Paying tribute to a musician who is above and beyond the ranks of others and is acknowledged as the greatest on his instrument is not an easy task. But local jazz fans and admirers of Wes Montgomery did just that in 1984, starting the Wes Fest at Washington Park. Veteran jazz DJ at WICR Ralph Adams of JazzLine Inc. took over the production and operation from the originator, Pete Pipkin, and moved the event downtown to the Canal Walk at 700 St. Clair St. It became a two-day event and maintained its appeal because it"s the only free jazz festival in Indy.
Grammy-nominated pianist Danilo Perez will play the Jazz Kitchen Saturday evening.
The Wes Fest sustained itself with some brilliant jazz by local and national jazz artists in spite of lean economic times until 1999. After a two-year absence, the 16th Annual Wes Montgomery Jazz Festival is back Sept. 14 and 15 with a new co-presenting team of JazzLine Inc. and the Urban Arts Consortium of Indianapolis. I was given an insight into the workings by producer Ralph Adams. NUVO: What are some of the long-range goals you hope to have for this event? ADAMS: No. 1 is the rebuilding of the Wes Montgomery Jazz Festival, primarily. No. 2 is to get people involved in the Urban Arts Consortium because there is a school there, where young kids can go and learn various crafts. No. 3, JazzLine Inc. is fully in support of the Montgomery legacy. It"s been a joy where I can showcase the family legacy as well as the educational standpoint and give the community this prominence. Wes is prominent in the world. The Friday music lineup will be The Charlie Smith Project, Jeff Deherdt Quartet, Keni Washington & Omniverse and Alonzo "Pookie" Johnson & the Indy All Stars. Saturday lineup is Larry Calland & Conga Jazz, Bill Lancton, Mary Moss & The Carl Hines Quintet, The Corn Brothers Trio and Michael Brown. Music starts at 4 p.m. Vendors of goods and food will be available. For more information, call 927-7260. Jazz happenings Like the sound of jazz, the local jazz scene is an ever-evolving event. More new jazz activity is taking place downtown. Ruth"s Chris Steakhouse downtown has launched its new jazz policy. "Ruth"s Chris Providing Sizzling Steaks & Jazz Every Sunday" takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 15 the dynamic vocals of the Brenda Williams Trio are featured. I caught last Sunday"s debut with Ken Fary on keyboards, Fred Withrow on bass and Wendy Reed on vocals. Management has made an ideal setting for intimate jazz in an alcove across the room from the bar on the street level, where diners and those on hand for an evening"s libations can enjoy the musical offerings. The sound level is comfortable so you can carry on a conversation and still pick up on what"s happening on the bandstand. Reed"s voice was a great fit for the evening as she swung, crooned and told convincing stories on standards from the great American songbook. She gave a heartfelt reading on "What"s New" and Fary and Withrow dug in with a swinging romp on "I"ll Remember April" in solos and in support behind Reed as she soared over the tempo. The evening was full of musical highlights from this trio and last Sunday evening"s jazz did sizzle along with those steaks. The Chatterbox will debut the Latin/Cuban Jazz Ensemble of Consunto Urbanos Friday, Sept. 13. Saturday, Sept. 14 pianist/vocalist Jeff DeHerdt"s Quartet returns. The Jazz Kitchen will heat up for dancers Friday the 13th with the Noche Latina Dance Finals for couples, with a $1,000 grand prize. DJ Marco Dominguez will host the evening"s activities. Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Danilo Perez, from Panama, brings his trio in Saturday, Sept. 14 for two shows at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Sullivan"s Steakhouse will feature the trio of Claude Sifferlen on piano, Joe Deal on bass and Ron Brinson on drums Friday, Sept. 13 and Saturday, Sept. 14 from 7 to 11:30 p.m. Jazz on the Avenue in the Madame Walker Theatre Center will have a jamming party Friday, Sept. 13 as the "Lady with a Song," Mary Moss, has her annual "Pre-Birthday Bash" from 6:30 to 10 p.m. The Indiana Historical Society"s second week of free Concerts on the Canal on its plaza will showcase the outstanding Buselli/Wallerab Jazz Orchestra Thursday, Sept. 12 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Chuck Workman is the producer/host of the Sunday Morning Jazz Show at 107.9 WTPI.