Grand Rapids jazz festival to offer two days of free music, familiar and new

Edye Evans Hyde and the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra will open the annual free GRandJazzFest. (Supplied)

By K.D. Norris


There will be some new sounds and some familiar sounds dancing around “The Circle” as the GRandJazzFest 2017 returns to Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 19-20.


Jazz will flow from the opening set — the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra with the superb Edye Evans Hyde fronting, scheduled for 12:30 p.m. on Saturday — to the closing set of Grammy nominated keyboardist Nate Harasim & NILS featuring Brandon Willis, at 7 p.m. on Sunday.


The JazzFest, presented by DTE Energy, is free to the public, with a come-and-go, festival seating format.


Richard Elliot (Supplied/Lori Stoll)

Saxophonist Richard Elliot will headline the festival, with a Saturday night closing set at 8 p.m.


“We’re thrilled to have Richard Elliot headline the sixth annual GRandJazzFest,” Audrey Sundstrom, festival founder, said in supplied material. “He’s a huge name in the jazz and R&B world.”


The Scotland-born, Los Angeles-based, Elliot is one of 11 performers and bands who will play throughout the two-day weekend. The eclectic array of jazz performances includes genres from big band to straight-ahead, from contemporary to Latin-Cuban.


“We have music for everyone,” Sundstrom said. “The great thing about jazz is there are so many types.”


Performers such as the Big band sounds of the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra with Evans Hyde of vocals, and the jazz organ trip of “organissimo”, with Jim Alfredson on the Hammond B3, Larry Barrris on guitar and Randy Marsh on drums, will be pleasingly familiar to local audiences, the festival always opens eyes and ears to something new.


Pianist Nate Harasim will likely be one of those pleasing new sounds for most people.


Nate Harasim, from an album cover.

In addition to three contemporary urban jazz recordings – including 2011’s very well reviewed Rush – Harasim’s work as a composer, keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist earned a Grammy nomination for his work on Dave Koz’s Billboard No. 1 Jazz Album Hello Tomorrow and a 2014 Soul Train nod for Vandell Andrew’s  No. 1 hit “Let’s Ride.” Harasim’s hundreds of stage appearances include performing at President Barack Obama’s Inaugural Ball with best pal Rahn and playing twice at the Dubai International Jazz Festival, according to his website.


For more information on the GRandJazzFest and a complete line-up, see the event’s Facebook page @GRandJazzFest .