Larry McCray and Kahil El’Zabar headlining

Get ready to dance, sing, swing and be in awe of the regional, national and international artists performing at the 29th Erie Blues & Jazz Festival.

The Larry McCray Blues Band and Kahil El’Zabar’s Quartet headline the three-day outdoor festival at Frontier Park from September 24-26. The free celebration of art and music is co-hosted with the Lake Erie Arboretum at the Frontier Park LEAF Festival.

Feedback from the festival:Erie’s Blues & Jazz Festival returns to Frontier Park in 2021

The festival, which usually takes place on the first weekend of August and will return to that date for 2022, was held virtually last year due to COVID-19.

Art and music will be live and in person this year.

International touring guitarist King Solomon Hicks will perform at Erie's Blues & Jazz Festival on Saturday, September 25 at 4:30 p.m.

King Solomon Hicks, a rising guitarist from Harlem, New York, arrives on the main stage with his band on September 25 at 4:30 p.m. before McCray performs a 90-minute set at 7:00 p.m. McCray, a Michigan singer-songwriter and guitarist who plays what he calls “dirty low blues,” has toured the world and won numerous awards.

Legendary composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Kahil El'Zabar, with the Kahil El'Zabar Quartet, will perform at Erie's Blues & Jazz Festival on Sunday, September 26 at 7 p.m.

On September 26, the Chautauqua Jazz Revival, a regional quartet that includes acclaimed bassist, composer and producer Tony Gray, will perform at 5 p.m. before the Kahil El’Zabar Quartet’s 7 p.m. show. El’Zabar is a legendary jazz composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist who has recorded over 60 projects. El’Zabar, who will play percussion, kalimba and voice, has collaborated with big names in music Dizzy Gillespie, Pharoah Sanders, Stevie Wonder, Lester Bowie, Nina Simone, Archie Shepp and many more.

Squonk Opera, a multidisciplinary performing arts group on an international tour, is also due to present several ensembles over two days.

The Erie Blues & Jazz Fest returns live to Frontier Park after a virtual version in 2020.

Although there is no entrance fee to attend the festival, the organizers are asking for donations to help offset the costs. All donors who donate $ 10 receive a limited edition festival button.

Artistic director John Vanco said that organizing this year’s event presented unique challenges, beyond just pushing back the date.

“There were all kinds of surprises,” Vanco said. “We didn’t expect tents to be scarce and reserved. It has been kind of a moving target (in the organization).”

Over 100 volunteers helped coordinate the event, which includes local food vendors Mel’s Mobile Diner, Dickey’s BBQ Pit, Tuxedo Dogs, Buckeye Chocolate, and Cold Stone Creamery, as well as six Lake Erie Ale Trail beer vendors.

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Some other activities to discover at the Blues & Jazz Festival:

Dance performance

Erie Arts and Culture will host a screening of the Erie Dance Film Festival in five segments and 45 minutes on Friday. The 7 p.m. event begins with a pre-film choreographic performance by dance creators Mariah Johnson of the Erie Dance Theater, Michael Patterson of the Patterson School of Ballet and Jenna Swartz of the Cuttlefish Dance Collective.

Feast of the LEAF

The LEAF festival will take place Saturday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The LEAF festival will include an afternoon of crafts, treasure hunts, tree gifts and other nature-based activities that promote environmental well-being and showcase the park. The LEAF Open Market, where vendors sell fresh food and other produce on the west side of Eighth Street in Frontier Park, takes place Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The 2021 Erie Blues & Jazz Festival poster was created by artist Erie Kaitlyn Page, who will be among the many works of art on display at the festival.

Artists at work

Artists from the Northwest Pennsylvania Artists Association, the Chroma Guild and others are to show and demonstrate their work. Artists include Jason Amatangelo, Lisa Austin, Sarah Everett, Antonio Howard, Kaitlyn Page, Barb Yerace, Emidalys Serrano, and Esther Ortiz.

