Dayton Jazz Festival keeps grooving at RiverScape

Photo: Tucki Bailey, a Yellow Springs native who recently returned to the area, headlines Dayton Jazz Festival; photo: Lamonte Hall

By Tim Walker

The summer sun is shining and the weather is beautiful in downtown Dayton. It’s warm and pleasant, local residents are out and about, and it’s time to spend an afternoon in the city enjoying the heat and grooving to some live jazz music while sharing a nice bite to eat by the river.

This year’s third annual Dayton Jazz Festival, presented by the city of Dayton’s Department of Recreation and Youth Services, takes place from 1 to 9 p.m. on Sunday, June 11. The festival, which is free and open to the public, will be held at RiverScape MetroPark, located at the corner of Patterson Boulevard and Monument Avenue. Although the weather has caused some problems for the event in years past, organizers are confident that, with the new location, this year’s festival will take place, as Ray Charles once famously sang, “Come rain or come shine.”

Tucki Bailey and the Vagabonds headline at 7 p.m. Although Bailey lived in California for years, she’s familiar with the Dayton music and arts scene and recently moved back to Yellow Springs, Ohio. She played during the festival’s previous incarnations and served a long stint as musical director of the Yellow Springs Kids Playhouse.

Earlier in the day, music from The Keith Wimberly Project, Heavy Hitters, Cruisin’, Organic Chemistry Trio with Tom Carroll, On a Limb, and saxophonist Eddie Osborne, a musician from Piqua, Ohio, will fill the air. All is hosted by former WROU-FM radio personality Garth Adams, who jockeyed from 2008 until 2013. There will also be food vendors, free water, and T-shirts available for purchase.

This year’s Dayton Jazz Festival may be the third incarnation, but that number is a bit misleading—the local festival, one of the most popular to be held downtown each year, has a history that stretches back over 30 years. Local music lovers will recall that for the vast majority of the festival’s history, it was referred to as the Women in Jazz Festival and presented exclusively female artists.

“For many years the city embraced jazz music by hosting the Women in Jazz Festival at Dave Hall Plaza, and that was very successful and everybody had a good time,” says Lamonte Hall, recreation program coordinator for the Department of Recreation and Youth Services and organizer of the festival. “Then, three years ago, we decided to make the festival more inclusive—we wanted to have the freedom to embrace artists from all over the jazz music spectrum, both male and female. So now it’s just called the Dayton Jazz Festival.”

But this year’s festival is going to be different. In addition to offering more protection from the elements under the pavilion, the move to RiverScape sets a different scene for the performances.

“We all have big expectations for this year,” Hall continues. “We’ll have plenty of room for people to stretch out, relax and enjoy each other’s company, and see the amazing performances.”

Dayton is known by jazz musicians and jazz fans worldwide as a home, not just to great music but to great venues and enthusiastic audiences. With well-known venues like Gilly’s, Jazz Central, and the newer Blue Note Bistro and Lounge in Miamisburg, Dayton-area jazz lovers have a variety of venues where they can enjoy the all-American art form.

“The people of Dayton have always embraced jazz music, and the success of the festival reflects that” Hall says. “We’re looking forward to this year, and to a much more diverse show than we’ve had in the past. We’re looking forward to bringing out bigger crowds, and we’re just thrilled to have Garth Adams as host. It’s exciting because we have this opportunity to bring in more talent now that we’ve opened it up and moved to a new venue. It’s going to be a great show.”

As a fan of downtown Dayton, the river, and live jazz music, this writer will definitely be in attendance, and hopes to see all the jazz-loving Dayton City Paper lovers reading this story out there, as well.

The Dayton Jazz Festival takes place Sunday, June 11, from 1–9 p.m., at RiverScape MetroPark, 237 E. Monument Ave. in downtown Dayton. Admission is free and open to the public, and all ages are welcome. No pets, tents, coolers, grills, outside food or beverages. Attendees are urged to bring blankets or lawn chairs. For more information, please call 937.333.8400 or visit

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Tim Walker is 51 and a writer, DJ, and local musician. He lives with his wife and their two children in Dayton, where he enjoys pizza, jazz, and black T-shirts. Reach DCP freelance writer Tim Walker at

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