In the midst of a recording session with his New York big band, Columbus-born, Brooklyn-based trombonist, composer and arranger Sam Blakeslee noticed an interesting dynamic among the players.
“On the first take everyone in the band was like, ‘Who are these people? Why are they playing like this, because it just sounds so different? Why haven’t I heard stuff like this before?’” Blakeslee’s answer: “Because it’s Cleveland.”
“These people,” saxophonists Chris Coles and Nathan-Paul Davis, and the cream of Northeast Ohio’s jazz community, will join Blakeslee on the stage of BLU Jazz+ this weekend for a homecoming so packed with music that it will take two nights to play it all.
With the outdoor concert and festival season coming to a close, jazz and creative music returns to the small rooms where the music was born. This week’s most compelling shows all feature Northeast Ohio musicians, proving that football and clambakes aren’t the only autumn traditions to honor around here.
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.
Sometime in the mid-70s, percussionist Jamey Haddad was in a studio in Beachwood for a session that concluded a bit early, so he asked engineer Dale Peters (yup, the James Gang’s bassist) to keep the tape rolling while he played drums along with a record that he was particularly taken with. That record was The Köln Concert, the 1975 ECM double album that became bestselling piano album and solo recording in jazz history, and arguably vaulted its creator, Keith Jarrett, to jazz stardom.
Two generations later, Haddad has lost none of his love for Jarrett’s music and this weekend he will play it with a quartet of guitarist Jonah Ferguson, bassist Kip Reed and saxophonist Bobby Selvaggio at four venues in Northeast Ohio and Pittsburgh.
Eleven months ago, A.J. Kluth was at New York’s New School at a conference presented by Black Quantum Futurism, the literary and artistic collective created by Philadelphians Rasheedah Phillips and Camae Ayewa, the composer and poet who performs as Moor Mother.
“That was my first time meeting Camae and really feeling like the work that the collective was doing [and] that she was doing as a musician was deeply important and urgent,” Kluth said on a video call earlier this month. “I said, ‘I would love to bring you to Cleveland sometime.’ She’s like, ‘That sounds cool. I’ve never been to Cleveland. Let’s do that.’ But she’s really busy. She’s got a really heavy touring schedule and it didn’t seem plausible.”
Several months of phone calls, planning meetings and grant applications later, the Case Western Reserve University musicologist’s implausible idea has become reality, and a reality greater than even he imagined.
On Friday evening, Moor Mother will be joined on the stage of Gartner Auditorium at the Cleveland Museum of Art by Lonnie Holley, Lee Bains, and the Cleveland-based collective Mourning [A] BLKstar for a presentation Kluth called “Toward a Different Kind of Horizon, an extraordinary collection of artists who to varying degrees are associated with the cultural movement known as Afrofuturism.