Look inside the city gallery:The owners of Artlore are opening a new space in PACA in downtown Erie

Poetry readings

Local poets will read as part of 100 Thousand Poets for Change, an international movement promoting community engagement, peace and sustainability. Poets include Bigg Wash, John B. Burroughs, Sean Thomas Daugherty, Mabel Howard, Thasia Lunger, Barbara Crone, Kim Noyes, Matt Borczon, and Chuck Joy. The readings will be followed by an open mic section for budding poets. To learn more about local and visiting poets and artists, visit

Electric vehicle show

Northwest Pennsylvania Electric Vehicle Owners members joined with Our Water, Our Air, Our Rights to present an exhibition of electric cars. Vehicles will be laid out on the lawn next to West Sixth Street in the northwest corner of Frontier Park on Saturday.

If you are going to …

The event is outdoors, rain or shine, and no dogs are allowed on the festival grounds. Organizers are asking those who feel ill not to attend and those who attend to keep a safe distance and wear masks when interacting with other people. There will be opportunities for those who have not received a COVID-19 vaccine to do so on site.

The Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority offers a free shuttle service from the park and ride on Lincoln Avenue near West 12th Street from noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays only.

For more information, visit

Festival schedule


7 p.m .: Erie Dance Film Festival (Gazebo)


1 p.m.-4 p.m .: Electric Vehicle Show (Sixth Street Lawn)

1 p.m.-6 p.m .: Artists at Work (Middle of the park)

1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m .: Squonk Opera (Middle of the park)

2 p.m.-6 p.m .: LEAF Festival (in the middle of the park)

2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.: House of Rhythm (main stage)

4-6:30 p.m .: 100 thousand poets for change and open mic (McCain Amphitheater)

4.30 p.m.-6 p.m .: King Solomon Hicks Band (main stage)

6 pm-7pm: Squonk Opera (Middle of the park)

7-8:30 p.m .: Larry McCray Blues Band (main stage)


1 p.m.-6 p.m .: Artists at Work (Middle of the park)

2:00 p.m .: Opera Squonk (In the middle of the park)

3 pm-4:30pm: Chris Dempsey Group (main stage)

5 pm-6.30pm: Chautauqua Jazz Revival (Mainstage)

7 pm-8.30pm: Quartet by Kahil El’Zabar (Mainstage)

Artist demonstrations


All day: Ansumana Gbembo (African tailor), Armando Reyes (carpenter and drummer), Meryem-Zina (Arabic calligraphy), Fatima Athow and Afaf Kormouna (henna)

2 p.m. – 4 p.m .: NPAA figure drawing with live model (McCain outdoor classroom)

2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m .: Fredy Huamán Malqui: Woodcarving demonstration

3 pm-5pm: Esther Hong: Asian watercolor

5-6 p.m .: Courtney Pettis: drawing


All day: Ansumana Gbembo (African tailor), Meryem-Zina (Arabic calligraphy), Fatima Athow and Afaf Kormouna (henna) and others

Fredonia also has a jazz festival

Also this weekend, the Fredonia Jazz Festival, presented by the Fredonia Jazz Society, will be held September 24-25 at the Rotunda Grapevine Railroad Farm, 307 E. Main St., in Fredonia, New York. The festival kicks off Friday at 6 p.m. with the jazz trio, i3 ° (Thirteen Degrees), from Ithaca, New York.

The festival will resume Saturday at 11 a.m. Featured artists will include the Buffalo Multi Dimensions Quartet at 5 p.m., followed at 7 p.m. by acclaimed trombonist and headliner Delfeayo Marsalis, whose brothers are Wynton and Branford. Their father is the legendary jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis.

Performances that occur before 4:30 p.m. will be free. Evenings will have a fee of $ 15. Those who attend on Friday night will receive a ticket to return on Saturday night so they don’t need to pay again.

For tickets and more information, visit

Willie J. Johnson

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