Phil Denny’s Smooth Jazz Fete

Aug. 11


Loosen your seatbelts. It’s going to be a smooth ride.

Phil Denny, Lansing’s impresario of smooth jazz, has packed his second annual Smooth Jazz Fete, an all-day concert at the Marshall Street Armory on the east side of town, with an impressive roster of musicians, artists, food and drinks.

If you find it effete to call a festival a fete, you are missing the point.

Last year’s inaugural event introduced a grand local showcase for an often under-represented flavor of jazz, a groove-based, feel-good flow festooned with sinuous melodies.

The goal this year, Denny said, is to “come back bigger and better,” with improved lighting and sound and more amenities. Wine tasting from Traverse Wine Coast and Lansing Brewing Co. beers are in the beverage mix. The Picnic food truck and Got Smoke barbecue will be joined by other food options.

Local artists Julian Van Dyke and Brian Whitfield will create original art on site that day. Sidewalk chalk artist Ryan Holmes will create a “landing pad” for pizza deliveries from another festival partner, Jet’s Pizza in Frandor.

Musically, Denny’s in a nice groove these days. His newest CD, “Align,” hit No. 2 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz national airplay charts last week.

Denny drew this year’s artist roster from his far-flung network of smooth jazz friends, all of them established or upand-coming stars. London-based pianist Oli Silk and powerhouse singer Meagan McNeal, now based in Chicago, top the list. McNeal appeared on “The Voice” last year.

Also on the bill are alto saxman Jackien Joyner, a Mack Avenue recording artist and headliner, and Philly-based guitarist David P. Stevens, who brings a soulful, R&B, Norman Brown feel to the guitar.

Trumpeter Ryan Montano, from Albuquerque, brings a “Southwest feel and high energy vibe,” Denny said.

Part of Denny’s goal is to promote Lansing and its many delights to a far-flung network of smooth jazz followers.

“I could do this festival any place, but Lansing is my home,” Denny said. “The East Side is an arts-based community, a progressive area, and a lot of cool things are happening.”

The vibe is informal, but Denny doesn’t treat smooth jazz as background music. he is proud of his lineup and made the fete an adults-only event “for the people that truly appreciate a music experience, getting back to what concerts used to be like back in the day.”

Part of the gate from the concert will go to three charities: United Way, Ele’s Place and the Jazz Alliance of Mid-Michigan.

Phil Denny’s Smooth Jazz

Fete 1-9 p.m. Sat., Aug. 11 Armory, 330 Marshall St., Lansing VIP sold out; General admission still available Bring your own chair $40


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