Festivals will jazz things up when the weather gets hot

It’s still a long way off, but this summer will be a jazzy one in Youngstown.

Two large, outdoor jazz festivals — with similar names — are scheduled, and both will feature some top national talent.

The Youngstown Jazz Fest, which debuted last summer at the Summer Festival of the Arts (SFA), will return. And the Youngstown Jazz Festival, which had its inaugural event in 2010 but skipped 2011, also will be back.

The Jazz Fest will be July 7 at Harrison Common on North Walnut Street, as part of the SFA at Youngstown State University. The special guest will be Pieces of a Dream, the acclaimed jazz duo that includes James Lloyd who now lives in the Youngstown area. Admission again will be free.

Youngstown-based jazz- fusion band SounDoctrine also will play. To fill out the bill, Jere Beulah of SounDoctrine and Niayana Recordings, partners in the fest, will take a look at other regional talent who submit information. Jazz bands are encouraged to email a link to a video of their band to Beulah at NiayanaTejai@gmail.com. The deadline is Feb. 20.

Eight bands will be put on the bill, said Beulah, who is looking into getting another national act. The Youngstown Jazz Festival will begin at 5 p.m. Harrison Common is the pergola and outdoor amphitheater in the Smoky Hollow neighborhood, across the street from the MVR restaurant.

Last year’s Fest included SounDoctrine and drew 3,500 people. It’s part of the so-called Biggest Weekend, which includes the SFA, the St. Nicholas Greek Summerfest and some smaller events at Wick Avenue museums.

Later this summer, the Youngstown Jazz Festival will take place on downtown’s Central Square.

This Aug. 4 festival will be promoted by Jerry Costa in partnership with the HandsOn Volunteer Network of the Mahoning Valley. It also starts at 5 p.m.

Slated to perform are jazz stars Najee and Alex Bugnon as well as three acts from the region that have yet to be selected. Tickets, which will go on sale in the near future, will be $10 until one month before the show, and $15 afterward. Wine, beer and food vendors will be set up within the perimeter of the festival. Stay tuned for more information.

The first Youngstown Jazz Festival, in the summer of 2010, was a big success. It drew 4,000 people, according to Costa, who was working with the Regional Chamber at the time.

‘Descendants,’ ‘The Artist’ hit Valley movie screens

Valley cinephiles who have been wondering when “The Descendants” and “The Artist” finally will arrive in the area need wait no longer: both films will open Friday. “The Descendants” will be at Shenango Valley Cinemas in Hermitage, Pa., and Cinema South in Boardman and Regal Cinemas in Niles; “The Artist” will be at Regal Cinemas in Austintown and Niles.

Both films got Best Picture nods earlier this week when the Academy Awards revealed its nominees.

This is the season when all the Oscar contenders that were released in the last quarter of the previous year finally start showing up in Mahoning Valley theaters. In addition to “The Descendants” and “The Artist,” the list of excellent films currently playing in local multiplexes also includes “The Iron Lady,” “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” “Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “Hugo” and “War Horse.”

Also, returning for stints in second-run theaters are “Moneyball” and “Puss in Boots.”

Chris Columbus was a producer of ‘the help’

Speaking of Academy Award nominations, Chris Columbus was a producer of “The Help,” which scored a Best Picture nod.

“The Help,” whose cast includes Best Supporting Actress nominee Jessica Chastain, is a Civil Rights-era drama about women in the 1960s Deep South.

Columbus, who grew up in Champion and graduated from Warren JFK High School, is best known as the director of two Harry Potter films (“Sorceror’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets”), “Home Alone” and “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.”

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