Saturday, May 18, 2024

Jazz Society gathers momentum

Radio station, weekly concerts and festivals keep jazz culture alive

Take a moment to appreciate Toledo’s rich and vibrant jazz history. Pianists Art Tatum, Claude Black; guitarist Bern Nix, bassist Clifford Murphy and vocalists Jon Hendricks and Ramona Collins are among the many musicians from this area who have left their mark on jazz. With venues like Rusty’s Jazz Café and Murphy’s Place (named for Clifford Murphy, who opened the club with Joan Russell), Toledo heard jazz songs proudly performed for decades.

A newer generation stepped in with places like Dégagé Jazz Café (now closed, but replaced by Levi & Lilac’s, which hosts live music) and The Village Idiot (which has hosted Jazz Every Sunday for years). Will Lucas opened Lucille’s Jazz Lounge (2021) inside TolHouse on North Summit St., continuing the City’s rich tradition of jazz.

Great Lakes Jazz Society

The Great Lakes Jazz Society is an organization founded by long-active members of Toledo’s jazz scene, according to Cheryl Catlin. Catlin explains, “For over 10 years we were called the ‘H-Factor Jazz Enthusiast Club,’ named after the H-Factor Jazz Show,” a radio show staffed by UT students. “We are the organizers of the Great Lakes Jazz Festival and the Glass City JazzFest. We started ‘Wine Down Wednesday’ in an effort to promote local and regional jazz and jazz artists on a weekly basis and to raise funds for our festivals and our scholarship fund (for budding musicians).”

Through the Society’s efforts, including yearly festivals, a new generation of jazz lovers have been inspired while the genre is performed for a wider group of Toledo-area audiences. “Wine Down Wednesday,” held weekly at The Bay Restaurant and Nightclub (The Docks), features a broad range of performers. Proceeds fund a scholarship program, which provides music lessons and instruments to local children.

H-Factor Jazz Show

With humble beginnings at the terrestrial UT student radio station, the H-Factor Jazz Show broadcasts through its app day and night, bringing listeners an eclectic collection of music. The H-Factor Jazz Show App can be downloaded from Google Play or the App Store. 

Host Hugh Ross says, “Jazz cannot be defined; it must be experienced. The H-Factor showcases jazz in all of its complexities—blending acid, contemporary, funk, fusion, hip-hop, Latin, smooth, traditional,” and more. The station plays local and national music, along with tracks from all around the world. Ross encourages anyone interested in listening to download the app. That goes for people who “like, love, or are just ‘jazz curious.’” The H-Factor also has opportunities for local artists to submit music to be played on the show.

Two fests, one common thread

The Great Lakes Jazz Society hosts two annual events—The Great Lakes Jazz Festival (in August at the Ottawa Park amphitheater, with a designated indoor “rain space” in case of uncooperative weather), showcasing local and regional artists to “rediscover the beauty of Ottawa Park and to remember Toledo’s heritage of Jazz. The second annual event is the Glass City JazzFest in September, which was resurrected in 2022 at the Glass City Metropark, held for the first time in years. For attendees and performers, these festivals promote the genre and Toledo’s culture and appreciation for great jazz. 

Wine Down Wednesdays are held at The Bay, located at the Docks at 18 Main Street, Toledo. Tickets are available on Eventbrite. $7-$15. Keep up with the Great Lakes Jazz Society through its Facebook page. 800-419-5299.

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