Friday, July 2, and Saturday, July 3
Downtown Iowa City IA
A Grammy-winning drummer, a trombone player for Broadway, and many other national and local artists will be celebrating Independence Day Weekend in style with the July 2 and 3 return of the Iowa City Jazz Festival, the 30th-anniversary edition of Summer of the Arts' nationally renowned fest taking place in the city's Ped Mall and on South Clinton Street.
The fun begins on July 2 at 4:30 p.m. with Schoolhouse Jazz, presented by KCCK Jazz Radio. For more than 20 years, Schoolhouse Jazz has introduced children around the Iowa City Corridor to the musical genre with fast-paced, interactive shows that incorporate live music, narration, and movement, and for the Iowa City Jazz Festival, kids and their parents are invited to get up and dance with the Schoolhouse Jazz band. Friday's live-music events continue with the NOLA Jazz Band from Des Moines at 6:30 p.m., and then conclude with at 8:10 p.m. performance by Big Fun, a group led by Steve Grismore, the original sounder of the festival.
Saturday's lineup kicks off at 11:30 a.m. on the Clinton Street Main Stage with the United Jazz Ensemble, followed by a set with the North Corridor Jazz All Stars at 12:15 p.m. The United Jazz Ensemble brings together high school students from the City, West, and Liberty high schools in Iowa City, while the North Corridor All Stars does the same for the northern part of the I-380 Corridor, recruiting the top high school musicians from Cedar Rapids to Cedar Falls. This is the 10th-anniversary appearance of the North Corridor All Stars, while the United Jazz Ensemble has opened the festival every year since 1993.
Taking the stage at 2 and 4 p.m. are Giveton Gelin and Immanuel Wilkins, the 2020 and 2021 recipients of the LetterOne Rising Stars jazz award. And the festival's Main Stage events conclude with performances by Bonegasm at 6 p.m. and Grammy Award-nominated jazz guitarist Cory Wong at 8 p.m. Bonegasm's Jennifer Wharton is one of New York’s leading trombonists, has played for dozens of Broadway shows and her own band, and just released the outfit's second album “Not A Novelty.” Twin Cities jazz artist Wong, meanwhile, found his 2020 album Meditations (recorded with recent Oscar winner Jon Batiste) scoring a Grammy nod for Best New Age Album, with Wong's repertoire also including nine solo studio albums.
“For me, it’s all about the listener’s experience,” Wong explains. “I want them to have a visceral response like: ‘I feel better,’ ‘That was really fun,’ or ‘I got to escape for an hour.’ You’ll hear my voice through the guitar, but I’m just a hype man. To uplift audiences with instrumental music that has no singing or lyrics is a fun challenge. I’m trying to solve the riddle. If I can get one person to feel good this way, it’s a success."
In addition to the Main Stage events, a second Iowa City Jazz Festival stage, on Saturday, will feature some of the Corridor’s top local musicians. At 1 p.m., the University of Northern Iowa's Bad News takes the stage, followed by a 3 p.m. set with the Peterson-Thaker Quartet. At 5 p.m. local saxophonist and newly minted University of Iowa visiting professor Jim Buennig performs, and then the Local Stage lineup will wrap up with a 7 p.m. performance by Wave Cage, an ensemble featuring musicians who explore the intersection of jazz composition and electronic textures.
The Iowa City Jazz Festival's 30th anniversary will conclude with a city-hosted fireworks display held at 9:30 p.m. on July 3, and more information on the weekend is available by visiting SummerOfTheArts.org.