This year’s theme is “Indianapolis Women in Jazz” with Hazel Johnson Strong and “The Famili” band of Carl Hines, Steve Weakly, Frank Smith, Clifford Ratliff and Larry Clark. Special guests will be Martha and The Vandellas and Kathi Schrodeder. Also featured will be Aretta LaMarr, Brenda Walls, Anita Walker, Ann Garnett, Carmela Thomas, Carol Harris and the Melvin Rhyne Trio, Dana Washington and James Blane & Spirit. Debuting new, young jazz artists are Monique Miller, saxophone, Steve Merkel, harmonica harp, The Paul Craig Trio and Monika McGee, vocalist.
Johnson Strong has been a prolific community service activist. She is the founder and organizer of Indianapolis Women In Jazz, dedicated to educating and supporting emerging talent among inner-city children learning and performing jazz. “It’s very important to me that our kids continue to learn,” she stated. “I have got to do something about it. ‘Pookie’ Johnson, Melvin Rhyne and I were doing very positive things teaching inner-city children jazz. We want to continue that but we don’t have a building now, a place to do it and that’s what we are looking for.”
Hazel Johnson Strong is a soft-spoken, spiritual, almost self-effacing person off stage who has sung with George Benson, Duke Ellington’s Orchestra and numerous other jazz luminaries, local and national, during her career. She is a strong person who is making a difference by giving back to the inner city’s youth.
They met attending Ball State University. Betheny and Glenn Dunlap married, but also formed their own jazz-oriented group featuring Betheny’s vocals. She admits it was listening to Sinatra in high school that started her singing. Glenn Dunlap is the pianist/leader and arranger of the Neapolitan Trio.
Their first CD is Walk In a Dream, which is an original the couple composed for their son, and “Cotton Candy Sky” for their daughter. The eight other tunes on the CD represent their range of musical taste, from Andy Razaf and Cy Coleman to John Mayer and Peter Gabriel.
The Dunlaps are very upbeat about Indy’s jazz scene. “It seems like the economy and the local market is starting to rebound. There are many opportunities now for musicians to play. It’s a pretty exciting time,” Glenn stated. Betheny echoed his sentiments: “Jazz in Indianapolis is so exciting.”
They have mainly performed at the Circle City Bar and Grille in the downtown Marriott Hotel but Saturday, Aug. 28 they step onto the bandstand at the Jazz Kitchen for their CD release party from 5 to 7 p.m. Based on Walk In a Dream, Betheny Dunlap & Neapolitan should gather a crop of new fans at Indy ‘s premier jazz club.
Jazz In Watkins Park, sponsored by American Legion Post 249, will feature the Melvin Rhyne & David Young Group Sunday, Aug. 29. It’s a free concert from 5 to 8 p.m. Broad Ripple Park’s free series of jazz sponsored by Indy Parks, 107.9 WTPI and the Broad Ripple Village Association winds down, featuring the horns and grooves of Seven Pleasures Tuesday, Aug. 31 playing 7 to 9 p.m. Taste of Indiana features the Steve Allee Big Band playing 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28.
Essence Factor (formerly Sounds of Essence) will play at the School 110 Back to School Carnival Celebration sponsored by Indy Parks Tuesday, Aug. 26 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Essence Factor will also play 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 27 in Noblesville at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds for The Julian Center’s Amish Market Preview Party and Sale. Fountain Square Theatre Friday Night Swing Dance Aug. 27 will feature the RT Swing Explosion, playing 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. Bourbon Street Distillery has The Uptown Quartet playing Friday, Aug. 27 from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. Jazz on the Avenue presents the Everett & Larry Greene Quintet Friday, Aug. 27 performing 6 to 10 p.m.
Chatterbox, 435 Massachusetts Ave. Friday, Aug. 27, Monsalve/Perez Quartet. Saturday, Aug. 28, Brazilian grooves by Elizabeth Souza & Ipanema. Sets: 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, 45 S. Illinois St. “Sizzling Steaks & Jazz Sunday” Aug. 29 features Cozette & Sean Baker, 7 to 10 p.m.
Jazz Kitchen, 54 Street and College Avenue. Friday, Aug. 27, vocal grooving by Cynthia Layne at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, vocalist Betheny Dunlap & Neapolitan CD release party 5 to 7 p.m. Dynamic vocalist Brenda Williams at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. D’Vine Wine Bar, 86th and Keystone in Woodfield Shopping Center, Thursday, Aug. 26, Jeff Deherdt, keyboards, 8 p.m. to midnight. Friday, Aug. 27, Bill Lancton solo guitar. Saturday, Aug. 28, George Middleton, keyboards, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Smokehouse Cafe, County Line Road and Meridian Street. Sunday Jazz Brunch features The Impulse Trio 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pauly’s Italian Restaurant, Southport Road and Highway 37. Saxophonist Sophie Faught & Maiden Voyage Wednesdays, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Fridays, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Rick’s Cafe Boatyard, 4050 Dandy Trail. The Art Trio plays Friday, Aug. 27. Jennifer Kirk Trio plays Saturday, Aug. 27 from noon to 3 p.m. Monica Herzig’s Acoustic Project takes over from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Chuck Workman is the producer/host of the Sunday Morning Jazz Show at 107.9 WTPI.