The first day of GRandJazzFest 2019 at Rosa Parks Circle brought brilliant summer weather and brilliant musicianship with crowds growing into the evening for the final sets of the day. Recap, photos.
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Jazz by its very definition is a boundary-pushing, genre-bending, eclectic musical discipline.
So it was only apropos that one of the first sets of Day 1 of GRandJazzFest 2019 at Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids seemed to embody that with exultant zeal.
Tenth World with Kevin Jones and Kelvin Sholar, a true super-group of jazz powerhouses, heated up the stage after 2 p.m. Saturday as the sun heated up the small-but-growing and enthusiastic crowd of fans at the free festival.
The six-piece band featuring the likes of Jones, a Grand Rapids percussionist who toured for years with the Isley Brothers, Sholar, a pianist currently residing in Berlin who’s played with Stevie Wonder, Detroit bassist Damon Warmack and Grand Rapids saxophonist John Gist, among others, tore it up impressively with songs that weaved their way through edgy-but-smooth contemporary jazz, Latin fusion, world music and funk.
And that was just one of six sets in a day-long celebration of jazz that began at lunchtime with the traditional opening set by the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra with singer Edye Evans Hyde and ended with Guitar G-Force, featuring Tim Bowman, NILS and Steve Oliver.
The festival also drew a wide-ranging audience of fans — from WOOD TV8’s Henry Erb, who said he comes to GRandJazzFest every year, to Cornelia Charity of Las Vegas, who was attending the event for the first time.
“I love it,” Charity said. “My cousin told me about this so we came and I bought shirts and everything.”
A ‘COMMUNITY EVENT’ WITH A GROOVY, GUITAR-DRIVEN FINISH
Kacey Ferber, who was visiting Grand Rapids from Chicago, appreciated the atmosphere of GRandJazzFest.
“I like what a community event it is. It’s cool to see the local vendors and people dancing,” Ferber said. “It’s like a good taste of what Grand Rapids is like.”
Saturday wrapped up with two dynamic performances, the first featuring New York saxophonist and singer Paula Atherton, who lit things up immediately with a crowd-pleasing cover of War’s “Low Rider.” Her entire set was marked by Atherton’s distinguished voice and signature flute and saxophone playing, which kept the now-packed Rosa Parks Circle crowd dancing and happy as the heat of the day faded.
With thousands now on hand for the day’s finale, Guitar G-Force, featuring Tim Bowman, NILS and Steve Oliver, started the closing set off with a bang, emerging into and mingling throughout the crowd, before hopping back on stage for a groovy (mostly) instrumental cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s classic hit, “September.”
With dozens of Top 20 radio hits between them, the members of Guitar G-Force closed the night with a performance that was full of instrumental wizardry for jazz devotees, but just as enjoyable to the casual listener.
The free-admission festival continues today (Sunday) with performances by Organissimo (1 p.m.), Tumbao Bravo (2:30 p.m.), GR All Stars (4 p.m.) and finally, the Urban Jazz Coalition (5:30 p.m.)
PHOTO GALLERY: GRandJazzFest 2019 – Day 1
Photos by Molly Long and John Sinkevics
VIDEO: Tenth World at GRandJazzFest (8/17/19)
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