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Countdown: Your Planning Guide for Music August 24-31

It’s going to be a great weekend for music in NEO, but where to start? Countdown gets you ready with a roundup of some of the most notable music events that you might want to check out. Think of it as your every-Thursday planning guide to a weekend of music and good times.

George Benson, Friday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m., Cain Park, Cleveland Heights

Given his chart success as a vocalist, it’s easy to forget just how much jazz guitar George Benson can play when the spirit moves him. Whether that spirit will be with him at Cain Park is an open question. The smart money will be on a medley of hits with maybe one familiar burner to remind us all that the old man (Benson is 80) can bring the fire that lit up Pittsburgh’s Hill District six decades ago.

Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, Friday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m., BOP STOP, Cleveland

All of a sudden, it seems like every musician on the Cleveland Scene is in the studio (watch for my forthcoming Street Date column at on just this topic). Friday it’s the turn of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, which will convene to record the music of one of its own, Chas Baker. The trombonist and director of the Kent State University Jazz Ensemble goes back a long way with this band, having been present at the creation of the ensemble in 1985. While we’re on the topic of time passing, it’s worth noting that the CJO has not recorded for five years, which makes Friday’s live date something of an event.

Sunny Tabler

Sunny Tabler’s Trap Jazz, Saturday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m., BLU Jazz+, Akron

What you make of the term trap jazz will likely depend on which side of 30 you find yourself on. My guess is that notwithstanding the issue of age, Sunny Tabler can have it both ways, being both a big-eared musician who is familiar with trap music and a practitioner of the trap set. That’s the seat from which Tabler will direct an ensemble of some of the region’s most accomplished jazzers: electrifying alto saxophonist Ronell Regis and trombonist Zach Warren on the front line with Theron Brown on piano, guitarist Jonah Ferguson and bassist Jordan McBride forming an A-list rhythm section.

1WAY @ THE GO FACTORY, Tuesday, August 29, 8 p.m., Go Factory, Cleveland

The last monthly 1Way presentation of the summer offers improv two ways. At 8 p.m. it’s WELL, a project that joins 1Way ringmaster Dan Wenninger with guitarist Evan Moran and Mat Weisman on drums. The publicity materials promise that they will “thread together composition and improvisation in a manner that balances structure with spontaneity and weight with constant motion,” which seems like a pretty good thesis statement for the entire 1Way project. At 9 p.m. or thereabouts, they give way to Black Island Condors, another trio comprising Vincenzino DiFranco (guitars), Alfredo Guerrieri (bass) and the wonderfully named drummer Mike Bashur.

I couldn’t live without Jim Szabo’s essential, weekly Northeast Ohio jazz calendar , NEO’s most complete list of jazz and jazz-adjacent events. If you haven’t visited it lately, what are you waiting for?

NOTE: This article was written by a real human being. No artificial intelligence or generative language models were used in its creation.

Red beans and ricely yours,
John Chacona