Scranton Jazz Festival features three summer days of cool music

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Scranton Jazz Festival features three summer days of cool music

BY JOSH MCAULIFFE (STAFF WRITER)Published: July 26, 2013

All sorts of cool, wonderful sounds will fill the downtown air when the Scranton Jazz Festival returns for another set next weekend.

Now in its ninth year, the festival will be held Friday through Sunday, Aug. 2 through 4, at Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel.

This year’s headliner is Freddy Cole, younger brother of music icon Nat King Cole. Also set to take the stage are: Grammy Award winner Dave Samuels and the Organik Vibe Trio, with saxophonist Adam Niewood; guitar icon Vic Juris with Jay Anderson and Adam Nussbaum; the Carl Fischer Nouveau Big Band paying tribute to jazz great Maynard Ferguson; and the Benny Carter Saxes.

Returning favorites to the festival include the Keystone College Jazz Institute Student Combos, the Sunday Jazz Brunch plus the Jazz Walk, which will feature local and national acts performing at several downtown venues in addition to the Radisson on the first two nights of the festival. Jazz Walk acts will include the Merchants of Groove, Nate Birkey and the Bog Swing Group.

Friday night’s main stage performances by Indigo Moon Brass Band and La Cuchina – The Ultimate Gato Barbieri Tribute, come with a new wrinkle – free admission. That was possible thanks to funding from Lackawanna County, according to festival artistic director and well-known local musician Marko Marcinko.

Affordable, accessible

Saturday’s tickets cost $15 in advance and $20 at the door, while Sunday’s are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

There also will be a number of vendors selling an eclectic assortment of foods and wines.

“We make it affordable and accessible to the audience of NEPA,” Mr. Marcinko said. “They’re getting the most amazing representation of jazz, blues and world beat music in the world, and they’re getting it in their town for next to nothing.

“It’s about supporting (jazz), which is our American classical music.”

Mr. Cole will perform Sunday, Aug. 4, at 8 p.m. Just before coming to Scranton, he’ll appear with his niece, Natalie Cole, at the prestigious Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island.

“If that doesn’t give us cred, what does?” Mr. Marcinko said. “It’s a real honor for us. … He’s amazing. He’s just one of those guys who for years and years and years was in the trenches, playing clubs. He just did his thing.”

“I’ve never played that festival, and I’ve heard it’s a very good one,” Mr. Cole said during a recent phone conversation.

A pianist and vocalist, Mr. Cole said he and his quartet will offer a program that includes everything “from Broadway to the blues.”

“It all depends upon the crowd in the selections you choose. But it’ll be interesting,” said Mr. Cole, who will likely include songs from his new album, “This and That.” “Whatever happens, we’ll be swinging.”

Mr. Cole grew up in Chicago, the youngest kid in a highly musical family. All of the Cole boys were accomplished players who ultimately made music their livelihood. Mr. Cole started playing around age 5 and had his first professional gig at 12.

Of course, the most popular of the siblings was Nat, a prominent jazz pianist before becoming one of the biggest pop music stars of the 1940s and ’50s, known for such standards as “Mona Lisa,” “Unforgettable” and “The Christmas Song.”

Visited brother in NYC

Mr. Cole was 11 when he first took the train to New York City to visit Nat, who at the time was working with Bing Crosby. During those visits, the brothers would mostly talk sports and go to Brooklyn Dodgers games. Music, Mr. Cole said, “would be the last thing we’d talk about.”

That said, his brother had a huge influence on him musically. “I grew up during that time he impacted all of America,” Mr. Cole said. “He was quite the man.”

While Mr. Cole never achieved the same level of fame as his brother, he’s nonetheless carved out a terrific career within the jazz world. All these decades later, he’s still hitting the road and playing for live audiences. Why? Because “when I get into the music, I don’t care what else is happening at that time,” he said.

“This is all I’ve ever done, so I gotta love it,” he said. “I don’t have my life to live over, but if I did it again I’d do the same thing.”

Contact the writer:, @jmcauliffeTT on Twitter

If you go

What: Ninth annual Scranton Jazz Festival

When: Friday, Aug. 2, to Sunday, Aug. 4

Where: Radisson at Lackawanna Station hotel, as well as various venues throughout downtown Scranton for its Jazz Walk

Details: Admission to the festival is free Friday, Aug. 2. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door for Saturday, Aug. 3, and $20 in advance and $25 at the door for Sunday, Aug. 4. Tickets can be purchased at all local Gallery of Sound locations, by phone at 487-3954, by email at and at the festival’s website, www.scranton

Festival Schedule

Friday, Aug. 2

8 p.m. – Indigo Moon Brass Band

9 p.m. – La Cuchina

10 p.m. to 1 a.m. – Jazz Walk (various venues throughout downtown Scranton)

Saturday, Aug. 3

8 p.m. – The Vic Juris Trio with bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Adam Nussbaum

9 p.m. – Carl Fischer Nouveau Big Band Remembering Maynard Ferguson

10 p.m. to 1 a.m. – Jazz Walk (various venues throughout downtown Scranton)

Sunday, Aug. 4

11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. – The Jazz Brunch, Carmen’s Restaurant in the Radisson

5 p.m. – Keystone College Jazz Institute Student Combos

6 p.m. – The Benny Carter Saxes

7 p.m. – Dave Samuels and the Organik Vibe Trio with saxophonist Adam Niewood

8 p.m. – Freddy Cole

9:30 p.m. to midnight – Festival Jazz Jam

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