All beats, no bread

Dayton Jazz Festival wails into downtown

By CC Hutten

Photo: The Dayton Jazz Festival will take place June 21 from 1-9 p.m.

On June 21, the Dayton community is set to rally behind jazz music.

Dayton Jazz Festival will be the first event of the summer music festival series hosted by the Dayton Department of Recreation and Youth Services.

Lamonte Hall, recreation program coordinator at the City of Dayton’s Department of Recreation and Youth Services is (happily) tasked with most of the behind-the-scenes work that keeps the festivals running—and he also plays blues guitar on the side.

“Dayton Jazz Fest is very special,” he says of its 30-year streak. In the past, the festival (then called the Women in Jazz Festival) was played by just female musicians, such as Chicago-based Petra van Nuis Quartet. This year, Dayton Jazz Festival will feature many different artists from Dayton and beyond.

Hall believes jazz to be “one of the more beautiful forms of music,” and thanks to Martin Romie, talent buyer for the festival, masterful players in the region are coming together to celebrate it. Dayton Jazz Festival will feature Linda Dachtyl Trio, John Slate, Robert Cunningham Jr. & The Jazz Handsonic Global Band, Chango, Dayton Fresh Beat Project and Otherwize H2H. The Michael Cruse Quintet (MCQ) will headline.

Michael Cruse of Michael Cruse Quintet is from Lexington; he and the quintet are based in Cincinnati. His main instruments are piano and trumpet, but he also rocks saxophone, flugelhorn, tuba, bass and his voice.

“Marty actually heard some of my music and decided we were best fit for the festival,” Cruse says. “He heard MCQ and really dug it,” Cruse says. “Fortunately, I get to come down to Dayton and perform, which is what we’re really looking forward to.”

Cruse balances multiple projects and performance groups, though he said his main focus is the Michael Cruse Quintet because it is more focused on jazz. He travels to do work in cities around the country—from the Lexington Jazz Festival to the Roots & Heritage Jazz Festival in New Orleans—but this will be the quintet’s first time to perform in Dayton.

Cruse says he’s currently working on an album that features both the quintet and another group he works with, The Collective, that will feature original work Cruse wrote and recorded in University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, where he studied jazz studies and commercial music production.

“I’m very excited to headline a newly reformed festival,” Cruse says, referencing the change from the Women in Jazz Festival to the Dayton Jazz Festival. “After hearing where it’s coming from, I’m interested in where it’s going. Jazz is prevalent across America. It needs to be celebrated.”

Cruse grew up around music: His entire family played, so it’s always been in his life. He began his career by playing piano in church, and then later, he picked up trumpet. His mentors would tell him about jazz: “I’m passing this on to you.”

“At the festival, it’s important I’m passing ‘it’ on,” he says. “It’s America’s music. It was born here. It’s beautiful.”

And expectations are that this year’s festival will be beautiful, too.

“Audiences can definitely expect great weather, wonderful atmosphere,” Hall says. “It’s a family friendly event. Great food. Great music. Right in downtown Dayton, with easy access—and, it’s free.”

House-keeping rules according to Hall: no outside food or beverages, no pets, no coolers or tents. And, expect quality music.

“Dayton Jazz Festival gives the community an opportunity to come together and have a good time,” Hall says. “Parents don’t have to worry about shelling out $20 to find a babysitter. You don’t have to come from money to have fun here.”

Cruse says he loves that the jazz fest is able to bring the community in celebration of jazz.

“It brings the best talent and the best players in one place, so Dayton can embrace jazz,” he says. “I’m excited to be part of it and keep it going to years to come. It’s American music. It’s our tradition. It’s our community.”

One thing’s for sure: MCQ is busting with energy and pride—in synch—in the American tradition of jazz.

“When we get together and play, it’s a lotta love,” Cruse says. “Every single person in my group has a profound love for the music. It’s their life, their baby.”

Cruse says he is fortunate to have “very incredible” musicians in the Cincinnati area that have also played around the world. In their performance at Dayton Jazz Festival, the type of music they will showcase will stay “true to the tradition of jazz.”

“We’re going to come out swinging,” Cruse says. “It’s what we do. We’ll play a lot of original music between myself and my sax player [Bailey], who used to be the lead saxophonist with Ray Charles. You’re in for a treat.”

Dayton Jazz Festival will take place Sunday June 21 at Dave Hall Plaza, S. Main Street, from 1-9 p.m.. For more information, please visit or call 937.333.8400.

Reach DCP freelance writer C.C. Hutten at

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Reach DCP freelance writer CC Hutten at

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