IOWA CITY, Iowa — 8-time GRAMMY Award-winning bassist, composer and arranger Christian McBride will headline the Iowa City Jazz Festival, presented by GreenState Credit Union.
The festival returns to downtown Iowa City for Friday, June 30 - Sunday, July 2. The free festival includes music on two stages, food, artists and activity booths with free admission adjacent to the University of Iowa Pentacrest on Clinton Street and Iowa Avenue.
The side stage kicks off at 5 PM when all the vendor booths open, while the main stage kicks off Friday at 6 PM, with Jon Ailabouni. The trumpeter, composer, and educator embraces diverse styles from the blues to the Avante-garde and from the Caribbean to the Arab world. The Benny Benack III Group hits the stage at 8 PM. Benny has performed internationally as an Emcee/Host for the YouTube sensation Postmodern Jukebox, while also performing with Josh Groban, Diplo, and Major Lazer.
Continuing a Jazz Festival tradition of showcasing student performers on the main stage, Saturday opens at 11:30 AM with the United Jazz Ensemble, which has opened the festival for more than 20 years. The UJE is a collective of students from Iowa City High, West High, and Liberty High Schools. The student focus continues at 12:15 PM with the North Corridor All-Star Combo, a similar ensemble comprised of students from I-380’s northern region, from Cedar Rapids all the way to Cedar Falls.
Multi-reed instrumentalist Christopher Merz and Shorter Stories takes the stage at 2 PM, and Des Moines native and Jazz Festival veteran Hannah Marks will play with her quartet at 4 PM. The 2006 recipient of the CHFA University Book and Supply Outstanding Teaching award, Merz was the 2016 recipient of the John L. Baker Faculty Development award and was inducted into the Iowa Jazz Educators’ Hall of Fame in 2015. Hannah is passionate about sharing her love of music with a range of communities. She is involved in music education, non-profit work, and community outreach across the Midwest and East Coast
At 6 p.m. Brooklyn-based band Huntertones takes the stage. Their high energy, horn-driven sound features genre bending composition and unconventional covers. They describe every show as a social experience celebrating the joy of music.
Wrapping up the evening on the Main Stage is Christian McBride’s New Jawn at 8 PM. Working with artists like Celion Dion, Queen Latifah, and James Brown, The Jazz Times has called McBride’s playing as “a remarkable variety of tonal colorations while maintaining his rhythmic sureness even as he bends, twists, and contorts the tunes’ metric structures to his own ends.” Along with years of performing and accolades, he is currently the artistic director of the Newport Jazz Festival, succeeding the festival's founder and artistic director, George Wein.
Saturday night wraps up with the City of Iowa City’s fireworks at 9:30 PM.
University of Iowa Director of Jazz Studies and Associate Professor of African American Studies Damani Phillips opens Sunday’s performances on the main stage at 1 PM. An active performer, pedagogue and composer, Phillips has taught and performed throughout the United States, Europe and South America.
Closing out the festival at 3 PM is Latin-jazz-dance band Orquesta Alto Maiz. The Latin tinged music they perform, usually found in the clubs of New York City, L.A. or Miami, has secured them a reputation as one of the hottest bands in the Midwest. Audience participation (dancing, singing) is enthusiastically encouraged.
A second stage will feature some of the Corridor’s top area musicians. The Local Stage will be located on Clinton Street near Washington Street. The Main Stage and Local Stage events are staggered, to ensure that everyone can catch all the performances.