Music & Events

Erie Celebrates 100 Years of Recorded Jazz
Nine Concerts Bring Jazz History to Erie

On March 6th, 1917, the Original Dixieland Jazz Band released 'Dixie Jass Band One Step' and 'Livery Stable Blues' for the Columbia Gramophone Company.  These sides became hits and gave Americans across the country their first taste of America's only original art form, jazz.  "Erie Celebrates 100 Years of Recorded Jazz" is a year long celebration presented by JazzErie and the sponsors below..

Erie Celebrates 100 Years of Recorded Jazz

SAVE THESE DATES!!!  (Note changes from previous posting.)

March 16     Reception,Talk by Mark Gridley, followed by a Concert featuring early jazz/Dixieland jazz

April (date and place to be determined)    "Celebrating Swing," with Long School of Dance  and the Presque Isle Jazz Orchestra. 

May 11      JazzErie's Next Generation Concert      Gen. McLane High School, Edinboro.   Six area high school jazz bands made up of student musicians, plus a band of regional professionals, play stage band arrangements.

June 17    JazzErie's Jazz & Blues Walk      Starting with a reception and concert at the Erie Art Museum, great regional bands will perform at seven downtown Erie venues.  Bands play jazz from different eras: (swing, bebop, fusion, traditional, etc.) keeping the theme of "Erie Celebrates....  Event is In partnership with participating venues.   Suggested Donation $15.

Additional June Concert: Date and time TBA.  "Thumbscrew Trio" with Mary Halvorson - guitar, Tomas Fujiwara - percussion and Michael Formanek - bass.  PACA, co-sponsored by JazzErie.  Leaders in NYC Experimental Music scene appear in Erie.

July 14    WQLN Sounds Around Town Concert,    Recreation of "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concert, with regional musicians burning up the evening air.

August 4     WQLN Sounds Around Town Concert.    Celebrating Miles.  Featuring some of the arrangements, compositions and sounds of Miles Davis.

Oct. 6    Singer Vanessa Rubin and saxophonist Don Braden     Erie Art Museum

Oct. 28   at the Warner Theater.  Erie Philharmonic Pops Orchestra,, celebrates jazz in a concert featuring a jazz soloist.

Nov. 17   Bobby Selvaggio and Red Rhinoscerous, at the Erie Art Museum


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Bolden Band, 1905ORIGINS.

The precise origins of the music we call jazz are obscure.  What is well understood is that an amalgam of African percussion and chants, celebratory funeral marches, syncopated ragtime, Creole dance music laced with improvisation, and other musical fodder was passed around among musicians and was in the air in New Orleans and other cities in the nineteen-teens.

But the earliest commercially released recordings (a novel technology at that time) identified as Jazz (or Jass) can be identified and dated -- in 1917.  Ironically, they featured white musicians.  The Bolden Band, shown at right, was one of many earlier black and Creole groups. At one point the Bolden band included a young Louis Armstrong.

Improvisation and swing.

From these widespread experiments emerged a style of group improvisation, now called "Dixieland," and  soon transplanted northward to Chicago and other cities across the Eastern Seaboard and Midwest, as the Great Migration brought black Americans and others to employment and fewer restrictions that in the South., Hastened by the developing technologies of phonograph records and radio, this new musicc, which involved improvisatory, rhythmic drive and nuance, rooted in many cultures, was called "jazz," and was promulgated across the U.S.  In a very short period of time, it found an enthusiastic audience and dancers in new generations if the '20's, '30's and '40's. 

During these decades, the music evolved rapidly, into swing, big band, "hot" and "cool" styles, and much more.  Some styles were marked by their association with particular cities or regions ("Chicago," "Kansas City," "West Coast, "Afro-Cuban"), some by unique harmonic/rhythmic approaches (be-beop< fusion)..  We won't try to cover it all.  But we will provide some great samples.

Mark GridleyMarch 16     Gannon University    Reception,  Mark Gridley talk,  Jazz Concert.

In partnership with Gannon University, JazzErie invites you to a Reception in the Yale Room,a talk my author and musician Mark Gridlet, and a concert featuring regional artists who will trace the history of early jazz music in sound.

Gridley is the author of the most widely used textbook on jazz:  Concise Guide to Jazz, , used in high schools and colleges across the country. and worldwide.  A more recent book, Jazz Styles, is now in its 11th Edition.  Hi articles appear in Grove Dictionary of Music, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Black Perspectives on Music , and other journals.

A jazz flute and reeds player, Gridley is a native of Cleveland, OH.

