Opening Night at the 39th Annual Tri-C Jazz Fest

by Brittany Thompson

As soon as I heard that Leslie Odom was going to be performing at the Tri-C Jazzfest I knew that I needed to be there. After living in Cleveland for three years, I had heard about the festival that takes over downtown Cleveland but never experienced it. I was disappointed that I wouldn’t get to hear the sweet crooning of Leslie Odom, I mean who doesn’t love that Nationwide commercial? But Kirk Whalum absolutely killed it during his set on opening night at Playhouse Square. 

My fiancé and I arrived just as the Tri-C JazzFest was presenting the Legends Awards. This years recipients included Larry Simpson, Frank Alkyer, and Jackie Warren. The award is presented to individuals from Northeast Ohio who have excelled in not only jazz performance but also education, philanthropy and advocacy for music and the arts.

We did experience a little delay between the awards being given and Whalum’s performance. There was a rumor that his flight landed late, and he wasn’t yet at Playhouse Square. We probably waited about 30 minutes but once he hit the stage the wait was well worth it. 

Whalum had an incredibly presence on stage and shared that it had been over twenty years since he had been invited back to Tri-C Jazzfest. He was joined on stage by bandmates from across the US including Philadelphia, Tennessee and more. He performed songs from his Grammy winning song It’s What I do with Vaneese Thomas. He won his Grammy in 2011.

We finished the night with Rescue Me written by John Stoddart. The last song was a little too kumbaya for my fiancé, but I loved it. Love can rescue us from our deepest demons of fear and hate if we let it. After his set, I had a chance to meet Whalum outside of the theatre where he was signing programs and selling his CD for $20. Unfortunately,  we had to leave early so we didn't get to experience the esteemed Dee Dee Bridgewater. 

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience with Tri-C JazzFest. There is a great lineup for the rest of the weekend including Corey Henry & The Funk Apostles, Common, and more. You can still purchase tickets to the indoor shows or experience the outdoor festival at Playhouse Square for FREE. Have a great weekend & don’t forget to boogie down!

Brittany Thompson is a writer who moonlights as an account manager Monday - Friday. You can always find her drinking wine at festivals throughout northeast Ohio. Follow her on twitter @uptownbrittany