Make a Scene: Jazz and Blues Festival returns May 25

On May 25, the 11th annual Tacoma Jazz and Blues Festival will bring some of the best regional players to the Swiss Pub and Harmon Pub & Brewery in downtown Tacoma and Stonegate Pizza on South Tacoma Way.

“What (the festival) means to me, and I think the other guys, is just keeping this music visible, keeping it relevant and letting lots of people realize there's all kinds of great jazz and blues happening around here,” said Rich Wetzel, who books the festival with South Sound Blues Association president Gary Grape.

For this year's festival, the blues stage will be set up at the Harmon Pub, with music starting at 12:30 p.m. The big band stage will go from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Swiss, and the evening stage will showcase Wetzel's Groovin' Higher Jazz Orchestra - performing with special guest trumpet player, Mike Vax - starting at 8 p.m. at the Stonegate.

Vax – a native of San Francisco – is known for playing with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, the Clark Terry Big Bad Band and the U.S. Navy Show Band. “Every major entertainer you can think of – Mel Torme, all these people – he's played with,” Wetzel said. “The last few years, he's been the bandleader of the Stan Kenton Alumni Band.”

Vax will also give a trumpet clinic with the Tacoma Community College Jazz Band at 7:30 p.m. on May 21 at the TCC Student Center. The event is free and open to trumpet players and aspiring jazz musicians of all ages.

The blues headliner this year is keyboard player Arthur Migliazza, who will headline the Harmon from 5 to 6 p.m. Migliazza started playing piano at age 9 and his playing was influenced by listening to the likes of Otis Spann, Champion Jack Dupree and Professor Longhair.

Before he relocated to the Northwest, Migliazza was inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame and was a finalist at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in 2010.

“He's just a phenomenal keyboard player, boogie-woogie style blues,” Grape said. “I've never heard anybody play as good as this guy can. When you watch or hear him play, you're just amazed at how fast his fingers fly around the keyboard.”

Festival Schedule

Blues Stage at Harmon Pub & Brewery

1938 Pacific Ave.

(admission is free and open to all ages):

12:30 p.m. Steve Cooley and the Dangerfields

2 p.m. The Cody Rentas Band

3:30 p.m. Maia Santell and House Blend

5 p.m. Arthur Migliazza

Big band stage at the Swiss Restaurant & Pub, 1904 S. Jefferson Ave.

(admission is free and open to all ages):

1 p.m. Johnny Lewis Big Band

3:30 p.m. Roadside Attracton

Evening stage at Stonegate Pizza & Rum Bar, 5419 South Tacoma Way

(there is a $5 cover charge and patrons must be 21 or older to enter):

8 p.m. Rich Wetzel's Groovin' Higher Jazz Orchestra with special guest Mike Vax

More information is available at http://www.tacomajazzandblues.org

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