Pick of the Week: Lakeland Jazz Festival (2/22 – 2/24), Featuring Chris Potter and Jamey Haddad

It’s time again for the Lakeland Jazz Festival, held at the Lakeland Community College in Kirtland. Now in its 41st year, this annual event usually features an internationally known jazz performer on Saturday night with local musicians filling out the rest of the weekend’s schedule. The festival also provides an opportunity for high school and junior high school students to learn more about the music and perform during the day on Friday and Saturday.

This year’s program is stellar. Saxophonist Chris Potter, who just released a fine, moody musical interpretation of The Odyssey called Sirens (ECM), brings the bulk of the group from that album with him when he performs on Saturday night at 8:00. Potter, 42, is widely regarded not only as one of the best sax players of his generation, but as one of the leading voices in jazz today. Sirens may find him stepping away from the electric music of his vaunted Underground group, but the edge and experimentation surely aren’t lost. Unfortunately, one of the album’s pianists, Craig Taborn, won’t be touring with Potter. But pianist David Virelles will be in Kirtland Saturday night, along with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland. The weather can often be dicey for this festival, but this is a show that simply shouldn’t be missed. As an added bonus, Potter will give a free clinic on Saturday afternoon from 4:30-5:30, as the headlining artist does each year. The clinic is open to the public and offers a chance to get a look inside the artist’s music and philosophy, and ask any questions you might have. It’s a neat feature of the festival.

Cleveland-based percussionist Jamey Haddad will perform Friday night at 8:00 with his All-Star Trio, consisting of himself, pianist Leo Blanco and bassist Roberto Occhipinti. Haddad, seemingly, has played with everyone, from Paul Simon to Yo Yo Ma to Nancy Wilson, et al., and can often be found lending his talents to a wide-array of Cleveland groups. He has invented and patented several percussion instruments and collected who knows how many others from around the globe—performances find him dipping into a bottomless truck of percussive possibilities. The setup for Friday appears to be a traditional piano trio on paper, but I’m anticipating ventures far beyond the standard jazz idiom.

If your thing is big bands, return to Lakeland on Sunday at 4:00 for the Big Band Matinee, featuring the Lakeland Civic Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Dave Sterner, and the Cleveland State University Ensemble, under the direction of John Perrine. The high school band performances and adjudications run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday and 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.


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