current Gospel singers and musicians: the depth of soul, passion and feeling has been infused in the rifts, scats, and minor chords we know as Jazz.  Nina Simone aka “The High Priestess of Soul” was one of the most prolific Jazz vocalists and songwriters in the genre.  Undisputed.  And this I know because of those who have shared her music with me, as when she was at the stride of her career I was too young to appreciate her.  Most, like me, only know a few of her songs.  I was really looking forward to this event, and wow, was I in for a TREAT!

Held at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, the house was filled and the air was festive as Ki Allen began the program.  She took us thru a catalog of songs that were motivating, uplifting, and smoky, like “I’m Here”, and the infamous “Four Women”.

Ronnie O’Dell, Drums

Sammy DeLeon, Percussion

Chris Anderson -Trombone and local artist [now a Jersey resident] Curtis Taylor-Trumpet

Dr. David Thomas, Piano

 Bob Fraser, Guitar

Ki Allen is a really great vocalist with a nice contralto that has a few hints of the great Sarah Vaughn, but with a style all her own that compliments Nina’s music nicely, as we experienced on “Wild Is The Wind”, and the infamous “Four Women” [no, it was not by Kelly, Marsha, Jill and  Just a tribute], and on the playful “My Baby Just Cares For Me”. Special nod to Bob Fraser. In an age where music has a face that is not even old enough to go and perform in a Jazz club, it was good to see a seasoned musician playing skillfully!  Technology has nothing on Bob!  Be sure to check out Ki at The Brothers Lounge, where she performs every Monday night, 

Curtis Taylor, who has a band called Skope.  He is a phenomenal trumpeter, and a super cool guy. This is Alumni folks!

Intermission, and we all took time to greet each other; not even really knowing each other, just happy to be in a room where, just like a church service, everyone was on one accord. The crowd was warm and friendly, and beautifully brown as Kellylee noticed “This is the most [brown] people that I have ever performed for!” she laughed.  We all joined in, and applauded ourselves for embracing a jewel in our heritage.

Kellylee Evans is a Jazz singer of a different order.  She entered the sanctuary, bowed, walked to the mic, and turned into what I have now baptized her as “The Rockstar of Jazz”.  Barefoot and dancing, Kellylee Evans showed us why she is a recipient of Juno and Gemini awards, as well as placing 2nd in the Thelonious Monk Jazz Vocals Competition.

Kellylee engaged the audience as she sang to them, taking hands, making eye contact and having us laughing in the aisles with her wit, and mesmerized us as she took us on a diverse stroll thru Nina’s work; “Ne Me Quitte Pas”; “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and a heart-wrenching “I Loves You Porgy” that emoted the passion of unrequited love.

Kicking it up a notch, her love for reggae/dub was infused into her rendition of “Sinnerman” as we cried out “Power!” along with her. Barefoot and dancing, we tapped our feet, nodded our heads and stood to our feet as Marvin Sewell – Drums, Mark McClain – Guitar and Francois Moutin – Bass went totally rockstar with her, especially when she stood on a pew and sang “Victory” then jumped up in the air rocker style to end the song, bounding off stage left.

Tri-C, in it’s 33rd year, has once again provided us with some of the best of the best in Jazz, and a beautiful multi-cultural setting both on the stage from 3 countries as well as the diversity of listeners from barely legal to beautifully gray lent to the true appreciation felt by all for live music, incredibly vocals, and excellence in Jazz.

Don’t miss out folks. There is still a week of Jazz to go!  Be sure to check out the events remaining on and purchase a ticket.  There is something for everyone.  Even if you are not a devout Jazz enthusiast, there is some purely great music being represented here, and a lot of Cleveland artists are involved!

You will NOT be disappointed!

In Rhythm and Blue


Official Blogger

2012 Tri-C Jazzfest


 Willard Jenkins,  Jazzfest Artistic Director      Chris Taylor, Trumpet

Barefoot in the Jazz                        Ki Allen, “Cliffie” Business Mgr., Kellylee Evans

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