A Friday night kickoff concert is being added as the Delaney Chevrolet Westsylvania Jazz and Blues Festival prepares for its sixth annual edition in downtown Indiana.
The festival brings national and international artists to IRMC Park for free performances on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, May 25, as well as local talent including this year the Indiana Area Senior High School Jazz Band.
“Every year we have been fortunate to find amazing artists for the festival, and this year is no exception,” festival steering committee member Matt Baumer said. “Blues fans are going to love Vanessa Collier’s energetic and soulful singing and sax playing. Dwayne Dolphin is a jazz master with a deep reservoir of musicianship.”
Additionally, on May 24, Downtown Indiana Inc. is presenting Left Lane Cruiser, a blues rock band from Fort Wayne, Ind., as well as Post Traumatik, whose emblem looks like that of a well-known Pittsburgh beer but proudly touts its “Homer City Rock N’Roll,” as well as hip-hop, indie, blues, folk and metal.
“We think the Westsylvania festival is wonderful and really brings people to our downtown,” said Linda Mitchell, executive director of Downtown Indiana Inc. “It is a tremendous event for the downtown.”
Mitchell’s organization also is assisting with a popup vendor market as well as children’s activities organized in association with the Children’s Advisory Commission of Indiana County.
Another scheduled performer is The Dad Band. Festival organizers said what was originally intended as The Dad Band’s 10th anniversary concert evolved into the Westsylvania festival.
The Dad Band’s range stretches from Indiana County to the Pittsburgh JazzLive International Festival and its repertoire ranges from the blues to Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Miles Davis and more.
From the start, Delaney Chevrolet of Indiana has been the festival’s sponsor.
“From the first band to the last, I’m beyond excited to hear what these artists will bring,” Baumer said.
That includes jazz and funk bassist Dolphin, who is being presented by the Pittsburgh International Jazz Festival and August Wilson Center. He’s a Pittsburgh Jazz Hall of Fame member recruited out of high school by Wynton Marsalis to tour with his quintet.
Dolphin, who released his eighth solo album last year, “Indigenous,” has played and recorded with luminaries including Hank Jones, Nancy Wilson, Pharoah Sanders, Fred Wesley and John Hicks.
Collier is a multiple Blues Awards nominee who has drawn praise from Buddy Guy. Organizers said Collier’s voice has been compared to Bonnie Raitt.
Collier’s 2018 album, “Honey Up,” spent nine weeks atop the Billboard Blues Album Chart’s Top 15, three months on the Living Blues Chart, and continues to be heard on Sirius XM’s B.B. King’s Bluesville station.
Also planned are jazz educator and performer Jared Sims, Pittsburgh-based Jack of Diamonds, as well as Tom Roberts, Inner Urge (made up of Indiana University of Pennsylvania alumni), and Nevin Saylor’s Big Band.
Organizers call Saylor’s band an Indiana County legend. It leads a showcase of the some of the region’s finest jazz musicians in performing big band music with special guest Sims.
In turn, Sims has toured throughout the world and performed live with artists such as The Temptations, Four Tops, Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers), 10,000 Maniacs and Oasis’s Noel Gallagher.
He currently is director of jazz studies at West Virginia University and has a repertoire of more than 35 recordings in addition to his work for theme parks, video games and television commercials.
Jack of Diamonds, presented by the Blues Society of Western Pennsylvania, is a Pittsburgh-based acoustic duo performing original blues and Americana.
Roberts brings ragtime, stride and New Orleans piano. Organizers said Roberts is one of the world’s leading proponents of early jazz piano, with appearances on “The Tonight Show” and “A Prairie Home Companion” as well as a role in arranging and performing music for such films as Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator.”
Inner Urge is a jazz-fusion quartet, made up of alumni of IUP’s music program. It tours regionally and released an album of original material last year.
More details can be found at www.WestsylvaniaJazzAndBlues.org or on the festival’s Facebook page.