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Grooving to Buffalo's free jazz festivals

Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? No, because we have so much summer jazz in Buffalo. The city plays host to a riot of jazz festivals. All of them are, for the most part, free.

Here are some things to look forward to this summer.

The Buffalo News Jazz at the Albright-Knox

This festival draws crowds to the back steps of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. It began decades ago thanks to the late Buffalo News publisher Stanford Lipsey. Lipsey, who died at 89 in November 2016, used to be a fixture on the gallery steps, enjoying the music with the rest of us. Perhaps his spirit is smiling down on us this year, because the lineup seems especially sparkling.

The festival opens and closes with singers who are national names. For the first concert, July 9, the festival welcomes crooner Freddy Cole -- Nat "King" Cole's brother, and a charmer in his own right. Freddy Cole will be bringing a combo that will likely feature a guitarist.

[PHOTOS: Smiles at the 2016 opening of Jazz at the Albright-Knox]

The festivities wrap up Aug. 6 with the barrel-voiced Kevin Mahogany, bringing a trio. Mahogany will have just returned from a European tour. Bobby Militello also will perform on the series, and so will expat trumpeter Joe Gransden.

Here is the complete schedule. Concerts take place on five consecutive Sundays at 2 p.m. Admission is free; just show up with your cooler and your chair or blanket.

July 9: Freddy Cole.

July 16: Joe Gransden.

July 23: Saxophonist Don Rice.

July 30: Bobby Militello and the Laurie Bordonaro Quintet.

Aug. 6: Kevin Mahogany.

The Pappy Martin Legacy - Masten Jazz Festival

This festival takes place on two consecutive Sundays, July 23 and July 30, from 2 to 8 p.m. Concerts are held on the side lawn of the Buffalo Museum of Science. Admission is free.

On July 23, the headliners are Grammy-winning hard bop trumpet player Wallace Roney and vocalist and saxophonist Camille Thurman.

The July 30 concert features Freddie Hendrix, a trumpet master who has worked with the Count Basie Orchestra and the Christian McBride Big Band and also with Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys. Also performing is Vanessa Rubin, a vocalist who has performing with artists including Frank Foster, Grover Washington Jr. and Kenny Burrell. Various local luminaries also will perform on both dates.

The Pine Grill Jazz Reunion

Presented by the African-American Cultural Center, the Pine Grill Jazz Reunion takes place the first two Sundays in August, beginning at 4 p.m. It honors the local, national and international artists who best encapsulate the down-in-the-alley spirit of the Pine Grill, a long-gone club on Jefferson Avenue.

Performers are generally announced later in the summer, but it is traditional for the first Sunday to feature one or two national names as well as at least one giant of the Hammond B3.

This year, the Pine Grill Jazz Reunion takes place Aug. 6 and 13.

The CMC Jazz Festival

This festival takes place in and around the Colored Musicians Club, the historic venue on Broadway and Michigan. This year, the CMC is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and so the festival is more elaborate than in the past. Visit for details.

Festivities kick off at 6:30 p.m. July 24 with a Slow Roll in honor of the Historic Colored Musicians Club, starting at the club. The festival culminates on July 29 with a free festival inside and outside the Musicians Club. The outdoor lineup includes the All City Jazz Band, Why Not?, the Blue Note, Katy Miner, Greg Millar, Janice Mitchell, and George Caldwell.

Some of the musicians performing inside the club are Barbara Levy Daniels, Trio Payazzo, JazzWizz with guitarist Dennis Warne, and the Les Davis Quintet.

The Lewiston Jazz Festival

It became the Historic Lewiston Jazz Festival and this year is known as the Northwest Jazz Festival, thanks to its sponsorship by Northwest Bank. Whatever you call it, this festival is now in its 16th year. It takes place from 5 to 10 p.m. Aug. 25 and noon to 10 p.m. Aug. 26 on a multitude of stages up and down Center Street in Lewiston.

The headliner on Aug. 25 is the Dave Stryker Quintet with Eric Alexander. The headliners Aug. 26 are the Hot Sardines.

Visit or call 754-9500.

*Check out the rest of The Buffalo News' concert guide:
- Jeff Miers' column on this year's lineup
- Miers' 10 must-see shows for summer 2017

- Hot country options for this summer
- Guide to tween- and teen-friendly concerts


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