Friday, June 25
Evan Knight. 5 p.m.
Kimberly Jordan Band. 6:30 p.m.
Kimberly Jordan is a well-established producer, musician, director and vocal coach, as well as an ordained minister. Jordan grew up in Detroit, the daughter of a preacher, immersed in gospel music, but she didn’t start to study music until she was older.
After graduating from Howard University, Jordan began touring as the music director for legendary jazz vocalist (and Saturday Jazz Fest performer) Gil Scott-Heron and his band. In 1996, Jordan’s publishing company, Kimberlyn Music, received an ASCAP Music Award for writing and producing “We Must Be in Love,” performed by Pure Soul.
After an auto accident, Jordan was unable to perform and she moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where she studied to become a minister. While there she rediscovered gospel music and began working on creating a new genre she called “gospel-jazz.” In 2001, she debuted her creation on her album All for You (Orchard). That same year Jordan became ordained as a minister of the Gospel at Emmanuel Covenant Church in Hyattsville, Md.
Expect an electrifying performance as you get settled into an evening of live jazz.
Richard Bona Band. 8 p.m.
Jeff Lorber Fusion. 9:30 p.m.
Jeff Lorber has recorded more than 20 albums; his most recent release, Heard That (Peak Records), hit the streets June 10. The album harkens back to Lorber’s early 1980s fusion heyday.
Jeff Lorber Fusion was a groundbreaking group in the 1970s; featured on saxophone was none other than Kenny G. After the group split up, keyboardist Lorber embarked on a solo career in jazz. He has been nominated for three Grammys and his albums Water Sign (BMG), West Side Stories (Polygram) and Kickin’ It (Samson Music) all charted well and helped established him as one of the genre’s top artists.
In January, Lorber and a newly reconstituted Fusion played at the 2010 Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) Music Industry Conference showcase at the SOB’s nightclub in New York City’s Soho. Joining him on the Jazz Fest stage will be Eric Marienthal, Jimmy Haslip, Randy Brecker and Lionel Cordew. Jeff Lorber Fusion caps a Friday evening of quality jazz in Syracuse. . . until the late-night jam hits the stage at 11 p.m.
Saturday, June 26
KJ Denhert. 5 p.m.
KJ Denhert has a gift for performing live, so Saturday evening promises to get off to a rousing start.
A guitarist-singer-songwriter who tells stories through intelligent and passionate lyrics, Denhert’s urban folk and jazz transcends genres and generations and has helped her build a loyal worldwide fan base.
Denhert and her band, New York Unit, have headlined all over the United States and overseas at festivals like Umbria Jazz Festival (Italy), San Jose and Cape Cod Jazz Festivals and the Blue Note in New York City.
Denhert was raised in the Bronx. Her love for music became evident when, at age 10, she composed a song on her four-string guitar. In 2004, Denhert hit the national spotlight as an independent songwriter, recording artist and producer with the release of Girl Like Me (Mother Cyclone Records). “Little Mary,” from the album, won first place at the Mountain Stage New Song contest, and she had made her mark as a songwriter to be reckoned with. “Private Angel” from her follow-up CD, The Songwriters Notebook (Mother Cyclone Records), won Kerr-ville New Folk Song honors and earned her a second Independent Music Award nomination.
In 2006, Denhert received an Independent Music Award for Best Live Performance CD, which honored her fifth CD, Another Year Gone By, Live (Mother Cyclone Records). Her seventh album, released in 2008, is the aptly named Lucky 7 (Motema Music).
Richie Havens. 6:30 p.m.
Electrifying people since the 1960s, Richie Havens is a well-established vocalist. From 1969’s Woodstock Music & Arts Fair to the Clinton inauguration in 1993 to the 30th Woodstock Anniversary Celebration in 1999, Havens has played it all. Havens built his reputation playing in festivals like the 1966 Newport Folk Festival, 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival, 1966 Miami Pop Festival and the first Glastonbury Festival in 1970.
Born in Brooklyn, he began performing at age 16 with the McCrea Gospel Singers. When he was 20, Havens left Brooklyn for the alternative lifestyle to be found in Greenwich Village. Soon he had built a reputation as a solo performer. In 1967, he released his debut album, Mixed Bag (Verve Records).
The turning point in his career was 1966 when he opened at Woodstock, holding the audience’s attention for more than three hours and being called back for six encores. Around that time, Havens opened his own record label, Stormy Forest, and released Stonehenge and Alarm Clock. In 1999, Havens co-authored his first book, an autobiography, They Can’t Hide Us Anymore (Harper Collins)
Since his debut in the 1960s, Haven has released more 25 albums and remains as active as ever on tour. For him music has created a higher calling, one in which he is on a continuous journey to express, through song, the times we have endured, the thoughts we have brought about, and the growing and changing we have done.
