The 2018 Bellevue Jazz & Blues Festival


Deva Mahal photo courtesy of the artist

May 30–June 3
Various venues, Bellevue, WA

Currently in its 11th year, the Bellevue Jazz & Blues Festival celebrates community and the creative power of music with more than 40 live concerts. Top national and regional artists, as well as promising student talent, appear in venues across downtown Bellevue, with headliners Deva Mahal and the Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio performing at the Meydenbauer Center Theatre. The Eastside’s premier jazz and blues event takes place over the course of five days, running from May 30 through June 3.

Deva Mahal is the daughter of legendary blues musician Taj Mahal, with whom she wrote the song “Never Let You Go” on his Grammy Award-nominated album Maestro. Her inborn passion and soaring talents make her a formidable and inspirational artist. She has performed onstage alongside such legends as Etta James, Dianne Reeves, The Roots, and Cyndi Lauper, and collaborated with a wide-ranging array of artists, including TV on the Radio and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. “My music speaks a lot about pain and heartache, but I dive into those feelings, submerge myself in them so I can work through them and get to the other side,” she has said.

Dr. Lonnie Smith is an unparalleled musician, composer, performer, and recording artist, hailed as a “legend,” a “living musical icon,” and as the most creative jazz organist by a slew of music publications. Always ahead of the curve, it is no surprise Dr. Smith’s fan-base is truly worldwide. In spring of 2017, Smith was the recipient of the NEA Jazz Masters Award, the highest honor in jazz. “Jazz is American Classical,” he proclaims. “And this music is a reflection of what’s happening at the time… The organ is like the sunlight, rain and thunder…it’s all the worldly sounds to me!”

Highlighted artists include Curtis Stigers with The Full Circle Big Band playing a smooth, ballad-heavy blend of soul and rock; Carlos Cascante y su Tumbao, an active member of the Spanish Harlem Orchestra; and the Darelle Holden Quartet, featuring a silky-smooth songstress with deep musicality.

Many Northwest favorites complete the lineup: 2014 Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame inductee Greta Matassa; 2016 Seattle Jazz Hall of Fame inductee Bill Anschell; Northwest piano mainstay Overton Berry; sultry vocalist Gail Pettis; renowned keyboardist Deems Tsutakawa; saxophonist, improviser, and educator Kate Olson; Grammy-nominated instrumentalist Josh Rawlings; top-flight sax man Kareem Kandi; pianist Eric Verlinde; keyboard artist/pianist Darin Clendenin; and many more.

The festival also presents noteworthy performances by the Mark DuFresne Band and the Rumba Kings. DuFresne, a sought-after blues talent, was awarded by The Washington Blues Society as best vocalist, songwriter, and harmonica player more than any other artist. The Rumba Kings are a Spanish guitar-driven instrumental band, comprised of George Stevens (guitar, bouzouki), Johnny Bacolas (producer, bass, bouzouki, guitar), Teddy Adams (guitar), Tor Dietrichson (percussion), and Andrey Zasypkin (drums).

Since its launch, the festival has also hosted a non-adjudicated student showcase featuring college, high school, and middle school ensembles from around the Puget Sound. 2018 participating schools include Edmonds-Woodway High School, with past performances at the Essentially Ellington Competition & Festival in NYC, and Bellevue College Jazz Combo, having performed with top honors at the Lionel Hampton, Reno, and Fullerton Jazz festivals. School bands perform on the final two days at the Bellevue Arts Museum.

Bellevue’s foremost annual jazz and blues music event is sure to reward listeners venturing to the Eastside. Festival events are produced in part by non-profit organization Bellevue Downtown Association and sponsored by the City of Bellevue, Microsoft, Washington Federal, 4Culture, Bellevue Arts Museum, KNKX 88.5 FM, Bellevue Reporter, 425 Magazine, and Gravity Creative.

For tickets and full lineup see online at bellevuedowntown.com or call 1-800-838-3006.

–Marianne Gonterman


Posted on

April 30, 2018