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Free jazz festivals mix new with tried and true

Buffalo’s summer of jazz is rich and laid back. Our festivals are relaxed, with grassroots origins.

The Buffalo News’ Jazz at the Albright-Knox festival, for instance, was founded personally by Stanford Lipsey, The News’ longtime publisher, simply because he loved jazz. Every year it offers a mix of encore engagements and surprises. This summer will see the return of Buffalo native Mike Costley, whose vocal pyrotechnics wowed a crowd last summer. The festival ends with a first: a concert by the Hasselback family, well known in local jazz circles.

Meanwhile, the Masten Jazz Festival has changed its name to pay tribute to another famed Buffalo jazz family. The late Pappy Martin, who led the Love Supreme Jazz Orchestra, was an anchor not only to a family full of musicians but to everyone in Buffalo who loves jazz. In late July, the newly christened Pappy Martin Legacy – Masten Jazz Festival welcomes some well-known names including Etienne Charles and Curtis Lundy.

All our jazz festivals are locally oriented, and the area’s own estimable talent also takes the spotlight. Among them are pianist George Caldwell, long associated with the Duke Ellington and Count Basie orchestras; and saxophonist Bobby Militello, known for his collaboration with the late Dave Brubeck.

Summertime, and the living is easy. The following festivals are, for the most part, free.

Buffalo News Jazz at the Albright-Knox

July 10: Vocalist Cindy Miller performs with pianist Michael T. Jones, bassist Wayne Moose and drummer Danny Hull.

July 17: Pianist George Caldwell with saxophonist Bobby LaVell. LaVell, a Memphis native, is the son of Robert “Honeymoon” Garner and has been for 10 years part of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

July 24: Don Rice with the Bobby Jones Trio. A native of Omaha, Neb., Rice is a proven hit on the steps of the Albright-Knox. He will be joined by bassist Wayne Moose and drummer Danny Hull.

[See a smiles gallery from the 2015 jazz series at AKAG]

July 31: Mike Costley with the Bobby Militello Quartet.

Aug. 7: Three Generations of Hasselbacks: This closing concert is a toast to a special Buffalo musical family and features pianist John Hasselback, trombonist John Hasselback Jr., pianist Lisa Hasselback and trumpeter John Hasselback III. This will be their first major concert family performance.

August 14: Rain date.

For more info, visit or call 882.8700.


The Pappy Martin Legacy – Masten Jazz Festival

This free grassroots festival, now in its 21st year, is held on the side lawn of the Buffalo Museum of Science (1020 Humboldt Parkway), and takes place from 3 to 8 p.m. on two consecutive Sundays, July 24 and 31.

[Read a review of the 2015 Masten Jazz Festival]

July 24: The Etienne Charles Sextet and the Curtis Lundy Quartet, both from New York City. The day also includes local musicians the Love Supreme Jazz Ensemble, long associated with Pappy Martin; the Nickel City Band, and the Jazz Example.

July 31: Nasar Abadey and Supernova featuring Joe Ford, from Washington, D.C., and Jeremy Pelt with Paradigm Shift, from Rochester. Buffalo-area musicians are pianist George Caldwell and the Bobby Militello Quintet; the Larry Salter Soul Orchestra; and the Herbie Small Jr. Quintet, performing a tribute to Elvin Shepard.

For more info, call the Masten District Council Office, 851-5145.

The late Pappy Martin, far left, will be honored at the Masten Jazz Festival. (Buffalo News file photo)

The Masten Jazz Festival has been renamed after the late Pappy Martin, far left. (Buffalo News file photo)

[See a small photo gallery from the Masten Jazz Festival in 2015]


The Queen City Jazz Festival

The 10th annual Queen City Jazz Festival celebrates the historic Colored Musicians Club (145 Broadway). It begins the evening of July 29 and continues with a free festival July 30 inside and in front of the club, situated on Broadway near the corner of Michigan Street.

July 29: 5 p.m. happy hour with pianist Walter Kemp, cover charge $10. Shows at 7 and 9 p.m. feature saxophonist and Okeh recording artist James Brandon Lewis, cover is $25.

July 30: Free festival starts at noon and continues all day on two stages, indoor and outdoor. At 7 p.m. a performance features Cleveland-born trumpeter Kamal Abdul-Alim accompanied by George Caldwell, Sabu Adeyola and Abdul Rahman-Qadir, with another performance to follow at 9 p.m. There is a $10 cover charge for these two evening events.

For info, call the Colored Musicians Club, 855-9383


The Pine Grill Reunion

The Pine Grill Reunion, a tribute to a long-gone down-home jazz club on Jefferson Avenue, is traditionally held at 4 p.m. on the first two Sundays in August, which this summer are Aug. 7 and 14, in Martin Luther King Park.

The lineup, which is much anticipated every year among local jazz fans, will be announced closer to the festival date. The first Sunday generally features nationally known artists, while the second takes a more Buffalo slant.

Call the African-American Cultural Center at 884-2013 or visit


The Lewiston Jazz Festival

The Historic Lewiston Jazz Festival is now celebrating its 15th year. It takes place from 5 to 10 p.m. Aug. 26 and noon to 10 p.m. Aug. 27 on a multitude of stages up and down Center Street in Lewiston.

This year, the headliner on the first evening is Juno Award-winning Canadian vocalist Molly Johnson, taking the main stage at 8 p.m. The headliner Aug. 27 is singer, saxophonist and guitarist Curtis Stigers.

For more info, visit or call 754-9005.

-- See the full Buffalo News summer concert guide


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