33rd Annual Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland Starts Next Week

Monday marks the unofficial open to this year’s Tri-C JazzFest, when the Paul Samuels 4 and The Tri-C Trio + play at Brothers Lounge in Lakewood. Thursday’s the official kickoff, with a late afternoon parade through Tower City Center by Salty Dogs Brass Band and Cleveland’s celebrated Shaw High School Marching Band, followed by an (already sold out) show that evening by bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding at Tri-C Metro Auditorium.

Given that Spalding followed a 2011 Best New Artist Grammy win with the release this March of Radio Music Society, a neo-soul pop record, it’s a safe bet that all those tickets weren’t snatched up by diehard (or even casual) jazz fans. And there are plenty of other big names in the festival lineup–Aretha Franklin, Diana Krall, David Sanborn–that look to cater to broad, middle-of-the-road tastes. Which is fine. Nothing wrong with putting asses in the seats of Cleveland music venues. And I’m actually looking forward to seeing all of the above. (I will, however, again be skipping the annual “Smooth Jazz All-Stars” night.) But a few more experimentalists might have been nice.

Still, drummer Matt Wilson is coming, bringing his Arts and Crafts group to Tri-C’s Black Box Theatre on Wednesday, April 25 (a show that could well prove the highlight of the festival), and legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette is on the bill as well (Thursday, April 26 at the Black Box), plus bassist Ben Williams and saxophonist Marcus Strickland will both perform on Sunday, April 22.

One of the great things about the fest, regardless of who’s scheduled to appear, is that it always spans the city. Tri-C will be showing off its year-and-a-half-old Center for Creative Arts, with several shows scheduled in the Center’s Black Box Theatre, along with other shows on the Tri-C Metro campus. Playhouse Square will again host a handful of shows at its State Theatre. And while there are fewer free shows this year, the East Cleveland Public Library will stage a (paid entrance) show at its wonderful, intimate Greg L. Reese Performing Arts Center. The Hermit Club will host Cleveland saxophonist Ernie Krivda, The Olivet Institutional Baptist Church will open its doors for the yearly “Women in Jazz” concert, the annual “Jazz for Kids” program returns to the Children’s Museum, and the festival will close, appropriately, at the Northeast Ohio jazz stalwart Nighttown, with a performance by the festival’s “house band” TCJF SoundWorks.

Should be a good two weeks. But the jazz hardly stops after that. Check out the Northeast Ohio jazz calendar, compiled and updated weekly by Jim Szabo, host of WRUW 91.1 FM’s “Down by the Cuyahoga” jazz program, for list of all the NEO jazz happenings in the months ahead: http://www.wruw.org/guide/show.php?show_id=83

This post is part of the Jazz Journalists Association 2012 Jazz Day Blogathon. The JJA, of which I am a member, today announced the finalists for its 16th annual Jazz Awards: www.jjajazzawards.org.

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