The 30th Annual Erie Blues and Jazz Festival

contributed photos

Bluesmen Davy Knowles and Grady Champion (top row) headline the 30th annual Erie Blues and Jazz Festival on Saturday, with (independent) saxophonists Eric and Houston Person of Person2Person closing on Sunday.

Friday August 5 – 7

JTraditionally, blues and jazz have always been about getting locked into a groove and the present moment, embracing reality and real time. For nearly three decades, the Erie Blues and Jazz Festival had been like that, too – in early August, Frontier Park, world-class musicians and big turnouts were as predictable as a metronome.

But over the past two years, COVID-19 has lost momentum – the 2021 Blues and Jazz Fest has been delayed several steps until the end of September, and the 2020 edition has been canceled altogether. It’s decidedly cutting-edge territory lately for this warmly familiar community standard, but we’re happy to report that 2022 will be a return to form.

The 30th Erie’s Blues and Jazz Festival is back in its usual early August slot, with a full weekend of music and activities. As per tradition, Saturday will have a more blues slant while Sunday will be a lot more jazzy, but there is and always has been a lot of overlap and cross-pollination between the two genres. Still in the tradition of recent years, Friday evening will host uplifting artistic and cultural events.

Here’s what’s planned for the weekend at Frontier Park. —Matt Swanseger

projector-Blues-Jazz-1-JHFrontier Park seen during the Blues & Jazz Festival 2019 during a set by the Barry King Blues Band

FRIDAY AUGUST. 5

7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.. — Find your rhythm; join a drum circle led by Lynn Johnson on behalf of the Erie Dance Consortium.

8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. — Immerse yourself in the history of the blues with a double dossier presented by the NWPA Film Society. 1929 short film by WC Handy St. Louis Blues will be followed by Deep Blues: a musical pilgrimage at the crossroadswhich examines the role of the Mississippi Delta in gender culture.

SATURDAY AUGUST. 6

Noon to 1:30 p.m. – Erie’s Best New Band (as voted in the 2021 Best of Erie Awards) kicks off the party in funky fashion. Phunkademic draws its sound from stage pioneers (Parliament/Funkadelic, The Meters) and present-day pioneers (Lettuce, Cory Wong & The Fearless Flyers) with irresistible energy.

2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Matt “Broke” Boland’s Blues Bundle reunites the leader of The Pickles with mentor (and Erie blues stalwart) Rodger Montgomery, as well as several other respected veterans of the local music circuit, including saxophonist Phil Papotnik, multi-instrumentalist David VanAmburg, harmonica player Ron Yarosz, bassist Paul Sontheimer and drummer Mike Russell.

4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. — Blending Afro-Caribbean, Worldbeat and Latin musical traditions, A global tribe is the quintessence of the “musical melting pot”. Jazzfest regulars will be accompanied by Caribbean revelationa rotating cast of musicians and performers anchored by core members Adrani and Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuel.

6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. — Since breaking into the blues scene in 2007 with his then band Back Door Slam, guitarist Davy Knowles has maintained a steady presence atop the Billboard Blues charts, most recently with his 2021 solo release What happens nexta deeply nuanced departure from his musical bread and butter of high octane blues and Americana.

8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. — You would think that Saturday’s headliner, Champion Grady, would have lost himself in the shuffle as the 28th of 28 children of his preacher father. However, that’s not the case at all, as the Mississippi-born singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer has managed to shine among his blues peers, highlighted by a Grammy Award for his cover. ‘Etta James from her song ‘Trust Yourself’. ” in 2003.

SUNDAY AUGUST. seven

2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. — The 40-year career of The cat is a bear has been prolific – since 1982, core members and co-founders Frank Singer (guitar/keyboards) and Joe Dorris (drums/vocals) have released over 20 albums, inventively reinterpreting jazz standards. Nick Ronzitti (congas) and Joe Frisina (bass) complete the current line-up.

4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. — City Gallery co-owner Stephen Trohoske has always been passionate about showcasing local talent. The veteran bassist ElectroHOPE set features some of the best Corey Wilkes (trumpet), Eric Brewer (guitar), Tony Gray (bass/FX) and Reggie Evans (drums). Expect a beat-rich mix of originals and reworked standards from Lonnie Smith, Duke Ellington, and more.

6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. — Based in Buffalo Floor Y Sambra knows how to raise the temperature. For 15 years before the pandemic, they were the Saturday night house band at the Anchor Bar, better known as the birthplace of the Buffalo Wing. The sextet, led by pianist and arranger Kevin Doyle, seduces with its tropical fusion of Latin and American jazz traditions, embellished with a progressive touch.

8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. – Call it coincidence or call it fate, but saxophonists Eric Person and Houston Person – totally independent and almost three decades old – took the stage together in 2009 and have been a dynamic duo ever since. The elder Houston has a whopping 70 album credits to his name, most recently lending his talents to Eric’s blue vision, a suitably blues-influenced set consisting mostly of originals. Anyone near Frontier Park will want to be there to experience two virtuosos of Person2Person.

Friday 7-10:30 p.m., Saturday 12-9:30 p.m., Sunday 2-9:30 p.m. // Frontier Park, 1501 W. 6th St. // All ages // Free // For more information, go to eriebluesandjazz.com

Willie J. Johnson