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Tri-C Jazz Festival features stunning jazz organ performance, among others

John Eldridge

Issue date: 4/23/10 Section: Focus
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Eddie Baccus, Sr. gave a remarkable performance which included a duel with fellow jazz organist Tony Monaco
Eddie Baccus, Sr. gave a remarkable performance which included a duel with fellow jazz organist Tony Monaco
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Eddie Baccus may not be the first name that pops into mind when asked to name great jazz organists. A list on Wikipedia includes such names as Count Basie, Herbie Hancock, Keith Jarrett, Fats Waller, and Joe Zawinul, but this Cleveland native is nowhere to be seen.

Baccus is something of a legend in the northeastern Ohio jazz scene, and his performance this past Tuesday night at the Karamu House, part of the annual Tri-C JazzFest, reaffirmed his status beyond a shadow of a doubt.

On this evening, the venue was packed to the brim. Patrons sat against the walls of the lobby, unable to squeeze their way into the hall but content to simply listen from afar. Those lucky enough to score a seat in the house compromised by enduring the excessive heat and cramped quarters, but it could not have been more worth it.

On stage, Baccus was joined by fellow B-3 Hammond virtuoso Tony Monaco and a combo consisting of Bobby Curry on guitar, Perry Williams III on drums, Cecil Rucker on vibes, and Chris Coles on alto sax. Vocalist Mike Cady also jumped in for two numbers: "Filthy McNasty" and "Never Make Your Move Too Soon," an old B.B. King tune.

Watching the two organists go head-to-head was a stunning show of contrasts. While Baccus exuded calm and finesse at the keyboard, Monaco played with great fits of energy, always accompanied by outlandish facial expressions and fiery technical prowess. His solos were dynamic and wildly creative, while Baccus's were quintessentially "smooth." They played blues, they played funk, they played swing; there were no boundaries for these two.

The atmosphere in the hall was irresistibly soulful, and decidedly contagious. Members of the audience shouted their praise at the players onstage, applauding not only between solos but whenever they heard a lick they particularly approved of.

Baccus holds his "organ summit" every year at the JazzFest, and it is always completely free of charge (hence the large crowds). Stay tuned in the coming years for more of his outstanding music.

The Tri-C JazzFest (TCJF), currently in its 31st year, began on April 15 and continues through the 25th. Upcoming highlights this weekend include the DownBeat Invitational Concert on Saturday, April 24 at 3 p.m. at the Tri-C Metropolitan Campus Theatre as well as TCJF SoundWorks featuring Charlie Haden, on Sunday, April 25 at 7 p.m. at the East Cleveland Public Library. Both events are free. For more information on the Tri-C JazzFest, call 216-241-6000 / 866-546-1353 or visit
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    Clay Hagen

    posted 4/26/10 @ 12:56 PM EST

    Hi - I'd like to know more abou the remarkable guitarist Bobby Curry, who played in the band for this show. Does he have a website or any recordings?

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