2010 Indy Jazz Fest Grand Finale at Optimist Park: Najee, the Mike Stern Band, Owl Studios All Stars, and More

The 2010 Indy Jazz Fest has seen a lot of star musicians from around the world come to Indianapolis to showcase the different mutations and combinations of jazz music in the 21st century. Raul Midón kicked off the Indianapolis festival on Monday with his breed of funk/soul influenced jazz, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band brought New Orleans flavor to the Circle City on Tuesday, Simone, the daughter of the High Priestess of Soul, is coming to town today, and this Friday will see performances by Broadway star and Billie Holiday enthusiast Dee Dee Bridgewater and hip hop turntablist DJ Logic. But the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest is saving the best for last: an all afternoon, all evening Indianapolis music blowout featuring six great jazz groups at Optimist Park (across from the Indianapolis Art Center). The grand finale of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest promises to be the best night of the whole celebration; if you’re going to go to one concert from the festival, go to this one.

The grand finale of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest starts at noon with the High School Jazz Showcase. This opening act will put the two winners of the Ball State University High School Jazz Competition on the big stage at Optimist Park, a big deal for these Indianapolis area high schools. The two winners of the competition were Bloomington North High School from Bloomington, Indiana and Kokomo High School from Kokomo, Indiana. This Indianapolis music event is a great opportunity to see some of the best young musicians from Indiana schools showing off their newfound chops in front of hundreds of Indianapolis jazz aficionados.

Video of the Bloomington North High School Jazz Band performing the Count Basie Midwest Suite; the Bloomington North High School Jazz Band will be performing as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest in Indianapolis


After the young jazz men and women leave the stage, the professionals will take over. At 2:00, the Owl Studios All Stars will provide a veritable who’s who of Indianapolis jazz musicians. Owl Studios is a local Indianapolis music label that deals almost exclusively in jazz; their roster includes traditional jazz bands, progressive jazz, jazz using woodwinds, brass, ivory, everything. The Owl Studios All Stars will comprise some of the best Indianapolis musicians on the label, including pianist and co-owner of the Jazz Kitchen, Steve Allee, drummer Mike Clark (who is also playing at PROLOGUE on September 17), saxophonist Rob Dixon, trumpeter Pharez Whitted, R&B singer Cynthia Layne, and guitarist Fareed Haque. This will likely be the only chance you get to see all these stellar musicians together in one Indianapolis band.

Video of the Steve Allee Trio performing at the Jazz Kitchen; Steve Allee will be playing with the Owl Studios All Stars as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest in Indianapolis


At 4:00, the Owl Studios All Stars will give way for more New Orleans flavor with the Charmaine Neville Band. Charmaine Neville is a member of the musical Neville family of New Orleans, a family that includes the Neville Brothers, a soul group that released over a dozen albums from 1978 on. Charmaine herself performed with the Neville Brothers, singing backup vocals before taking over her own band. A woman of exemplary character, Charmain Neville was able to escape the rubble of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in a commandeered transit bus, a story that was all over New Orleans media at the time. Indianapolis residents will get the chance to hear her soulful, danceable band in full swing on Saturday.

Video of the Charmaine Neville Band covering “I Put a Spell On You” live; the Charmaine Neville Band will be performing as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest in Indianapolis


The fourth group performing at the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest grand finale is the Mike Stern Band, headed by five time Grammy nominee Mike Stern. Stern is a jazz fusion guitarist whose career has already lasted three decades; needless to say, he’s got quite a bit of experience at his disposal. Over the course of his lengthy career, Stern has performed with Miles Davis, Jaco Pastorius, and drummer Dave Weckle. He released his first album as a leader, Neesh, in 1985, and from there his career as a leader grew with Time In Place and Jigsaw. In 1993, he was named the “Best Jazz Guitarist of the Year” by Guitar Player; his next two albums, What it Is and Between the Lines, both earned him Grammy nominations. Down Beat magazine awarded Mike Stern high honors in 2009, when the publication put him on the list of 75 Great Guitarists in jazz. His performance for the Indy Jazz Fest on Saturday should be electrifyingly dynamic; Stern has the chops, experience, and backing band to put on one of the best shows of the week.

Video of the Mike Stern Band performing live in Tokyo; the Mike Stern Band will be performing as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest in Indianapolis


If there’s anybody that can beat out Mike Stern for awards at the grand finale of the Indy Jazz Fest, it’s the fifth performer, Al Jarreau. Jarreau has won five Grammys in addition to several independent, international music awards. A musician since the age of four, Jarreau has music in his blood. He began his musical career in San Francisco before migrating to New York, where he played the usual circuit of clubs and nightlife venues. He has appeared on television many times, performing for Johnny Carson, David Frost, and more. The flow of Grammys began in 1975, when he won a German Grammy for his debut album, We Got By. He won and was nominated for several more Grammys for his albums throughout the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. His performance at the grand finale of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest should be an inspirational performance by one of the top jazz singers alive today.

Video of Al Jarreau performing “Since I Fell For You” live in 2008; Al Jarreau will be performing as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest in Indianapolis


The final musician of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest takes the stage at Optimist Park at 9:15: New York saxophonist and flautist Najee. His debut album, Najee’s Theme, went platinum and was nominated for a Grammy; Day by Day, his second album, also achieved platinum status. The musician has worked alongside many top names in the jazz world, including Chaka Kahn, Herbie Hancock, Billy Cobham, Stanley Clarke, Prince, and Phil Perry. The performance by this award winning, highly influential artist should be the perfect way to cap off a week full of jazz.

Video of Najee performing “Sapphire” live; Najee will be playing as part of the 2010 Indy Jazz Fest in Indianapolis


The 2010 Indy Jazz Fest’s finale at Optimist Park will be a grand, jazzy blowout that’s a fitting end to one of the classic Indianapolis events. Six different groups will be showcasing sub-genres of jazz in a virtuosic schedule of events. You’ll see performances by jazz up and comers with the High School Jazz Showcase, the best of Indianapolis jazz musicians with the Owl Studios All-Stars, New Orleans funk and soul with Hurricane Katrina heroine Charmaine Neville, dynamically engaging jazz vocals with Al Jarreau, complex fusion guitar with the Mike Stern Band, and smooth saxophone jazz with platinum artist Najee. If you haven’t been to any of the other stellar concerts that have been going on at the Indy Jazz Fest, this is your last chance to see what all the fuss is about.

2010 Indy Jazz Fest Finale at Optimist Park
Saturday, September 18 at 12:00 – 10:00 p.m.
Tickets: $25

Noon – High School Jazz Showcase
2:00 – Owl Studios All-Stars
4:00 – Charmaine Neville Band
5:45 – Mike Stern Band
7:30 – Al Jarreau
9:15 – Najee

Optimist Park
67th and College Ave (across from Indianapolis Art Center)
Indianapolis, IN 46220

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