Selby Ave. JazzFest History
The Selby and Rondo neighborhoods have always had a wonderful history that revolves around family, community and togetherness. Folks just simply needed a way to rekindle that spirit.”
–Mychael Wright, Owner-Golden Thyme Coffee & Cafe, Founder-Selby Ave JazzFest
The Selby Ave JazzFest began as a vision of Golden Thyme Coffee Cafe owner and Selby community activist Mychael Wright back in the early months of 2002.
“I didn’t have a grand opening celebration for Golden Thyme,” stated Mychael. “I also wanted to see how the community would react to a yearly music fest-type of event.”
“The first anniversary of 9/11 was coming up and you could just tell that people were feeling pretty somber,” he added. “I then thought to myself, ‘I’m tired of feeling this way. We need to celebrate the good things that are going on in this world…especially here on Selby.’ Nothing gets people together like a good old-fashioned block party, so we took it from there.”
The inaugural Selby Ave JazzFest took place on Milton Avenue between Dayton and Selby Avenues. A small, but enthusiastic crowd of 600 people enjoyed an afternoon of great local jazz, food…and a much-needed dose of community healing.
“The morning started out rainy and kind of cold. I looked at my wife Stephanie and wondered what the heck we were going to do if the weather stays this way,” recalled Mychael. “Around noon, the sky opened up and beautiful sunshine shown through.”
He then added, “It turned out to be a perfect fall day which was great because I think most folks were tired of feeling down about the events of the past year.”
“I tell you people came early and stayed late this year,” stated Mychael. “We usually don’t start to notice if we’re getting a larger crowd until 5:00 or so. This year, things were busy at 3:00!
The weather had a lot to do with attendance for it was the 6th Fest in a row with beautiful conditions.
“All performers played tight sets; however, this is the year where the ladies really shined,” added Mychael. “Patty Lacy put together a wonderful band that featured an amazing set of back-up singers. And headliner Goapele…well what can I say? She was magnificent. People are still talking about her performance.”
Another top-notch day was again provided by the weatherman…high 60’s and not a cloud in the sky. “This year’s lineup featured an interesting mix of everything, which was pretty cool,” explained Mychael. “On one hand, we had a number of young performers grace the stage including students from Walker West and a really great set from Elaina McRath who really got people talking to a beyond smoking performance from Cuban-born pianist Nachito Herrara. It was quite the day!”
Performing Artists: Selby Ave. Brass Band, Walker West Music Academy Students, The Urban Legends of Jazz, Elaina McRath and Friends, Siama’s Congo Roots, Nachito Herrara, The Lao Tizer Band
“Overall, from the time the grounds opened until the sunset, this was perhaps our best top to bottom music lineup,” stated Mychael. “This was the first time that I can remember that people would not leave at 8 AM,” added Mychael. “I was like ‘OK, it’s 8 PM. Time to go.’ and people still wanted more.”
Performing Artists: Selby Ave. Brass Band, Walker West Music Academy Legends of Jazz, New Sound Underground, Salsa del Sol, The Motor SOUL Collective
Mychael pulled out all the stops in celebration of the Fest’s fifteenth anniversary by presenting Grammy Award Winner saxophonist Kirk Whalum. “What a show! What a day!,” stated Mychael in regards to Mr. Whalum’s performance. “When he performed Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” in the crowd…what a moment!” JF15 also featured the reunion of famed pianist Anthony Walker and his father, Walker West founder Reverend Carl Walker. “That was a special moment, especially for the elders who have called Selby home for most of their lives,” added Mychael.
Performing Artists: Selby Ave. Brass Band (formerly Dick & Jane’s), Walker West Music Academy Legends of Jazz, Brio Brass, The Men of New Hope, Anthony Walker Review, Kirk Whalum
Another beautiful fall day! The 14th anniversary featured a smoking’ set from headliner, Twin Cities resident and former Prince saxophonist Walter Chancellor Jr. “People need to know about the talent that sits here in their backyard,” stated Mychael.
Performing Artists: Dick & Jane’s Big Brass Band, Walker West Music Academy Urban Legends of Jazz, Lex-Ham Community Band, Jazz Heritage Showcase featuring Dick & Jane Revisited, Maurice Jacox and Eric Kamu Gravatt & SourceCode, Salsa del Sol, Walter Chancellor, Jr.
