Story and Photos by James Walker
Phil Seed and his jazz/funk band, Detour kicked off the third annual CU2 Smooth Jazz Festival on June 18th, 2009, Unlike the festivals of the previous two years, this one was scaled back and moved indoors due to the diminished corporate financial support. Nevertheless, this did not deter Frank Goss, CU2 general manager, from providing Chicago's contemporary jazz audience from three days of exceptional smooth jazz performed by the finest that this city has to offer.
Joining guitarist/vocalist Seed was keyboardist Brian Danzje, bassist Kennery Smith, and drummer Mark Cohill. Detour, one of CU2's favorites peppered the crowd with an array of R&B influenced sounds including "Can't Get Enough of Your Lovin'," "My Funny Valentine," and "On Broadway."
Detour's set was followed by world class trumpeter Corey Wilkes and his Black Slang band Wilkes fronts an array of jazz groups in Chicago when he's not touring worldwide and was joined on this set by Will "Capt" Kurk on keyboards. Anthony, "Big Ant" Capers on drums, Kevin Nabors on Sax, Junius Paul on bass and Yaw on vocals. This set featured the versatile vocalist Yaw, with Wilkes performing on percussion, as he awaited a replacement piece for his horn, It wasn't long though before he began wilding the crowd with those patented high spirited sounds from his trumpet. What a pleasure, as usual, to be entertained by this extraordinary trumpeter and his bandmates.
Day 2's festival began with saxophonist Marquel Jordan. Marquel recently returned to Chicago after a successful tour with world class funkster Brian Culbertson. Marquel, an accomplished saxophonist also does a fine job as a vocalist. His assembled "project" for this evening included Lamar Jones on bass, guitarist Jerry Johnson, drummer Makaya McCraven and keyboardist Martin Fahmy
Although Chicago was drenched with a rainstorm all day long, that did not deter these smooth jazz fans from showing up in large numbers to enjoy another evening of exceptional music. Marquel and his bandmatcs did not disappoint.
Harlan Jefferson, saxophonist from Rockford, closed out the evening with a couple of outstanding sets. Harlan was accompanied by longtime band mate Alfonzo "Cheeseburger" McClain on keyboards, Will Howard on bass and Demeris Vaughn on drums. These guys played a variety of numbers including several from Harlan's latest CD entitled "You're All I Need." Harlan thrilled the crowd on his version of "My, My My." as he weaved throughout the audience with his soprano sax. Another highlight occurred during their rendition of Miles Davis' "All Blues." He and Will Howard engaged in an extended "call and response" bantering, to the delight of the crowd.
Although this listener was unable to attend the third night of music which featured Saxophonist Skinny Williams, the first two nights proved to be very energetic and the Close Up 2 management deserves kudous for their effort to keep "Smooth Jazz" alive in Chicago with their third annual festival.
For detailed information about future CU2 events, refer to their website at www.closeup2jazz.com.