Gil Scott-Heron. 8 p.m.
Gil Scott-Heron has been gracing us with his presence since the early 1970s. He is recognized as a pioneer of modern hip-hop and a seminal voice of his generation. His collaborative work with musician Brian Jackson led to the fusion of jazz, blues and soul music. The music on albums like Pieces of a Man (RCA) and Winter in America (TVT) influenced hip-hop and neo-soul. His work has been associated with black activism; probably his most well-known composition is The Revolution Will Not be Televised (Bluebird).
Scott-Heron was born in Chicago and attended Lincoln University. There he met Jackson and together they formed the band Black & Blues. After two years at Lincoln, he took a year off to write the novels The Vulture and The N*gger Factory (both slated for reissues this fall).
Over the years, Scott-Heron has released more than 36 albums, and his newest CD, I’m New Here (XL Recordings), hit the streets Feb. 8. Jazz Fest director and founder Frank Malfitano considers Scott-Heron the nation’s greatest living male jazz vocalist, and says his return to performing is the biggest news on the national jazz scene in decades.
Boz Scaggs. 9:30 p.m.
Boz Scaggs began his career with the original Steve Miller Band. In 1969, he set out on a solo career with an eponymous album for Atlantic Records, which featured the famed Muscle Shoals rhythm section as well as the late Duane Allman. The following year, Scaggs signed with Columbia Records. His first three albums for them are Moments, Boz Scaggs & Band and My Time.
In 1974, he released Slow Dancer, followed by 1976’s Silk Degrees, which really thrust Scaggs into the national spotlight. Many album collections got started with the purchase of Silk Degrees, which produced such hit singles as “Lowdown,” “Lido Shuffle” and “Georgia.” Silk Degrees hit No. 2 on the Billboard album chart and eventually sold more than 4 million copies. In 1976, Scaggs also won a Grammy Award for Best R&B song for “Lowdown.”
Scaggs resurfaced in 2001 with Dig, which he released with David Paich and Danny Kortchmar. In 2003, Scaggs released But Beautiful, which rose to No. 1 on the Billboard jazz chart. Scaggs believes music and lyrics celebrate the notion that life can change in an instant and his music reflects this.
After Scaggs’ performance, stick around for the fireworks that will light up the skies above Onondaga Community College.
Sunday, June 27
Sheryl Bailey. 3:30 p.m.
Sheryl Bailey was 18 when she first saw Emily Remler peform, and Remler’s originality, amazing command of the guitar and prominence as a woman in jazz inspired Bailey to emulate that success. Remler died in 1990, at age 32, and Bailey promised herself to keep her memory alive, through her music.
A New Promise (MCG Jazz), Bailey’s sixth CD, was inspired by Remler. In 2006, MCG Jazz executive director Marty Ashby heard Bailey play at 55 Bar in Greenwich Village and he was so impressed that he offered her the chance to perform in concert with the Three Rivers Jazz Orchestra. Fittingly, Ashby asked Bailey to perform “Carenia,” by Remler.
Bailey was born in Pittsburgh and comes from a family of classical musicians who all play the piano. Although she learned to play piano, she didn’t especially like classical music. She actually preferred rock and heavy metal. At age 13, Bailey took up the guitar and within two years was playing in bar bands.
Even though Bailey is associated with jazz, she has never abandoned her rock roots. In recent years, she has been appearing in New York City with other guitarists in a band called Jazz Guitars Play Jimi Hendrix. Bailey also performs monthly at the 55 Bar with her organ trio.
They have released five CDs with her own Pure Music Records and have toured internationally. When she is not playing guitar, she is teaching it at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, from which she graduated, and the Collective School of Music in New York City.
Michael Kaeshammer. 5 p.m.
Michael Kaeshammer has been called a “Canadian triple threat” for his piano virtuosity, vocal ability and charisma on stage. Born in Germany, the now Toronto-based artist has earned international acclaim and a loyal fan base. Recently, Kaeshammer was nominated for the Juno Award (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy) for Vocal Jazz Album of the Year.
In 2009, Kaeshammer performed at the prestigious Tanglewood Jazz Festival outside Boston. That same year, he released Lovelight (Traditions and Moderne), which is a jazz, blues and pop album; many critics have proclaimed it his best work yet. He is set to release a new album in September, and an international tour will promote it.
At this year’s Syracuse Jazz Fest, he plans on performing with his usual three-piece jazz combo, along with a three-piece horn section.
Toph-E and the Pussycats. 6:30 p.m.
Drawing heavily on funk, soul, r’n’b and numerous other genres, Toph-E and the Pussycats’ repertoire is heavily eclectic, with the band passionately performing everything from Miles Davis’ “All Blues” and Duke Ellington’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm” to jazz and pop classics made famous by Les McCann and Grover Washington Jr.
