It’s just what college kids dreading dead week need and everything work-whipped grown-ups in Denton look forward to: Denton Arts & Jazz Festival.
It unfolds on Friday — and it doesn’t matter that, as of Wednesday, there was rain in the opening-day forecast. The festival happens rain or shine. Bring a poncho and some old shoes.
Quakertown Park will be lined with scores of fine arts booths, and stages will be a-swirl with music and dance. Bounce houses will be at the ready, and the greasiest confections will be good and plenty.
And for the festival troupers — the folks who stake out a spot at the Jazz Stage in the morning and guard it jealously until the headliners go on — there is almost too much music. If you’re looking for the best of the fest, head out to see the headlining acts.
David Sanborn Trio
David Sanborn isn’t afraid to play “Da Butt” on a boat.
Among the alto sax player’s serious, serious work, there’s a man who knows how to throw a party — and there’s video proof from a cruise Sanborn played just last year.
Sanborn headlines the festival’s opening night on Friday with the David Sanborn Trio, which includes Joey DeFrancesco and Byron Landham.
Sanborn has racked up Grammy Awards — six in all. He can work his way around the studio — he’s played sessions for David Bowie, and has lent his composition and arranging chops to the movies (if you’ve seen all the Lethal Weapon movies, you’ve heard a lot of Sanborn).
The Denton Arts & Jazz Festival has brought in a lot of flavors of jazz to open the free festival. Past years have featured New Orleans sax man Branford Marsalis, Cuban trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval and brainy jazz pianist Chick Corea. Sanborn represents a jazz that lives in the middle of soulful R&B, the organic rock of Eric Clapton and all the excess of the 1980s. It was Sanborn’s “Seduction” that was featured in American Gigolo.
DeFrancesco joins Sanborn at the keyboard. Known for his ease at the keys, DeFrancesco‘s Hammond B-3 should bring a cool edge to Sanborn’s heat. Crack drummer Landham can keep the trio in the pocket, but he can also turn a song around on a pin, going steady to blistering without blinking.
Sanborn’s last release, Only Everything, came out in 2010, followed in 2011 by an anthology of his work, Then Again.
Fans will get a little bit of everything Sanborn plays on stage: some pop, some funk, some rock and lots of jazz.
The ‘Original’ Blues Brothers Band
One O’clock Lab Band alumnus and saxophone player “Blue Lou” Marini returns to Denton this weekend with one of his longtime gigs: the Blues Brothers.
What began as a sketch on Saturday Night Live (that’s before Tina Fey and Amy Poehler became SNL juggernauts) grew into a band and, eventually, a movie. Marini was a member of the SNL band when Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi conceived and staged the sketch, and Lake Dallas resident (and former Wings member) Steve Howard still wields a trumpet in the band. (University of North Texas alumnus Tom “Bones” Malone was on Briefcase Full of Blues in the late 1970s.)
Today, Marini and Howard share the lineup with guitarists Steve Cropper and Joe Tropea, keyboardist Leon Pendavaris, bassist Eric Udel, drummer Lee Finkelstein and trombone player Larry Farrell and vocalist Bobby Harden. The group also performs with special guest Johnny Rosch on vocals and harmonica.
The Blues Brothers seemed fated for success. Aykroyd and Belushi are iconic comedians, but it doesn’t hurt that some music royalty is in the band members’ history — Late Show with David Letterman bandleader Paul Schaffer, for one. At the turn of the millennium, Blues Brothers 2000 got the band back together to hit movie screens again, and the group still performs internationally every year.
The Blues Brothers band still slings the music that gave it legs. Straight-up blues, blues rock and soulful laments reminiscent of the good old days of doo-wop. Aykroyd and Belushi brought the charisma in spades, but it was always the band that carried it.
Business hasn’t slowed a bit for Denton’s Brave Combo. A frequent guest of Westfest, the two-time Grammy-winning polka band is calling fans to help out the residents of West after last week’s enormous plant explosion devastated the small Central Texas town. Brave Combo has performed at Westfest since 1979, and the band is asking fans on its website to consider doing what they can to help the town.
It’s a busy weekend for Brave Combo founding member and frontman Carl Finch, who’s also celebrating a CD release with the Nice Musics, a side project run by Copper Box member Danny Jerabek.
Sunday is Brave Combo’s first jazz fest appearance since the release of the band’s intense, feverish 2012 release, Sounds From the Hollow. The record is a musical melting pot of the band’s influences. There are the Czech sounds, some Italian attitude, Mexican moves, German musings and some very Texas tastes. As for a particular track, “Zombiefied,” it’s not clear what geographical home it hails from, but it’s most definitely the product of an imaginative band.
These days, the combo is made up of Finch, longtime saxophone and clarinet player Jeffrey Barnes, longtime trumpet player Danny O’Brien and drummer Alan Emert, bassist Little Jack Melody and accordion player Ginny Mac.
In the past, Brave Combo has always gifted festivalgoers with the Chicken Dance, but the band continues to bring some surprises to the stage. If fans are lucky, Brave Combo will perform “History of a Love,” “Jesusita en Chihuahua” or maybe even its nuanced version of “America the Beautiful” from Hollow.
LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877.
DENTON ARTS & JAZZ FESTIVAL
When: 5 to 11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday
Where: Quakertown Park, 321 E. McKinney St.
Details: Admission is free. Parking is available in the Wells Fargo parking lot in downtown Denton. Street parking is also available. No coolers or pets allowed in the Jazz Stage area. An information booth will be located near concessions, and look for the volunteer badges.
On the Web: www.dentonjazzfest.com