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Jazz and blues are back

The Tacoma Jazz and Blues Festival follows the Daffodil Festival Saturday

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Immediately following the Tacoma Daffodil Grand Parade in downtown Tacoma Saturday, the Tacoma Jazz and Blues Festival will hit four downtown venues — Greater Tacoma Convention Center, The Swiss, The Harmon Pub and Brewery, and the Tacoma School of the Arts on Broadway.

The Festival was founded in 2004 by Rich Wetzel and Doug Miller. Its goals are to support this great American musical art form, show off Tacoma, feature the accomplishments of regional jazz musicians, support music education in our local schools with outreach and clinic programs, and enrich and educate young and aspiring musicians.

Last year saw the welcome addition of the Blues Stage inside the Harmon Brewery and Pub, and thanks to the South Sound Blues Association, this year’s roster includes the acoustic Delta sounds of Nick Vigarino; the jump-jiving swing of Maia Santell and House Blend; the exciting, rockin’ blues of the Randy Oxford Band; and the straight, no-chaser blues of the Michal Miller Band.

Jazz is still the main emphasis. Four bands will consume the Big Band Stage located at the Greater Tacoma Convention Center.  The Olympia Jazz Senators take diamonds in the rough standards and create newfangled masterpieces.  The Emerald City Jazz Orchestra performs originals that pay homage to the past but look to the future as well.  With Latin and Afro-Cuban rhythms, the Jazz Police take jazz to a whole other level as they transition from mainstream jazz and blues to fusion, rock and funk.  If it is hard bop jazz you are craving this afternoon, Rich Weztel’s Groovin’ Higher Jazz Orchestra delivers it in the spirit of Maynard Ferguson.

At the Jazz Combos Stage located at the Swiss, four very unique acts are taking over.  Sax serenader Darren Motamedy is classically trained, giving him his signature relaxed tone that is tranquil and inviting.  Mixing jazz and blues with a dash of funk, Native Blue updates the post-bop sounds of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.  Jay Thomas and John Stole are together again to play mainstream modern jazz with arrangements manifested on the spot for a freestyle appeal.  Last but certainly not least, Northwest treasure Michael Powers will amaze even the most gifted guitarist with his nimble fingers and rich compositions. 

Like last year, the festival also has an Education Stage located at the Tacoma School of the Arts.  This year, the stage plays host to the U.S. Navy Band, the Olympic Community College Band, and the University of Puget Sound Band.

Bonus events include

April 21

The After the Festival Party and Show at Jazzbones featuring Rich Weztel’s Groovin’ Higher Jazz Orchestra with special guests.  $10 cover, 8:30 to 11:30 p.m.

DjembeSOUL Follow Up Celebration at DjembeSOUL Restaurant with Maia Santell and House Blend.  $5 cover, 7:30 p.m. to close

April 22

Honoring Tacoma’s own Bill Ramsey

A special evening featuring the UPS Jazz Band and Rich Weztel’s Groovin’ Higher Jazz Orchestra at Marshall Hall, Wheelock Student Center, University of Puget Sound.  Free admission, 7:30 p.m. — Tony Engelhart

[Downtown Tacoma, Saturday, April 21, 12:15 to 6 p.m., for more information, check out]

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