MUSIC | St. Paul gets funky with the 2010 Selby Avenue Jazz Festival

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The 2010 Selby Avenue Jazz Festival is upon us, set to take place on September 11. [Correction: This article orginally stated that the festival was to take place on September 12.] “This one has a little bit of everything,” said founder Mychael Wright. “Big band, a little funky bass-slapping, and a history lesson.” The annual event, free of charge and suitable for all ages, has been dubbed “the biggest backyard party in St. Paul” by Wright, who is well-known in the Twin Cities for his love of and investment in community. The festival is a natural outgrowth of his popular gathering place, Golden Thyme Coffee Cafe, a social fixture where people from business types to artists to educators to bricklayers get together to network and generally just enjoy the atmosphere.

A highlight of this year’s festival is the return of the Jazz Heritage Showcase. “We needed a little history and soul to get back to the basics,” said Wright, “and I’m excited. So many of the greats—such as Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Billy Eckstine, and Joe Williams—have had their fame diminished by time.” The showcase offers excellent local performers portraying legends of the last century—their music, as well as the character and essence of what made them beloved. It is directed by T. Mychael Rambo, an internationally-known vocalist/actor/dancer who has consistently delighted Twin Cities audiences with his skill. “T. Mychael has put together quite the line-up,” said Wright. “It’s like you’ve gone back 60 years.”

The rest of the lineup includes the New-Orleans-style ensemble Dick and Jane’s Big Brass Band, which blends Dixieland, samba, mambo, klezmer, funk, and more into a versatile format; Brio Brass, a non-traditional brass band featuring a broad range of styles such as ballads, marches, polkas, show tunes, and pop; gospel singers Walker West Music Academy; guitarist-composer John Penny with his current project Globafo, which he describes as “original music for contemporary folk culture, driven by a passion for developing memorable excursions into the heart of human experience”; and headliner bassist Gerald Veasley.

Don’t be put off if jazz is not really your thing, or if none of those names happen to be familiar to you. If you like to get outdoors and mingle, this is going to be a fine time. Along with the music and lots of company, there’ll be State Fair food with a soul-food twist. Pretty hard to go wrong.