The Pine Grill Jazz Reunion toasts the old days of the Pine Grill, a long-gone gutbucket jazz club on Buffalo's East Side. Many are the greats who have performed for the annual festival -- they have included trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, organists Bill Doggett and Joey DiFrancesco, and "Red" Holloway.
A lot of the older legends who played the Pine Grill Reunion are gone now. But the beat goes on. This year's festival, on Sunday and Aug. 14 in Martin Luther King Park, promises greatness.
Headlining Sunday is legendary saxophonist Houston Person. The 77-year-old sax man is an artist in the old-school tradition. The world knew him for years as half an artistic (and personal) partnership with famed singer Etta Jones. The two would appear together at the Calumet Arts Cafe, and they played the Pine Grill Reunion together in 2001, just weeks before she died.
Drummer Winard Harper, an exciting performer and another Pine Grill Reunion veteran, is bringing his combo. Singer Melba Joyce, a veteran not only of the Pine Grill Reunion but of "Black and Blue" on Broadway, is also coming to town.
A newcomer this year is the Japanese Hammond B-3 organist Akiko Tsuruga. She came to town in 2009, playing the Art of Jazz series at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery with 83-year-old Lou Donaldson. News Contributing Reviewer Garaud MacTaggart praised her as "a great addition, playing with a beguiling blend of passion and precision."
The fun starts at 4 p.m. Sunday. Then part 2 of the festival continues at 4 p.m. Aug. 14 and showcases some of Buffalo's best jazz and R&B talent.
As always, lots of good food will be for sale, and admission is free.
-- Mary Kunz Goldman