By GUY D’ASTOLFO
Harrison Common, a newly constructed parklet and public space at Youngstown State University, will be the setting for a jazz festival Saturday evening, part of YSU’s Summer Festival of the Arts.
Located on Walnut Street, across from the MVR restaurant in the historic Smoky Hollow neighborhood, Harrison Common gently rises above a large grassy area, with a baseball field at the far end. A pergola — a wooden structure with a trellis roof — has been erected, along with a brick-paved plaza and landscaping, to form a stage that presides over a natural amphitheater.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be at 11:30 a.m. Saturday to open Harrison Common. The centerpiece of the park is a historic plat map of the Hollow, which was a bustling ethnic neighborhood in the first half of the 20th century.
Under the guidance of Wick Neighbors Inc., Smoky Hollow is being reborn as a neighborhood with new streets, sidewalks and an apartment complex. Plans call for more retail development. Wick Neighbors is a consortium comprised of YSU and the various religious and cultural establishments along Wick Avenue.
Last summer, the Youngstown Jazz Festival took place with national acts Spyro Gyra and David Benoit on Central Square in the downtown. It was sponsored by the Regional Chamber, and carried an admission charge.
Saturday’s event is being produced by YSU and the convention bureau, and is free. Teresa Weakley, news anchor for WKBN-TV 27, will be master of ceremonies.
Headlining Saturday’s festival will be SounDoctrine, a Youngstown-based fusion-funk band. The festival begins at 6 p.m.
SounDoctrine will present music from its latest album, “Inspire,” as well as fan favorites. The band’s latest single, “Marriage,” was recently included in the internationally distributed compilation “Jazz Infusion 2” by the U.S. New Jazz Company. Excerpts from several Soun-Doctrine songs can also be heard on the Weather Channel’s Local on the 8s.
As a special treat, SounDoctrine will be joined on stage by Kenny Blake, the internationally-acclaimed contemporary jazz saxophonist from Pittsburgh. Blake will perform with SounDoctrine throughout its set.
A lineup of regional jazz favorites will fill out the remainder of the festival bill, including Clevelander Phillip K. Jones II.
Jones will bring his blend of jazz and gospel in classical quartet form. A graduate of the Oberlin College Conservatory, Jones has two acclaimed albums to his credit and will use the jazz fest as a CD release party for his third, “Faith of Our Fathers, Vol. I & II.”
Pittsburgh songstress Antoinette is also in the lineup. Her debut CD, “Verbal Crush,” was produced by legendary jazzman Norman Connors.
Also from Pittsburgh, and bringing a Latin flavor to the festival, will be Chico’s Quintet. Band leader Carlos Ortiz IV is a student of Warren native Sean Jones, acclaimed trumpeter and music professor at Duquesne University.
Trombonist Sam Blakeslee will open the show, leading fellow students of the YSU jazz studies program through various phases of the genre, from traditional to contemporary motifs.