The weather gods smiled on the nearly 10,000 folks in attendance. Multi-Grammy nominee and drummer extraordinaire Harvey Mason performed to an enthusiastic and appreciative audience.
Performing Artists: Dick & Jane’s Big Brass Band, Brio Brass, Walker West Music Academy Legends of Jazz, Jazz Heritage Showcase featuring Jason Weismann & the Q, Dick & Jane Revisited & Maurice Jacox, Danny Kusz, Harvey Mason
Mother Nature turned things a bit moist for a short time, the second Fest to witness a little rain. “At 4:30, the place was packed; as packed as I’ve ever seen it,” declared Mychael. “Then at 5:00, it began raining and really came down until about 6:30 or so. It slowed down just in time for headliner keyboardist Marcus Johnson. I really appreciated the folks who stayed around until the end.”
Performing Artists: Dick & Jane’s Big Brass Band, Walker West Music Academy Legends of Jazz, Lex-Ham Community Band, Jazz Heritage Showcase, Yohannes Tona, Damon L. Brown, Marcus Johnson
An estimated 8,500 folks got together on another glorious day that featured a clear sky and temps in the high 70’s. NYC-based jazz guitarist Abdul Zuhri and his band along with jazz/r&b vocalist Cheryl Pepsii-Riley served as headliners.
Performing Artists: Dick & Jane’s Big Brass Band, Walker West Music Academy Legends of Jazz, Brio Brass, Salsa Brosa, Jazz Heritage Showcase featuring Pippi Ardennia, Yolande Bruce & Timotha Lanae, Cheryl Pepsii Riley, Abdul Zuhri
JazzFest’s 10th anniversary! Headliner smooth jazz saxophonist and Grammy nominee Gerald Albright, who put on a smoking hour and a half set that had the crowd clamoring for more. “Gerald is a pro, no doubt about it,” stated Mychael. “He loved the feel of the festival, likening it to one large block party.”
Performing Artists: Dick & Jane’s Big Brass Band, Lex-Ham Community Band, Public Newsense, Walker West Music Academy Legends of Jazz, Jazz Heritage Showcase, Salsa del Sol, Gerald Albright
One word could be used to describe the 2010 JazzFest. Perfect! With temps in the low 70’s and the sun shining the entire day, the stage was set for the most successful JazzFest to date. “Seriously, could you ask for a better day?” pondered Mychael. Attendees caught the fine weather’s vibe and all performing artists provided solid sets. An estimated 10,000 people visited the intersection of Selby and Milton to take in the day’s anniversary festivities.
“One thing that stood out for me in terms of our entertainment line-up was the return of the Jazz Heritage Showcase, a collection of Penumbra Theater and Twin City jazz scene regulars that bring back all of the old classics,” stated Mychael. “It was time to get back to discovering the roots of American jazz and boy did they pull it off.”
Headlining the JF10 was jazz bassist extraordinaire Gerald Veasley. “He fired it up!” said Mychael on Veasley’s performance. “His band was tight and he was spot on. What a great way to end one of our
largest Fests to date.”
Performing Artists: Dick & Jane’s Big Brass Band, Brio Brass, Walker West Music Academy All-Stars, Globafo, Jazz Heritage Showcase, Salsabrosa, Gerald Veasly and Band
Stated The Twin Cities Daily Planet about the 2009 Fest, “From all walks of life—some in business, some in the arts, some in education—folk get to congregate, network, and just in general be about a community.”
Over 12,000 people listened, ate, danced and interacted on what could be best described as a perfect fall day. Headliner smooth jazz saxophonist Kim Waters put on a blistering show two-hour set. Over 150 performing artists were featured on the JF09 stage.
Performing Artists: Dick & Jane’s Big Brass Band, Lex-Ham Community Band, Brio Brass, Walker West Music Academy Legends of Jazz, Hagos Berharne, Kim Waters and Band
Simply put, it poured. “I think it was our first real rainstorm in something like eighteen days,” said Mychael. “We started setting up early in the morning when it started. The rain continued until around 4:30 PM when Jason ‘Malletman’ Taylor hit the stage. The clouds left, the sun came out and he went on doing his thing as only he can do.”
