Downtown Iowa City turns into the coolest spot for the hottest jazz this weekend, with four stages popping up around the Pentacrest and adjacent streets.
Adding to the festive flair are artists’ booths, Culinary Row, a beverage garden, kids’ FUN Zone activities and the city’s Sunday night fireworks show. Admission is free, but bring blankets, chairs and enough money to keep yourself fed and hydrated.
What more could you want?
How about local, regional, national and international musicians?
United Jazz Ensemble launches the mainstage music at 5 p.m. Friday (6/29), uniting musicians from City High and West High in Iowa City. This crosstown collaboration has been a signature sound at the festival for two decades.
Here’s the lowdown on the mainstage headliners:
7 p.m. Behn Gillece Quartet: After a decade on the New York jazz scene, vibraphonist Behn Gillece has built a reputation as a virtuosic instrumentalist and prolific composer. “Walk of Fire,” his third album as leader, was just released on the Posi-Tone Label, and showcases his compositions.
9 p.m. Hot Tamale Louie: John Rapson from the University of Iowa School of Music’s Jazz Studies Program has created a powerful multimedia performance piece about an early 20th century immigrant whose story remains relevant. Told in words, music and visual projections, it’s the story of Zarif Khan, who emigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan in 1907, eventually settling in Sheridan, Wyo., where he took over a tamale business as well as the previous owner’s nickname, “Hot Tamale Louie.”
7 p.m. Rene Marie & Experiment in Truth: Over two decades, 11 recordings and countless stage performances, vocalist René Marie has also found her voice as a composer, arranger, theatrical performer and teacher. Rooted in jazz traditions laid down by Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington and other leading ladies of the past, she borrows elements of folk, R&B and even classical and country to explore the bright and dark corners of the human experience.
9 p.m. Jane Ira Bloom Quartet: Soprano saxophonist/composer Jane Ira Bloom is a pioneer in the use of live electronics and movement in jazz, honing her artistry over three decades. Among her works is “Chasing Paint,” a series of compositions inspired by painter Jackson Pollock, whose “Mural” is owned by the University of Iowa.
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6 p.m. Matt Wilson’s Honey & Salt: New York-based drummer and Grammy nominee Matt Wilson is recognized for his musical and melodic drumming style, as well as being a gifted composer, bandleader, producer and teaching artist.
8 p.m. “Still Dreaming” with Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley and Brian Blade: Saxophonist and composer Joshua Redman is one of the most acclaimed jazz artists emerging in the 1990s. Born in Berkeley, Calif., he is the son of legendary saxophonist Dewey Redman and dancer Renee Shedroff. Winner of Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition in 1991, he garnered a Grammy nomination for his self-titled debut album, released in 1993, and received Grammys nods again in 2016 and 2017. He has collaborated with Quincy Jones, B.B. King, The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and Yo Yo Ma, performing on Ma’s 2010 Grammy-winning Christmas album, “Songs of Joy and Peace.” His latest album, “Still Dreaming,” is inspired by his father’s band, Old and New Dreams.
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