CMC Jazz Festival : A Week Of Feel Good Jazz!

CMC Jazz Fest Reviews

There were so many great performances during the week long CMC Jazz Festival in July 2018. Check out a couple of the reviews from our entertainment editor and contributing writers from some of the events. 


CMC Free Day of Jazz Shinning Example of Buffalo’s Love For The Greatest Art Form

by Matt Bauer / Entertainment Editor

From Onaje Allan Gumbs to Mwenso & the Shakes, there has been no shortage of superlative performances during this year’s CMC International Jazz Festival from global and local artists, respectively.

Saturday July 28 with a free line-up, outside (and inside) the venue was a fitting conclusion to this year’s edition, as the diverse crowd came out under the sun (and a bit of the wet stuff) for the afternoon.

The Jacob Jay Quintet and The Alex McArthur quintet opened the proceedings outside while the sublime Sarainade chilled the Indoor Club Stage. Toney Rhodes had everyone under the “Buffalo Spell” (the title of the Buffalo prodigy’s 2015 album) first performing as a duo with drummer Carl “Flute” Jackson for two songs before bassist Jerry Livingston joined the stage for the theme song of “The Backyardigans.” Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” all performed with a funky panache.

The clouds started to roll in during Jazz Example’s tasteful traditionalism, helping set things up for the Janice Mitchell quartet’s dose of musical sunshine. The vocalist’s vocals on “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning” and “On The Sunny Side of The Street” were electrifying and “Drown In My Own Tears” seemed especially appropriate as a closer since the rain started coming down during Why Not?, otherwise solid following set.

Matt Bauer/Entertainment Editor

Thankfully, the clouds dried up for Kevin Hall. The saxman grooved effortlessly as the sun peaked back out during an especially soulful cover of Floetry’s “Say Yes.” Overall, the day was a shining example of Buffalo coming out to support its own and one of America’s greatest art forms.





Michael Mwensa and the Shakes Came to Buffalo and Shook Up the Jazz Scene !

by Gail V Wells/ Consultant MSAAHC

Michael Mwensa and the Shakes on Stage at the Colored Musicians Club during the 2018 Jazz Cats Festival ph; GW/challengernews

Michael Mwensa and the Shakes are known for shaking things up and that is exactly what they did on Friday night (7/27) at the historic Colored Musicians Club.

As one of the featured artists at the 2018 CMC International JazzFest, Mwensa and The Shakes did not disappoint. They provided a sold out crowd with two intense, entertaining and educational 90 minute shows informed by classic big bands, early James Brown & The Famous Flames, Billy Holiday among other African American musical legends.

The show was unlike any that Jazz aficionados typically experience because there is nothing typical about The Shakes, who combine jazz with the moves of James Brown, tap dance and the vocal and musicality of talented musicians from around the world is in one word “Unforgettable.” The Shakes are lead by Michael Mwenso, vocalist, musician, dancer and hype man, born in Sierra Leone in 1984.

At age 11 Mwenso was mesmerized by the showmanship and brilliance of James Brown who became a major influence in shaping his delivery. As Mwenso states at the International Jazz Day held in Harlem this year (4/30), “You’re getting a generation of holistic musicians who love Louis Armstrong just as much as Woody Shaw and Ornette Coleman.

They want to be free in all styles of musicfree in themselves. We’re figuring out ways to play this music as art, but as entertainment too.” Mwenso delivers as both an entertainer and artist and we as an audience of Jazz lovers benefit from his style and grace.

Contributing Writer/Gail Wells

Thank you, Colored Musicians Club for shaking up our world.

We can’t wait to see the lineup for the 2019 Festival !







Excellence at CMC  Round Robin Piano Tribute to Jazz Legend Cecil Taylor 

George Caldwell with Simona Primazzi on the Baby Grand and Michael McNeill with Walter Kemp on the Upright for “Let Me Be Free” Round Robin Tribute to Cecil Taylor at 2018 CMC Jazz Festival

by Leah Hamilton /ChallengerNews

The stage was set in a Hallwalls cozy concert hall , dimly lit, with one Upright and one Baby Grand piano under the spotlight awaiting the skillful hands of four magnificent pianist George Caldwell, Walter Kemp, Simona Primazzi and Michael McNeill for “Let Me Be Free” their round robin tribute the master of the free jazz revolution pianist Cecil Taylor.

Simona Primazzi went beyond a woman’s touch at the baby grand with a cinematic capsule of music adding classical dramatics and jazz mystery to her opening solo and throughout her performance followed by George Caldwell on Upright piano who energized the audience into a toe tapping bop with tunes influenced by Bud Powell and Dizzy Gillespie that left everyone in a seat rocking mood.

Michael McNeill , the third pianist to the stage on the Baby Grand started his set with a joke about the crash course piano lesson he got backstage listening to Primazzi and Caldwell, before playing a number of upbeat standards and ending with a ballad by Ornette Coleman all on par with his piano playing colleagues.

The final solo was by Walter Kemp who took on the Upright piano first keeping the momentum high with one of his original songs weaved with gospel undertones like the staple food rhythms of jazz history embedded in them, moving on to the baby grand for a Miles Davis classic “Some Day My Prince Will Come” among other selections before adding a beautiful rendition of “Amazing Grace” to acknowledge Buffalo’s musician Ray Scott  who recently passed.

The four pianists kicked up more memories and energy with simultaneous play at each piano, then on to doubles swapping seats keeping a Miles Davis favorite “Freddy” going for continual play in true round robin fashion.

Leah Hamilton Contributor ChallengerNews

There was a bonus to this performance that lead the crowd to access of the Kepm 30h new vinyl release party at  the Hotel Henry . An intimate listening session proceeded a short performance by the band  covering songs from their new album Dark Room that features the dynamic talents of  Walter Kemp, Rishon Odel, and David ‘Teaspoon’ Hulet  Stay tuned for more from one of buffalo’s most watched emerging jazz band!

Next Year’s CMC Jazz Fest Could  Not Come Soon Enough!