Performing Artists: Dick & Jane’s Big Brass Band, Walker West Music Academy Legends of Jazz, Mikhalized, Wenso Ashby & Zsmae Morgan, Yohannes Tona, The John Raymond Project, Salsa del Sol, Jason “Malletman” Taylor
JF07 attracted the largest crowd to date with an estimated 9,500 people attending the event over the course of eight hours. “It was beautiful,” Mychael said of the gathering. A globally diverse mix of music was featured, including the Latin sounds of Salsa del Sol, West African rhythms of SUNplug’d w/ KenWanaku and Caribbean stylings of Irie Sol & Angelo Williamson. The Fest also marked the inaugural year for the Leigh Kamman Award; an honor given to the individual who has contributed to the Twin City’s jazz scene at the grassroots level over the course of their lifetime. Award namesake Leigh Kamman was rightfully awarded the honor for his decades of broadcasting excellence.
The 2007 JazzFest was also awarded “Best Neighborhood Jazz Festival” by Mpls-St. Paul Magazine.
Performing Artists: Dick & Jane’s Big Brass Band, Saint City African Drumming with Pops Rembert, Irie Sol and Angelo Williamson with Caribbean Styles, SUNplug’d with Ken Wanakurm, Urban Legends of Jazz featuring Wilbert Dugas, Felix James, Michael Scroggins, Melvin Carter Sr. & Yolande Bruce, Salsa del Sol with Chai, Wayne McFarland and Jahz.
2006-pioneer press ad-1
For as hot as the ‘05 Fest was, 2006 was just the opposite in the temperature department. “I think a few flakes flew while we were setting things up that morning,” stated Mychael. A crowd of 5,500 braved the “low-50s when the headliner took the stage” performer sets, including the Fest’s first-ever open-stage jam.
Performing Artists: Dick & Jane’s Big Brass Band, Walker West Music Academy Legends of Jazz, Imani, Mommy & Company, Jazz Blues Tech, Wenso Ashby & Zsame Morgan, Patty Lacy, James Wallace Sextet, Jazz Heritage Showcase featuring Yolande Bruce, Geoff Jones, Cynthia Johnson & Ginger Commodore
6,500 people took in a sun-soaked day of great music on what one of the hottest days in the Fest’s history. “It was unseasonably hot. Most folks were perched up next to the building on the south side of Selby and Milton; all trying to grab what little available shade there was,” said Mychael. Headliner Patty Lacy wowed the crowd with a full set of Gospel-influenced jazz originals. The event also featured the second Jazz Heritage Showcase, which included Debby Duncan, Geoff Jones, Thomasina Petrus, Greg Sears and Regina Marie Williams, who put on a dazzling tribute to iconic jazz duos.
Performing Artists: Dick & Jane’s Big Brass Band, Ramsey Junior High Jazz Ensemble, Double Stop Guitar
Trio, Brodini the Magician, Walker West Men’s Jazz Ensemble, Alicia Wiley Jazz Band, Patty Lacy and Her
Contemporary Jazz Ensemble.
JF04 features the first in a number of “Jazz Heritage Showcase” performances. Twin City jazz artists, Geoff Jones, Thomasina Petrus and Greg Sears meticulously recreated the image and vocal stylings of Billie Holiday, Nat King Cole and Billy Eckstein. The crowd of approximately 4,500 also enjoyed performances by St. Paul Central High School’s Jazz Ensemble and JOTO, an Afro-Cuban jazz side project of Mint Condition’s Stokley Williams. “This Fest was one to remember! Joto’s brilliant musicianship had everyone in a state of awe,” recalled Mychael.
Performing Artists: Dick & Jane’s Big Brass Band, Central High School Jazz Ensemble, Cornbread Harris, Dugas-West Jazz Project, JOTO
Mychael expanded the Fest’s grounds to include both Selby and Milton. An estimated crowd of 2,800 enjoyed a regionally focused bill that included Jazz by Fosse, featuring the legendary Irv “Mr. Smooth” Williams, Sara Renner with Billy Steele & Band and national recording artist Cynthia Johnson whose jazzy version of the late 70′s Lipps, Inc. hit Funkytown still has Fest regulars talking.
Performing Artists: Walker West Jazz Ensemble, Felix James Brass Band, Ahanti, Edupoetic, Patty Lacy, Sara Renner with Billy Steele, Irv Williams Band, Cynthia Johnson Band