Grooves Heat Up As TRI-C Jazzfest Winds Down

Stefon Harris, Zakir Hussain and lots of Latin-jazz under way at two-week Cleveland extravaganza.

CLEVELAND — The sound caromed through

Cleveland's Sheraton Hotel ballroom on Friday, threatening

to shake down the walls: An old-fashioned salsa party was

under way, putting an end to Cleveland's 21st annual TRI-C

Jazzfest "Latin Night" celebration.

The TRI-C, which continues through Saturday and is sponsored

by Cuyahoga Community College, remains one of the best-kept

music secrets in North America. Spanning two weeks (having

begun on April 2), it provides music from across the globe

— from India's tabla virtuoso

COLOR="#003163">Zakir Hussain and Masters of

Percussion to the far-reaching improvisations of

drummer/percussionist Susie

Ibarra and her trio, who dazzled a Saturday-

evening crowd with thickly textured arrangements.

The festival culminates on Saturday with a performance by

Diana Krall, whose

complete absorption of the vocal tradition continues to

provide a breath of fresh air to the music.

But last Friday it was suave and expressive Latin music that

brought the crowd in from the rain.

Earlier in the evening, many at this party were at the

Cuyahoga Community College's Metro Auditorium for the music

of trombonist Jimmy Bosch and the

Masters, one of Latin-jazz's most funky and

raucous ensembles. Bosch, a New Yorker with Puerto Rican

roots, is taking the music to new heights, mixing quick-

changing rumba rhythms, funk vamps and loosely ornamented


His band played "Otra Oportunidad" and "Pa' Mantener

Tradicion" with a hard-driving edge.

Playing in a similar style, Los

Jovenes Del Barrio, a 12-piece Cuban charanga

ensemble featuring violins and flute, opened Friday's

festivities with plenty of energy and attitude. They

performed music that touched on different styles, including

pop, blues and traditional Latin dance music.

Passing The Baton

The Cleveland festival isn't just about providing diverse

musical pleasures, though. It's also about offering a

musical direction for the next generation of performers via

educational programs.

Throughout the weekend, thousands of students were ushered

in and out of rehearsals and classroom workshops that

included everything from trumpet seminars to private lessons

on the bull fiddle.

About 2,000 students attended the first clinic, in 1980,

which was conducted by Pittsburgh pianist

COLOR="#003163">Earl "Fatha" Hines, then 77. But

by closing festivities this weekend, officials expect that

more than 20,000 students from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan

and Canada will have participated in the clinics, making the

festival one of the largest music-education events in the


"Our mission has always been education-oriented," explained

Tom Horning, chairman of the TRI-C Jazzfest. "We discovered

a long time ago that if a student studies music, it not only

makes them a better person but also a more disciplined


Putting the punctuation to Horning's words is 15-year-old

Krystal Johnson. Under the watchful eye of trumpeter

Cecil Bridgewater, she

purses her lips on the mouthpiece of her trumpet. Johnson, a

student at Cleveland School of the Arts, has the potential

to make some beautiful music. It's going to take time,

though. Some people spend their entire lives trying to

execute musically what they hear harmonically, melodically

and rhythmically.

She begins to play the first few bars of

COLOR="#003163">Charlie Parker's "Cherokee."

"That's was very good," Bridgewater says. "You've just

played the bebop scale and didn't know it. But you can't

just play the scales, because scales don't necessarily

translate into music. Let's try it again."

In another room, Tony

Watson and other members of the

COLOR="#003163">Excellence in Music Initiative

Combo rehearse for a concert. The combo is made

up of students from the Cleveland area. As with Johnson,

Watson hopes to reap the benefits that come with learning

his instrument — in this case, the saxophone. He's off

to a good start: Watson has just been awarded a full

scholarship to Boston's Berklee School of Music.

A Rainbow Of Rising Stars

Saturday night performances came dressed in more traditional

clothing. The evening, which was billed as "Jazz Explosion

Rising Star Summit," featured groups as diverse as violinist

Regina Carter and her

quintet, plus the Winard Harper

Sextet, which spotlighted Senegalese

percussionist Abdou


The mystique surrounding vibraphonist

COLOR="#003163">Stefon Harris is genuine.

Performing with his quartet — which features pianist

Orrin Evans, drummer

Terreon Gully and

bassist Tarus Mateen

— Harris entranced the audience, creating an almost

incantatory atmosphere. Much of the music was from Black

Action Figure, his most recent recording, which features

the song "Feline Blues" (


484908/0234086_0102_07_0002.ra">RealAudio excerpt).

Harris dedicated "Epilogue" to the late vibraphonist

Milt Jackson.