Tuesday, 02 June 2015 16:24

‘No Stairway to Heaven’: A Summer Round Up of Jazz & Classical

Written by  Lawrence Cosentino
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Tony Bennett at Meijer Gardens on Sept. 7 Tony Bennett at Meijer Gardens on Sept. 7

Classical Rocks:

Most big-city orchestras and university-based classical programs take a diminuendo in the off season, but there is always a summer crescendo at the regional epicenter of summer classical music, the Interlochen Center for the Arts in the northwest lower Michigan, about 15 miles southwest of Traverse City.

This year the schedule is dominated by a summer-long series of events celebrating the life and work of the late Aaron Copland, the most honored and famous of American composers and frequent visitor to Interlochen. Copland was a study in contrasts — an urban composer whose music came to embody America’s wide-open spaces. He was a prickly modernist who wrote music so popular it was endlessly imitated and even used for beef commercials. The Interlochen tribute will delve into Copland’s multi-dimensional work from several directions, with screenings of films he scored, including The Heiress and The Red Pony, documentaries about him, multimedia explorations of his life and work and a variety of concert events. Highlights of the series are a performance by the Martha Graham Dance Company (July 22) and a rare staging of Copland’s only opera, The Tender Land (July 31-Aug. 1). One of the world’s greatest string quartets, the Emerson String Quartet, joins the celebration with a program of music by Copland and friends at Corson Auditorium (July 23).

Also at Interlochen, The World Youth Symphony play every Sunday from July 5-Aug. 9, with a revolving slate of conductors, including JoAnn Falletta, Carlos Izcarary, Cristian Macelaru, Jung-Ho Pak and Jeffrey S. Kimpton. interlochen.org

Chamber Music North is a series of chamber concerts by nationally celebrated musicians at Traverse City’s Dennos Museum Center. The Euclid String Quartet performs this summer (June 14), with more to be announced. smnorth.org

Petoskey’s BayView Music Festival, June 19-Aug. 16, boasts over 50 events celebrating “the diversity of humankind,” with over 30 faculty artists and 100 collegiate musicians. The slate includes pops, chamber, choral, orchestral and hybrid concerts, culminating in a fully staged performance of Puccini’s La Boheme (Aug. 11, 13-15). The Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra and a 100-voice choir offer a meaty slate of choral works by Mozart, including The Organ Mass (July 26). Tributes to the Beatles, Broadway, the swing era, 19th-century diva Jenny Lind and science fiction film scores are also on the docket. bayviewfestival.org

All That Jazz:

Metro Detroit is unquestionably Michigan’s jazz capital, but the West Side of the state has a scene of its own, from regular club gigs and festivals to visiting jazz giants.

This summer the biggest stars descend on Meijer Gardens for the Fifth Third Bank Summer Concert Series at the garden’s outdoor amphitheater. The series cuts a wide swath of styles, with several luminaries from the general galaxy of jazz. The crowd-pleasing fireball Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue (June 21), the retro atmospherics of Pink Martini (July 3), jazz diva supreme Diana Krall (Aug. 3), the Cuban masters of the Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club (Aug. 27), crooner supreme Harry Connick, Jr. (Aug. 2) and the world’s most revered singer, and honorary jazz master, Tony Bennett (Sept. 7). meijergardens.org

Some of the same top stars will also hit Interlochen Music Festival this summer. Pink Martini (July 6), Harry Connick, Jr. (July 31) and Diana Krall (Aug. 1). Also slated to appear at Interlochen is the funky farmer of “Green Onions,” Booker T. Jones, (July 6). Jones is a songwriter, Hammond B-3 organ master, producer/arranger, lifetime Grammy Award-winner and frontman for Booker T. & the M.G.s. Interlochen also hosts its Faculty Jazz Concert (July 1).

This summer, Grand Rapids’ Jazz in the Park series moves from the John Ball Zoo to a new spot: downtown’s Ah-Nab-Awen Park. A full slate of 10 events begins with the West Ottawa High School Jazz Band (June 8) and hits full stride with Detroit’s Planet D Nonet (June 15). The remaining dates are the Steve Hilger Jazz Quintet (June 22), Mike Lutley’s West Coast Trio (June 29), Truth in Jazz Orchestra (July 6), Tumbao Bravo (July 13), Mary Rademacher (July 20), Steve Sandner Quintet (July 27), Jimmy Leach Quintet (Aug. 3), and Big Band Nouveau (Aug. 10). wmichjazz.org

The Grand Rapids Jazz Festival (Aug. 15-16), in Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids, boasts multiple headliners this year: Chicago saxophonist Steve Cole, a master blender of jazz, R&B, gospel, blues and pop, and The Producers, a soul-rock-jazz machine powered by guitarist Paul Brown, guitarist Nate Harasim and saxophonist Deonn Yates. Guitarist Bryan Lubeck and his seven-piece band blend contemporary, Latin and flamenco styles. Chicago bassist Michael Manson brings his own combo. grandjazzfest.org

One of Traverse City’s jazz mainstays is soulful, polystylistic pianist Jeff Haas. Haas blends the energy of McCoy Tyner, the percussive songfulness of Ahmad Jamal and the reflective refractions of Andrew Hill with his own forthright, humanistic muse. He brings his regular trio, with bassist Jack Dryden and drummer Randy Marsh, and several special guests to Chateau Chantal Winery in Traverse City for Jazz at Sunset every Thursday night from June 18 to Aug. 27. Special guests this summer include Claudia Schmidt, Bill & Laurie Sears, Jim Cooper, Chris Lawrence, Anthony Stanco, Marcus Elliot, Ray Kamalay, Paul Vornhagen and more. The shows are free, no reservation needed. chateauchantal.com

Every Sunday night from 7-10 p.m., the stage at Speak EZ Lounge in Traverse City hosts a jazz jam it boasts as “the best standing gig between Chicago and New York.” Master drummer Randy “Randissimo” Marsh, who also plays a mean harmonica and sings when provoked, brings a rotating crew of top-jazz musicians from Michigan and beyond for this free show. speakezlounge.com

Jazz music gets mashed up with craft beer on the first Sunday of every month when the mighty Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra plays Founders Brewing Company in downtown Grand Rapids. grjo.com.
Another spot to keep tabs on is Mantague’s Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague. It sporadically hosts jazz musicians from around the state. On its roster is Ann Arbor pianist Ellen Rowe and her trio (July 3). thebooknookjavashop.com

And that’s just a sample of what’s happening in our area. To check in on a weekly lineup of jazz gigs, follow the West Michigan Jazz Society on Facebook.

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