Michael Wolff in the 9th Annual Bill Bell Jazz & Heritage Festival -- August 18 through 20.

Friday, August 18, and Saturday, August 19

Martin Luther King Jr. Park, 601 Ninth Street, Rock Island IL

Sunday, August 20

Rivermont Collegiate, 1821 Sunset Drive, Bettendorf IA

With this year's weekend event held in conjunction with Rock Island's annual Family Fun Day and the area-wide Alternating Currents Festival, Polyrhythms will collaborate with the MLK Center, Rock Island Parks & Recreation, and the Rock Island County NAACP for the ninth-annual Bill Bell Jazz & Heritage Festival, an August 18 through 20 celebration of cultural heritage in the Quad Cities named after the late musician, educator, and East Moline native lovingly known as “The Jazz Professor.”

This year's festival begins on Friday in Rock Island's Martin Luther King Jr. Park and neighboring MLK Center, its events proceeding with a performance by the Teranga Drum Circle at 5 p.m. A Black Authors Book Forum will follow at 6 p.m., and from 3 to 8 p.m. the festival presents part one of the Polyrhythms All-Stars Jam Party, featuring m3 and artists who've played previous Bill Bell festivals. The Friday happenings conclude with an 8:45 to 10 p.m. performance by Iowa City's P-Funk tribute WeFunk, whose talents bill themselves as “a collective of local musicians and performers dedicated to the preservation of the motion of hip.”

On August 19, the date of this year's annual Family Fun Day in Rock Island, the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center invites guests to participate in its Family Fun Day Parade, which begins at Frances Willard Elementary School (25th Avenue and Ninth Street) at 10 a.m., proceeds north on Ninth Street, and ends at the MLK Center and Park on Seventh Avenue. During the celebration, attendees can ride bikes, build a float, decorate their vehicle, or simply walk and enjoy the day. The opening ceremonies for the 2023 Bill Bell Jazz & Heritage Festivall will commence at 12:30 p.m. with music provided by DJ Swift, while young musicians, artists, performers, dancvers, and speakers will take the Francis Clay/Moe Payton Memorial Stage. There will be dance lessons with Stephanie Ross from 1 to 1:15 p.m.; a 1:15-1:30pm performance by Ebony Dance Illusion; the Tia & Camaron Shumpert Duet performing from 1:30 to 1:45 p.m.; the Royal Drama Dance Team on stage from 2 to 2:15 p.m.; and poetry and spoken-word with Knowledge D'Vine from 2:15 to 2:30 p.m.

A Housing Forum curated by George Guy, CEO of the Fort Wayne Housing Authority, will be held from 2 to 3 p.m., with shorts films screened in the Pulling Focus Film Festival from 3 to 5 p.m. And the festival's music will continue throughout the evening with the second part of the Polyrhythms All-Stars Jam Party (5 – 6 p.m.), local sensational CJ Parker (7 – 8 p.m.), and area favorites The Matt Fuller Band (8:45 – 10 p.m.)

On Sunday, the Bill Bell Jazz & Heritage Festival moves across the river to Bettendorf's Rivermont Collegiate, where three spectacular jazz acts will successively take the stage of the Becherer Hall Auditorium. At 3:30 p.m. attendees call thrill to the guitar and trumpet duo of Steve Grismore and Dr. Edgar Crockett, both longtime performers with the Polyrhythms Third Sunday Jazz Series. From 5 to 6 p.m. will be a performance by the Kuchina Trio featuring James Culver on drums, Corey Kendrick on piano, and Andy Crawford on badd. And from 6:45 to 8 p.m., the festival's headliners take the stage when lauded jazz pianist, former Bill Bell student, and subsequent Arsenio Hall music director Michael Wolff brings his ensemble to Bettendorf, a gifted quartet completed by saxophone player Saul Lubaroff, bass player Frank Russell, and drummer Mike Clark.

Speaking on the area music mentor and festival namesake, musician David Berson said, “He inspired and encouraged not only through his tremendous musical gifts, but also through the strength of his character. He felt very strongly about the well-being of others and saw music as uplifting. He saw potential in students where others did not and inspired his students to be the very best they could be."

All of the events in the 2023 Bill Bell Jazz & Heritage Festival are free, and more information on the August 18 through 20 event is available by visiting Polyrhythms.org/bill-bell-jazz-heritage-festival.

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