by Janet I. Martineau
All the stars are aligning as the three-day Michigan Jazz Trail Festival nears its Friday, June 24, through Sunday, June 26, run.
National headliners are headed to the festival’s concerts in Bay City and Midland. And local talent which tours internationally is booked for the final gig in Saginaw.
“We have all our acts locked in place, and I think we are going to cross bridges and boundaries with this event,” says festival founder Molly McFadden, a Midland resident. “We believe people in Midland will travel to Saginaw, people in Saginaw will travel to Bay City, and so on.”
She also notes that while it’s titled as a JAZZ festival, a mixed bag of music is planned.
Soul singer/songwriter Bettye LaVette, who was born in Muskegon and raised in Detroit, headlines the “Blues on the Bay” concert in Bay City. Jazz guitarist/singer John Pizzarelli is on tap for the “Jazz at the Tridge” event in Midland.
And Saginaw’s Temple Theatre hosts pianist/arranger Kevin Cole, a native of Bay City, and two Saginaw-based groups: the seven-member New Reformation Band and the Brush Street quartet with singer Julie Mulady.
What has McFadden, a jazz singer herself, the most excited, however, is that each of the three concerts also will feature potential rising stars.
Three high school jazz bands, the award-winning ACT-SO Jazz Ensemble, the newly formed groups Voices of Jazz and Saginaw Teens on Stage, and jazz saxophonist Morgan McMillon, a recent graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, are among the budding young players participating.
“They are the future for this music, its history and Michigan’s heritage,” says McFadden. “Including them in this festival provides them with incentive, and allows them to perform alongside professionals.”
She also is excited about the cost -- buying an advance $30 pass gets a person in to all three events. And for those who just want to sample one, the cost is only $15 at the gate for each of the shows ($10 for students).
“At the Savannah Jazz Festival, it costs $50 a ticket just to see John Pizzarelli.”
The line-up is as follows:
-- Friday, June 24, “Blues on the Bay,” at the Friendship Shell in downtown Bay City, features LaVette as well as Old Wolves Blues Band, Scott Baker and the Universal Expressions, Soul Express,The Burdons, Bay City Central High School Jazz Band and Garber High School Jazz Band.
LaVette, 64, scored her first hit at age 16 with the Top 10 rhythm and blues single “He’s a Lovin’ Man.” Since then she’s gone eclectic, also singing blues, rock, funk, gospel and country.
Her music career took a six-year hiatus when she was on Broadway in the musical “Bubbling Brown Sugar.” In 2007, LaVette won a Grammy nomination for her album “The Scene of the Crime,” featuring her interpretations of music by such country and rock stars as Willie Nelson, Elton John and Don Henley.
In 2008 she performed during the Kennedy Center Honors in a tribute to honorees Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who. In 2009 she performed during an Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial.
Her most recent album is “Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook,” featuring the music of Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals and Pink Floyd. And LaVette has been on NPR’s “World Cafe” and “All Things Considered” as as well as all the late night talk shows.
Gates open at 3:30 p.m. and the rain-or-shine concert begins at 5 p.m. Concertgoers must provide their own seating on lawn chairs or blankets. Small coolers and picnic baskets are admitted but the park does not allow alcoholic beverages. Limited concessions will be available. Parking is free on streets around the park.
-- Saturday, June 25, “Jazz at the Tridge,” on the lawn in back of the H Hotel in downtown Midland, features Pizzarelli as well as Molly McFadden and the Bistro Boys, the 16-member Michigan Jazz Trail Big Band, Mike Brush and Julie Mulady, Jeff Hall with Mary Gilbert, Bryan Rombalski and Three Worlds, Saginawian Morgan McMillon, the 11-member gospel group The Bamecians, Cynthia Levi with Val Lemmon, ACT-SO Jazz Ensemble, H.H. Dow High School Jazz Band and Voices of Jazz.
Pizzarelli, 50, is a native of New Jersey and the son of jazzman Bucky Pizzarelli. He is active as a jazz guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and band leader.
He lists 23 solo albums on his resume as well as 40 more in collaborations ranging from James Taylor to Rosemary Clooney,
In 2008 Pizzarelli was nominated for a Grammy for “With a Song in My Heart,” a tribute to the music of Richard Rodgers. Other popular albums have featured his interpretations of jazz standards and bossa nova and the music of Frank Sinatra and Nat “King’ Cole.
Pizzarelli has performed with the Boston Pops, hosts a syndicated weekly radio show, and has appeared on all the late night talk shows.
Gates opens at 3 p.m. and the rain-or-shine concert begins at 4 p.m. Concertgoers will receive wristbands so they can come and go from the concert site to downtown stores and bistros.
Bring your own lawn chairs or blankets. Picnic baskets and wine are allowed. Wine and beer tents and food vendors will be onsite. Dancing space is planned. And parking is free on most streets and lots around the area.
-- Sunday, June 26, “Heart & Soul at the Temple Theatre,” 203 N. Washington in downtown Saginaw, with Cole, New Reformation Band, Brush Street with Julie Mulady and Saginaw Teens on Stage (featuring seven performers doing solos and group songs).
Cole is a native of Bay City, but now lives in Chicago and performs solo and with orchestras around the world. He has amassed international credits with his work as a pianist, arranger, composer and singer of music by George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. He frequently returns home to perform in the mid-Michigan area.
New Reformation, founded by brothers David and Nick Oppermann, is in its 41st year of playing jazz and Dixieland music and has recorded 16 albums. Two New Reformation concerts were videotaped, one of them at the Temple, and aired nationally over PBS. And the group has performed at virtually every major jazz festival in the U.S. as well as with symphony orchestras and on cruise ships.
Brush Street features Mike Brush on keyboards with three other musicians playing acoustic bass, guitar and drums. Mulady is a husky-voiced blues singer. The group has performed with the Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra and at the Detroit Institute of Arts as well as at a variety of venues throughout mid-Michigan.
Doors open at 3 p.m. and the concert begins at 4 p.m. All seats are general admission. No food or drinks may be brought into the Temple. Parking is free on the city streets, in a lot at the back of the Temple, and with a shuttle service provided from the Saginaw Tower Parking Lot at 515 N. Washington.
|Molly McFadden and the Bistro Boys|
The $30 passes are on sale at:
-- The Temple Theatre in Saginaw. At the box office, by calling (877) 754-SHOW or online at www.templetheatre.com. Box office hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
-- State Theater, 913 Washington Ave. in Bay City. At the box office, by calling (989) 892-2660, or online at www.statetheatrebaycity.com. Box office hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, extended to 6 p.m. Wednesday.
-- The Midland Center for the Arts, 1801 W. St. Andrews. At the box office, by calling (800) 523-7649 or online at www.mcfta.org. Box office hours are noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday.
Among the sponsors of the Michigan Jazz Trail Festival and its “Find Your Groove” slogan are Wildfire Credit Union, Dow Chemical, Dow Corning, Garber Management Group, MidMichigan Health, Ieuter Insurance Group, ClearRiver Advertising and Marketing, F.P. Horak, Tri-Star Trust Bank and Saginaw Valley State University.
For more information on the performers and maps for the locations, log on to www.michiganjazztrail.org.