Pussycats (and Jimmy Buffett Coral Reefer Band) percussionist Ralph MacDonald co-wrote the smash hit “Just the Two of Us” for Washington and Bill Withers, today a staple of Toph-E’s set list. The quintet’s high-powered, anti-war version of the Gene McDaniels/Eddie Harris/McCann soul-jazz classic “Compared to What?” never fails to get festival audiences up and dancing.
The Pussycats include drummer/bandleader Chris Parker, bassist Will Lee, percussionist Ralph MacDonald, keyboardist Clifford Carter and saxophonist Dave Mann.
Between them, Toph-E and the Pussycats have recorded and toured with artists such as Natalie Cole, James Taylor, Paul Simon, James Brown and Bette Midler. They have appeared on various platinum, gold and Grammy-winning albums by artists like Cher, Donald Fagen, Salt n’ Pepa and Miles Davis. Then there are stints with the Saturday Night Live Band, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Band, and Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra.
Natalie Cole. 8 p.m.
When Natalie Cole’s seminal album Unforgettable: With Love (Elektra) came out in 1991, the jazz collection set a new standard for the Great American Songbook. The CD captured six Grammys, including Album and Record of the Year, spent five weeks at No. 1 and sold more than 8 million copies in the United States alone. Instead of soaking in the fame and moment, however, Cole took a step back and spent time on other projects including an autobiography.
In 2008, she released Still Unforgettable (DMI Records), which won two Grammys, for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album and Best Instrumental Accompanying Vocalist. It also earned her an NAACP Award for Best Jazz Artist. Cole produced Still Unforgettable, as well. The album includes a duet with her father, Nat “King” Cole, on the song “Walkin’ My Baby Back Home.”
Cole's talent was first acknowledged in 1975 when she won Best New Artist Grammy, one of the few times the Grammy Awards got that category right. Today, this nine-time Grammy winner continues to astonish people with her vocal dexterity and innate, knowing way with a lyric and a melody. Those talents will be on display during Cole’s Jazz Fest-closing performance. As a nice touch, she will be backed by her regular touring ensemble, with the addition of 13 of Central New York’s finest horn players. Cole should make this year’s Jazz Fest truly unforgettable.
Ware It’s At
This year’s Syracuse Jazz Fest is getting crafty—literally. For the first time in the festival’s 28-year history, the Syracuse Peace Council will accompany Jazz Fest’s groovy beats with a craft fair, providing attendees with locally crafted goods to admire, peruse and buy.
SPC representative Andy Mager says the council’s desire to hold a summer crafts festival isn’t a new concept; after all, every December, they host the popular Plowshares Craftsfair. “We have long wanted to develop a summer event that involves crafts,” he says. When Jazz Fest founder Frank Malfitano floated the idea of teaming with the SPC to accompany the music with crafts, Mager happily accepted the invitation.
Mager sees the SPC craft festivals serving multiple purposes. “They’re major fund-raisers,” he notes, prefacing their second role. “We also believe that part of social justice is developing a local economy and an economy where people are in charge of their work. The craft fair serves as that sort of gathering.”
The diversity of crafts that will be displayed at Jazz Fest—from jewelry to hats, eggshell art to copper-fire prints—echoes the Peace Council’s efforts to support diversity in all facets of life. The 76-year-old group is the oldest grass-roots peace organization in the United Sates, reports Mager, “educating, agitating and organizing for social justice since 1936.”
Because of the council’s ardent support for a diverse, autonomous society, Mager believes teaming with Jazz Fest was a good move. “One of the things we think is so important about Jazz Fest is diversity,” he says. “It brings together a diverse group of people. Music is something that inspires people, that gives people hope to transcend the things that divide us.” Mager notes that two of the performers council members are most excited to see are Richie Havens, a solo artist with folk-music roots, and Gil Scott-Heron, a jazz vocalist and spoken-word soul performer.
So far, 33 vendors paid the $100 fee to reserve 10-by-10-foot booths, says Mager, adding that he expects more to have signed up prior to the June 15 deadline. Campus security will patrol the area when Jazz Fest is dark.
“We hope that lots of people will come out and look at the crafts,” Mager says. “We’ll make some money and share some good, finding people who want to join in with our efforts in one way or another.”
The Syracuse Peace Council’s summer crafts festival will groove on Friday, June 25, 3 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, June 26, noon to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, June 27, noon to 8 p.m. The craft fair will be set up near the Route 173 entrance of the Onondaga Community College campus. Admission to the fair, and the Jazz Fest, is free; parking costs $5. For more information, call 472-5479 or visit www.peacecouncil.net.