Twelfth annual AmeriCU Jazz-N-Caz returns with swing, big bands and blues

— For a dozen years, Jazz-N-Cazas brought top-shelf performers to the Catherine Cummings Theatre at Cazenovia College — acts such as Melba Moore, Vince Giordano, the Brubeck Brothers and Gap Mangione.

This year festival director Colleen Prossner has outdone herself by booking three nights of rock’em sock’em entertainment ranging from chanteuse Jennifer Holliday, Broadway’s original “Dreamgirl” to trumpeter Al Chez & The Brothers of Funk, a boisterous big band from New Jersey.

The proceedings will be punctuated with exclamation marks by Rome, N.Y. clarinetist Ron Joseph, Brooklyn bluesman Allan Harris and Russian saxophonist Igor Butman.

The 2013 AmeriCU Jazz-N-Caz festival begins with a bang when Central NY’s best brassman — Jeff Stockham — plays both trumpet and French horn with his Jazz Police at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19, at the Brae Loch Inn. These Jazz Police officers walk a downbeat, playing in styles ranging from cool jazz to hot bop.

A gifted vocalist and Tony Award-winning actress, Jennifer Holliday will sing at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, at the Cummings Theatre, followed by a tribute to the late Dixieland clarinetist Jack Maheu at 8 p.m. before a rousing 9 p.m. set of blues and show tunes by guitarist Allan Harris. The New York Times described Harris as “a protean talent … a baritone crooner with a husky edge.”

On Saturday, Sept. 21, Al Chez & the Brothers of Funk kick out the jams at 7:30 p.m. at the theater followed by a set of songs by Jimmy Van Heusen — the late, great Hollywood melody man who won Cazenovia College’s first Distinguished Alumni Award in 1961. At 9 p.m., the festival will swing out in style with Igor Butman & the Moscow Jazz Orchestra.

A talented saxophonist from Leningrad, Butman fronts a big band praised by DownBeat magazine for “rendering both bright numbers and ballads with the precision, flair and swing of the Atomic-era Basie Band on steroids.” If the Jazz-N-Caz audience is lucky, vocalist Fantine Pritoula will sing “Night In Tunisia” here Saturday.

Festival performers will also include the Cazenovia High School vocal and jazz ensembles, and the Cazenovia College Chorale. Jazz After Hours jam sessions hosted by pianist Tom Witkowski are slated for 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights at Seven Stone Steps at the Lincklaen House.

Admission is free at all performances, but donations will be accepted. For more information visit cazenovia.edu/news-and-events/events/jazz-n-caz or call 655-7238.

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