With its high blue skies, comfortable temperatures, clambakes and promises of a Super Bowl season for the Browns, it’s hard to imagine how September in Northeast Ohio could possibly be better—though a free outdoor jazz festival might be a nice start.
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.
Todd Marcus is the sort of guy who likes to walk an unconventional path. That path will bring him to BOP STOP on Wednesday with a unique quintet that features clarinetist Virginia MacDonald and Marcus’ bass clarinet on the frontline.
For fans of improvised music in the Black American tradition, the arrival of Tri-C JazzFest to Playhouse Square with a roster of artists including Herbie Hancock, Christian McBride and phenomenal shooting-star vocalist Samara Joy is hands down the biggest week of the year.
The touring artists whose shelves are heavy with Grammy Awards and other honors deservedly grab the clicks and dominate the buzz, but for dozens of musicians from throughout Northeast Ohio, JazzFest will be the biggest gig of their year. For some of them, it will be the biggest opportunity of their young careers.
Keith LaMar has said that listening to John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme” helped save his life. Yet for all its power and magnificence, Coltrane’s music cannot literally save LaMar’s life, which is scheduled to end Nov. 16 when he is to be executed for murders he says he did not commit.
Even if music can’t bring justice for LaMar, it can help keep his case in the public eye and perhaps forestall his execution. That is the purpose behind two concerts this week by a project called Freedom First that has attracted some of New York’s finest musicians.