Don't bother knockin' – this town's a-rockin'! The Buffalo News Jazz at the Albright-Knox got off to a suave start July 9 with an appearance by urbane jazz crooner Freddy Cole, Nat "King" Cole's brother.
Begun more than 30 years ago by the late Stanford Lipsey, longtime publisher of The News, the festival reflects Lipsey's love of jazz. His wife, Judi Lipsey, introduced the first concert. She told the audience that it was her husband's wish that the jazz series continue and that the Lipsey estate would continue to fund the festival.
She was thrilled with Cole's performance, she said in an email.
"Freddy Cole was amazing," she wrote. "At 86 he sang and played piano like a younger man. In spite of the Taste of Buffalo drawing hundreds of thousands, we had the biggest crowd we've ever had. And on a perfect sunny Sunday afternoon, no less."
She added: "I think Stan was smiling down on us all!"
The music plays on this summer for four more Sundays.
July 16: Expat singer and trumpet player Joe Gransden grew up in Williamsville and is now based in Atlanta, where he performs and records. Gransden, a hit in the past on the gallery steps, is a fan of Chet Baker and has made his crooning style his own.
July 23: Saxophonist Don Rice, a delightful tenor sax player reminiscent of Zoot Sims, plays beautiful ballads and is a reliable highlight of the festival. Rice was a friend of Lipsey's and it was always fun to see the News publisher on the steps soaking up the standards.
July 30: The great saxophonist Bobby Militello plays with a quintet led by singer Laurie Bordonaro, another proven draw at The Buffalo News' jazz series.
Aug. 6: The festivities wrap up with the internationally renowned barrel-voiced singer Kevin Mahogany, bringing a trio. Mahogany has been featured on the prestigious "The Art of Jazz" series inside the gallery. This is your rare chance to hear him for free.
The Buffalo News Jazz at the Albright-Knox takes place at 2 p.m. on consecutive Sundays on the back steps of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Admission is free.