Dayton Jazz Festival revisits Dave Hall Plaza

By Timothy Walker

It’s beautiful in downtown Dayton. The weather is warm and pleasant, local residents are out and about and there’s no better way to spend an afternoon than sitting in the sun and grooving to some cool jazz tunes while enjoying a nice bite to eat.

Though the event never launched last year as planned, the City of Dayton Department of Recreation and Youth Services is referring to this year’s event as its second-annual Dayton Jazz Festival, held this year from 1-9 p.m. on Sunday, June 12. The festival, which is free and open to the public, will be at Dave Hall Plaza. A stellar group of performers is scheduled for this year’s festival, including headliner The Michael Cruse Quintet, Otherwize H2H, the Dayton Fresh Beat Project, Chango, John Slate, the Linda Dachtyl Trio and Robert Cunningham Jr. & the Handsonic Global Band. Food vendors will be present, and free water will be provided.

“The Dayton Jazz Festival used to be called the ‘Women in Jazz’ Festival, where we had all women headliners,” says Lamonte Hall, recreation program coordinator for the Department of Recreation and Youth Services, “but we changed that last year to include men, so we could be more inclusive. There will be a mix this year. They’re mostly local talent, so we are definitely looking to showcase performers from this area—meaning Dayton and surrounding communities in Ohio. Opening it up makes for a better show.”

One of the musicians scheduled to perform at this year’s Jazz Festival is Michael Cruse, who will headline the event with his own group, the Michael Cruse Quintet. Cruse is a well-known and talented jazz trumpet player and composer, and a recent graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

“I’ve been very busy… I’ve been in and out of Cincinnati a lot lately. But I’ll be there with my quintet at the festival,” Cruse says. “The quintet is great. It’s guys that I have been with and played with for a while—they’ve played my music for about four years now. We all met when we were freshmen at CCM, and we’ve got the chance to finish up—hopefully, I’m keeping my fingers crossed—some music that we’ve been recording for quite some time. I’m just really looking forward to the music being out there, and people getting a chance to hear it.”

When asked how long he’s been performing, Cruse replies, “Well, I just graduated on April 30, but I’ve been playing professionally for a long time, about five or six years now. It’s been a great journey. Me and the bass player have graduated, and the other guys are finishing up the last of their studies. We’re finishing up my first CD of original music, all written by me. It’s a compilation of styles of music that I’ve been listening to my whole life… music that I’ve tried to tie all into one. I’ve kind of made it my own thing. A little bit of soul, a little bit of jazz in it—well, a lot of jazz in it, with a lot of groove to it, but swinging, as well. It’s a compilation of everything that I’ve experienced and everything that I’ve heard musically and combined it all into one. That’s the essence of what I want to do.”

I ask about his musical influences. “I’ve fortunately had the time to have many lessons with Wynton Marsalis,” Cruse answers. “He’s been a great influence in my life, and he’s been a great mentor. I’ve also been able to work with Terence Blanchard, and one last guy who I’ve listened to more than Wynton and Terence is Nicholas Payton. All three of these trumpet players are from New Orleans and the lineage of trumpet playing from New Orleans stretches back to King Oliver, to Louis Armstrong, and beyond. Those three New Orleans trumpet players influenced me in every single way possible. Other than that, as far as someone who’s not a jazz guy: Michael Jackson.”

While last year’s Dayton Jazz Festival was stymied due to Mother Nature’s bad behavior, this one promises, weather permitting, to be one of the best of this year’s downtown festivals.

“Unfortunately, last year’s festival did have to be canceled due to inclement weather,” Hall continues. “But 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. It’s exciting because we have this opportunity to bring in more talent, now that we’ve opened it up.”

Count this jazz-lover in.

The Dayton Jazz Festival will be held from 1-9 p.m. on Sunday, June 12 at Dave Hall Plaza downtown, 23 E. Fifth St. Admission is free and the open to the public, and all ages are welcome. No pets, tents or grills. For more information, please call 937.333.8400 or visit daytonohio.gov. 

Tim Walker is 50 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 TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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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 TimWalker@DaytonCityPaper.com

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