by Jeff Cole
Those who happen to be in Ellicottville this weekend will find that the only thing cooler than a breeze on a summer night is the soulful, upbeat music filling the village’s streets, bars and restaurants.
The 15th annual Ellicottville Jazz and Blues Weekend will be held tonight through Sunday, July 29, at an assortment of venues and will feature 10 musical acts of wide-ranging variety. All music is free and seating will be provided at the outdoor performance areas.
The weekend is a “boutique experience,” according to www.ellicottvilleny.com, as people are free to pull up a chair and listen to the music in between wandering about the village’s many fine restaurants and shops. This year’s Jazz and Blues Weekend will feature the exciting big band sound of the Jim Tudini Band with orchestral strings, playing a wide variety of music selections from ’40s big band swing to Motown to disco.
Brian McFadden, executive director for the Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce, said the weekend’s appeal is a combination of simply being in Ellicottville and the music being played therein. The music, he said, isn’t “heavy jazz and blues.”
“We know our audience,” he said. “Our audience likes that upbeat jazz.”
Kicking off the weekend will be the B.D. Lenz Quartet, a group that plays a mixture of funk, jam band and jazz music, who will play from 7-11 p.m. tonight at Balloons Restaurant and Nightclub, 20 Monroe St. Also playing on Monroe Street tonight will be the Jony James Band, led by Jony James, a Buffalo-born, Chicago-bred guitarist who has drawn comparisons to the late great Stevie Ray Vaughn and is described on his website as “overflowing with soul.” The Jony James Band, which has been voted “Best Blues Band” two years in a row by “Artvoice,” will perform from 9:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. July 28 at Ellicottville Brewing Company (EBC), 28Monroe St.
The busiest day of the weekend, Saturday, will have six musical acts, some performing as early as 1 p.m. and others playing into the a.m. hours. The Mark Mazur Little Big Band, whose music ranges from jazz to Top 40 to big band, and the Quartet of John Troy, fronted by hard bop-influenced saxophonist John Troy, are both scheduled for 1 p.m. starts, with the former to play until 4 p.m. at the Monroe Street Main Stage and the latter to perform at the EBC.
Mazur, who plays the keyboard and provides vocals for his band, said he is excited for his group to be able to perform outdoors instead of in a club so that he can utilize his seven-piece band, rather than just a quartet.
“I think it will be pretty cool to be a so-called ‘street performer,'” he said. “It’s pretty cool because we play inside all of the time.”
The All Stars, described as a “super-talented group of Balloon’s favorite music masters,” will show off its jazz and blues chops from 6-10 p.m. Saturday at Balloons Restaurant and Nightclub. The EZ3 Band will showcase its smooth jazz sound at 7 p.m. Saturday at The Silver Fox Patio, Hughes Alley.
Liz Boberg, the lead vocalist for the EZ3 Band, said she always enjoys playing in the jazz and blues weekend.
“It’s a fabulous time for anybody to be in Ellicottville because of the variety of music that you’re going to hear that you don’t necessarily get to be this close to and I feel very honored to be a part of it,” she said.
From 8 p.m. until midnight Saturday, The Untouchables, which features Blues Brothers-style blues and more, will perform at Madigan’s, 36 Washington St. Mojo Hand, who, according to its website, plays “traditional rhythm and blues, blues, soul and funky stuff,” will play at 9 p.m. that day at EBC.
Rounding out the weekend on Sunday will be three bands. The Quartet of John Troy is slated to play at 1 p.m. at EBC, and The Jim Tudini Band with Strings will perform from 1-3 p.m. at the Monroe Street Main Stage. The last musical act, The Chris O’ Leary Band, which “sings the blues with style,” will play from 3-7 p.m. at Balloons Restaurant and Nightclub.
While his band has played at least five times at this jazz and blues weekend, this will be the first time that Jim Tudini’s group of musicians will be accompanied during the weekend by four extra string players.
“We wanted to change the color of the band, turn it into a more orchestral kind of accompaniment, just to bring those string colors into the mix,” he said. “And we’ve added the four string parts to the original repertoire, so every tune was taken apart and four string parts were added and pretty much now, we have the entire repertoire, which is quite huge as a matter of fact, all include string parts,” he said.
When his band played at the Ellicottville Jazz and Blues Weekend for the first time, Tudini said, it “started off there trying to convince the people that we were worth it.”
“Now, when we come, they’re right down the street waiting for us. Honest to God, I’m not bragging, it’s a fact. We get a standing ovation every year. It’s a wonderful, wonderful experience,” he said.