The smooth, soulful tunes of jazz will float through the air in a new festival showcase.
The Great Lakes Arts & Jazz Festival will be opening for the first time this year on Saturday, Sept. 19 at the National Museum of the Great Lakes. Organized by several community members and sponsored by Toledo City Councilman Michael Craig and Hugh Ross of the H-Factor Jazz Show on WXUT, the festival is showcasing talented jazz musicians on the local, regional and national scales. Jazz genres featured will include Latin, traditional, smooth, contemporary and modern.
The festival was created by Hugh Ross. Four years ago, Ross said he was dared by a friend to try being a radio DJ and he hasn’t stopped being one since. He currently operates two shows, one on 94.9 The Beat and the other on 88.3 WXUT. Ross said he believes that a jazz revival is coming to Toledo.
“There’s a strong undercurrent in jazz and that’s what I think is ideal to a lot of people,” Ross said. “I think jazz is making a strong comeback and I hope that I have something to do with it.”
Ross created his own jazz showcase at last year’s Ottawa Park concert series. Ross said local groups performed, including several jazz groups from the University of Toledo.
Ross was approached by Craig for help to organize and promote a festival for the next year. Soon after, the Great Lakes Art and Jazz Festival was born.
“It’s just an extension of what I started doing four years ago at WXUT when I first got on the radio station,” Ross said. “I decided I needed to make something of this.”
Ross Thompson and the Jazz Mix will kick off this year’s festival as the first band to perform. Thompson is a sophomore at the Toledo School for the Arts and has been performing jazz music since the sixth grade. He plays several different instruments and the Jazz Mix’s style is a mix of modern and traditional jazz.
“My favorite part of playing jazz is expressing your thoughts and feelings — good and bad — through the music you play,” Thompson said. “The Jazz Mix band has great chemistry when we play together and we absolutely love performing together.”
The Jazz Mix band consists of members Michael Reed, Ross Thompson, Tyler Fowler and Henryk Kress. The other three members are graduates of TSA and are current music students at the UT. Thompson plans to attend UT for jazz and audio engineering.
“UT’s music program is top-notch,” Thompson said. “The jazz faculty has treated me very well.”
Another jazz artist taking the stage at the festival is Kim Buehler, a two-time graduate from UT and a former vocal jazz professor in UT’s music department. She will be performing at 4 p.m. at the festival.
“It’s nice to see a jazz festival in Toledo,” Buehler said. “There’s a jazz rebirth happening, but the scene has definitely changed in the past 10 years.”
Buehler says she loves the variety that jazz music creates. She represents the classical jazz genre in this year’s festival.
“The compositions are pretty much created on the spot between the musicians and the band,” Buehler said. “Even though you may have done a song hundreds of times before and depending on who you’re playing with, the song will be different each time.”
Headlining this year’s festival is Nils Jiptner, a contemporary jazz guitarist from Los Angeles. He has a long list of musical accomplishments — including several No. 1 hits, performances at several distinguished jazz festivals, a duet called “Yesterday’s Dream” with renowned jazz guitarist George Benson and Song of the Year, “Pacific Coast Highway.” In addition to being a guitarist and a composer, Jiptner is also a music producer for film and television.
“As much as I’ve loved creating music in the studio all these years, I realized when I started to play concerts and festival that I’d been missing the ying to my yang, so to speak,” Jiptner said. “It’s been a wonderfully validating experience.”
He will be accompanied by a special guest, Grammy-nominated composer and keyboardist Nate Harasim. Jiptner will also be promoting his new album that was just released in August.
“I’ve enjoyed the travel and the opportunity to play for so many people who enjoy what I do,” Jiptner said. “That’s the reason I started making music in the first place, to communicate, and it’s been so enjoyable to bring my music to a wider audience.”
According to a press release from Cheryl Catlin, a festival organizer, the festival is meant to bring together local artists and art lovers. Art will be displayed and will be available for purchase.
“I’m just very anxious to get this thing going because I have a feeling that the Toledoans are going to be surprised,” Ross said. “We’re trying to get the word out, that its ages 8 to 80, and we’ll have something for everybody.”