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Jazz is in the air

Wick Park concert series plays on

YOUNGSTOWN — When it comes to the number of genres Lee Savory typically crosses and dips his trumpet into, one could say he plays a type of musical hopscotch.

“I stretch across all genres,” that include gospel, funk, smooth and straight-ahead jazz and R&B, he said.

Savory demonstrated such musical prowess as one of the five members of Columbus-based Milton Ruffin and the Old School Funk Band, who took the stage Sunday for the annual Jazz in the Concert series in Wick Park on Youngstown’s North Side.

Several hundred people brought lawn chairs and enjoyed one another’s company, along with the jazz sounds that filled the vast park on a mostly cloudy, but pleasant, Sunday afternoon.

The four-hour performance was the sixth of nine in this summer’s series. The remaining three groups set to perform in the park are Willie Ross and Counterpoint on Sunday; Von James Xperience Aug. 28; and Hubbs Groove Sept. 4. All three hail from Cleveland.

Savory, who also plays with the Columbus Jazz Orchestra, listed iconic trumpeters Miles Davis and Clifford Brown among his primary influences, along with well-known saxophonist and composer Kirk Whalum, with whom he’s performed.

In addition, his R&B influences include Luther Vandross and the popular 1970s group the Stylistics, Savory continued.

“I often perform in a big-band style on the trumpet, but on the flugelhorn, I sound more like smooth jazz. My roots are in straight-ahead jazz, no doubt about it,” he added.

Sunday’s performance began with “Chameleon” and “Watermelon Man,” both of which pianist, keyboardist and bandleader Herbie Hancock popularized in the 1970s. Later in the set, guest vocalist Jennifer Price of Columbus took Ruffin’s quintet into the old school R&B realm, with her interpretation of some classic songs.

Savory also has played periodically with Ruffin for 15 to 20 years, and had nothing but praise for his musicianship.

“He puts a smile on my face whenever he shows up, because it’s going to be a monster gig,” Savory added.

For his part, Ruffin, who’s from Youngstown and played the bass guitar Sunday, began his formal music training at Youngstown State University before earning a doctorate degree in music education from The Ohio State University. He also was a 2019 inductee to the Ohio Jazz Music Hall of Fame, as well as the 2019 OSU School of Music Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient.

In addition, Ruffin has deep roots in the Baptist church and is a cousin of the late David Ruffin of the Temptations. Other famous R&B singers and groups with whom he’s shared the stage include Cameo, Rick James, Parliament / Funkadelic, Lou Rawls and George Clinton.

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