Bix Lives! at the 2017 Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival

Hal Smith of Swing Central at the Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival

The 46th annual Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival took place August 3-6 in Davenport, Iowa, hometown of the famous cornet jazz player. The festival offered the opportunity to hear world-class music from some of the best bands in the US and attracted jazz afficianados from foreign countries and most US states. A special highlight of my visit to Davenport was the chance to visit the recently opened Bix Beiderbecke Museum. The festival opened with a free concert Thursday afternoon at the Putnam Museum by the Fat Babies Classic Jazz Band from Chicago. The large room was completely packed with fans … Read more

Feeling the real groove with John Raymond & Real Feels

John Raymond & Real FeelsJohn Raymond & Real FeelsJohn Raymond & Real FeelsJohn Raymond & Real Feels

The 2017 Iowa City Jazz Festival was held over the weekend of June 30-July 2, 2017, and I enjoyed one of the Sunday afternoon concerts on the Main Stage which was set up in front of the old capitol building in downtown Iowa City. Three other stages scattered around the blocked-off streets offered different musical choices, including a Local Stage spotlighting local area bands. Iowa City is fortunate to offer several parking garages right in the downtown area, so I parked in the Clinton Street garage and walked the short blocks to the Festival area, which was lined with food … Read more

Elkhart Jazz Festival brings jazz to life in the Midwest

Elkhart Jazz Festival

This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Elkhart Jazz Festival, which brings hundreds of musicians and thousands of enthusiasts to this small midwestern town (pop. 51,000) located 110 miles south of Chicago and only 15 miles from South Bend, home to Notre Dame University. A variety of styles ranging from Dixieland to smooth jazz provided choices for all musical tastes. The weekend of June 23-25, 2017 saw Elkhart fill with visitors. The town has long been known as the “Band Instrument Capital of the World” due to it being the headquarters of the Conn-Selmer company (and its many subsidiaries … Read more

Flying high with the Shades of Blue US Air Force Jazz Band

Shades of Blue Jazz Band of the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America

Shades of Blue, the jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force of Mid-America, performed jazz standards, swing and Big Band favorites, and patriotic medleys to close out the 2017 Glenn Miller Festival on June 11, 2017 in Clarinda, Iowa. The final concert of this festival, held annually in the city where Glenn Miller was born in 1904, was presented by the musicians of this ensemble—two trumpets, two trombones, three saxophones, double bass, electric guitar, keyboard, drumset, and female vocalist—who are all enlisted Air Force personnel stationed at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, outside of St. Louis. The musicians also … Read more

Banish the blues with the Blue Beginners Jazz Band

Blue Beginners Jazz Band from Mito (Japan) Technical High School

On June 11, 2017, the Blue Beginners jazz band from Mito Technical High School, Japan performed an afternoon concert as part of the 2017 Glenn Miller Festival in Clarinda, Iowa. The group was making its initial appearance at the festival, playing three concerts over as many days. The student musicians’ energy and enthusiasm in playing jazz and being part of the festival made this concert experience extra special. This was my first time to attend the festival, but every year a group from Japan performs, probably because there is a Japan branch of the Glenn Miller Festival Birthplace Society in … Read more

Glenn Miller Orchestra brings Big Band Sound to Iowa

World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra

The 18 musicians in the Glenn Miller Orchestra hail from all over the US and tour 48 weeks of the year, but for a couple of days in June they entertained a spellbound audience in the town where the orchestra’s namesake spent his early years: Clarinda, Iowa (pop. 5,500). I attended the Saturday, June 10, 2017, performance of this world famous group, and the quality of the musicianship and the “Big Band” sound transported me to musical heaven for a blissful two hours. This year marked the 42nd year of the Glenn Miller Festival, which is run by volunteers and … Read more

10 Reasons to attend the Central Illinois Jazz Festival in Feb. 2017

The Central Illinois Jazz Festival serves up 10+ musical groups at the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel over the weekend of February 10-12, 2017.  There are at least 10 reasons you should make the trek to this small Midwestern town: The opportunity to experience a variety of jazz styles and performers in multiple venues under one roof.   Dixieland, swing, big band, Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis, gypsy and zydeco styles from world class bands including: The Dave Bennett Quartet (Michigan); Dan Levinson’s New Millenium Jazz Band with Molly Ryan (NYC);  Cornet Chop Suey (St. Louis); Red Lehr’s Powerhouse Five … Read more

Hot Jazz on the Hot Beach: The Suncoast Jazz Classic reviewed

With 18 professional ensembles, 2 high school jazz bands, bonus jam sessions and performances running from morning to post-midnight all weekend, the Suncoast Jazz Classic dished out jazz in every genre for enthusiasts who gathered from around the globe, all on the sunny Gulf Coast beaches of Sand Key in Clearwater, Florida. On Nov. 18-20 I attended my first, but the event’s 26th annual, Suncoast Jazz Classic held in Clearwater Beach, Florida. http://suncoastjazzclassic.comThe festival was headquartered in the Sheraton Sand Key Resort, which boasts 10 acres of of private shoreline. I made the drive down from Iowa in 2 days, … Read more