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Photo courtesy of South Bend Tribune
A fine variety of jazz forms will be on display Saturday on the island at Century Center as the South Bend Jazz Festival returns for a sixth year.
The ensembles range in size from big bands down to little chamber groups. The styles include old-fashioned swing, some hard bop and even a bit of jazz-rock fusion.
Jazz bands and choirs from Mishawaka High School and Clay High School open the daytime portion of the festival, bassist Darrel Tidaback leads a quintet drawn from the IUSB Jazz Orchestra, and saxophonist Danny Lerman, one of the festival’s organizers, co-leads a group with Indonesian violinist Hendri Lamiri to close the evening. The main part of the evening is devoted to the three headlining acts, who are all affiliated with the Chicago-based record label Blujazz: singer Michelle Coltrane, saxophonist Eli Degibri and guitarist Galen Weston.
Plenty of musicians come from “musical families,” but Coltrane’s case is a special one. The contributions of her father, John Coltrane, to jazz are well-documented and incomparably significant, but her mother, Alice Coltrane, also made a series of excellent records, and Michelle’s brothers Ravi and Oran Coltrane are both in the midst of noteworthy careers as saxophonists. Michelle is not the kind of revolutionary voice that her parents were, but the singer specializes in clever and creative takes on repertoire that includes jazz standards such as “All the Things You Are” and even a bit of pop-rock with America’s “Tin Man.”
Degibri is currently riding high on the strength of a five-star review from DownBeat magazine of his latest album, “Cliff Hangin’.” His next project is a tribute to the once-popular but now oddly neglected tenor giant, Hank Mobley.
Weston has a new album due out in October, to be titled “The Space Between.” At the festival he’ll lead his group through selections from that as well as highlights from his previous record, “Plugged In.” One striking tune on that album is a version of Keith Jarrett’s “Country,” which Weston re-imagined as a finger-style guitar piece. It has a breezy feel to it, but it’s actually rather tricky.
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