The concert accompanying Gridley's talk will feature a band  composed of regional musicians bringing the styles of early jazz music and Dixieland.

Long School of DanceApril (date to be determined)     Zem Zem Shriners Hall, 2525 W 38th St.      Celebrating Swing!

This program, presented in collaboration with the Long's School of Dance, will bring you the joy and enthusiasm of music from the swing and big band era, with student dancers from the Long's School.

Long's School, identifying itself as the "Number one performing arts school in Erie for over 60 years," has trained thousands of area dancers over three generations.  It has studios in Mill Creek, Harborcreek, Waterford, Fairview, Edinboro.and Albion.

Under the leadership of professionals dancers and educators Jay, Lee Ann and Jamie Long, the school employs a staff of over 20 faculty members, all Certified Dance Educators.

Music will be provided by the JazzErie Swing Ensemble, a band composed of regional musicians, convened for the occasion by director Allen Zurcher.  The band will play familiar and original swing music charts.

JazzErie All-StarsMay 11     JazzErie's "Next Generation" Concert     Ger. McLane High School, Rte. 99, Edinboro.  This annual.concert has become a tradition, bringing together student musicians in  the best regional high school jazz bands, with an enthusiastic audience of classmates and friends, family, faculty members, and jazz fans. 

Established by former band directors John Marszalek and Chuck Lute, the early evening concert also features the Misery Bay Big Band, composed of top area  professional musicians, and a regional soloist.  Students learning the language of jazz!

Come prepared for a full evening of music and fun.  Nominal contribution welcomed.

Bruce Johnstone Quartet at 2014 Jazz WalkJune 17     JazzErie's Jazz & Blues Walk     6:00 p.m. until 1:00 a.m.  Beginning with a reception and live music at the Erie Art Museum, this event presents jazz at seven downtown Erie venues.  Following through on our theme, the music at each venue will feature a different era or style of jazz music: be-bop, hard bop, Latin jazz, fusion, traditional, etc.

Donation of $15 suggested, for a bracelet entitling you to refreshments and beverage at the reception, plus admission to all venues.  Busses available if youtire of walking.  Excellent music, excellent company, a chance to enjoy a fine experience in downtown Erie.


Mary HalvorsonMichael FormanekMid-to-late June:   "Thumbscrew,"  Three of NYC's leading Experimental musicians join for an Erie concert at PACA, 1505 State St.  Each now famous in their own right,  Mary Halvorson - guitar, Tomas Fujiwara - percussion and Michael Formanek - bass join forces.  More details will follow.



Jazz at the Philharmonic posterJuly 14     WQLN "Sounds Around Town" Concert, co-sponsored by WQLN and JazzErie.

This concert will be a recreation of the legendary "Jazz at the Philharmonic" concerts produced by jazz impresario Norman Granz and featuring a stellar rhythm section and a collection of the best soloists of the day.  These occasional concerts began in 1946 and extended into the 1960's..  

Our concert, in the same free-wheeling spirit, will combine a fine local rhythm section and some of  the best soloists in the area.

Miles DavisAugust 4     Another WQLN/JazzErie "Sounds Around Town" Concert --- this time "Reimagining Miles," celebrating thee transcendent musician, composer, talent gatherer, and innovator bandleader Miles Davis.

With a small ensemble, this concert will refresh our memories of this searching musician whose career began on the bandstand with Charlie Parker, went on to redefine "cool," fronted two groundbreaking quintets, then opened the doors wide to rock-infused "fusion," the electronic music of a new generation, and all the space beyond -- while never losing his intimate and personal trumpet voice, or his compositional sensitivity.

Vanessa RubinDon BradenOctober 6     Vanessa Rubin and Don Braden     Erie Art Museum. 

Cleveland-born, now internationally famous vocalist Vanessa Rubin will join saxophonist Don Braden and others for a performance at the Erie Art Museum on Oct. 6.

After establishing her reputation in the Cleveland area, Vanessa moved to NYC in 1986 and soon was playing regular gigs with Kenny Barron, Mercer Ellington and others.  She is also a certified teacher by profession and a jazz educator.  She has been an adjudicator for the Thelonious Monk Institute and Jazz At Lincoln Center.  Her latest recording, with Braden, is Full Circle.

Don Braden has been a jazz soloist and leader for 30+ years.  He has made 19 CD's as a leader, has worked with Betty Carter, Wynton Marsalis, Freddie Hubbard, Tony Williams, Roy Haynes and many others.

Oct. 28 --   Erie Philharmonic Pops Orchestra Concert, with a Jazz Solosist.     In collaboration with JazzErie, the Erie Philharmonic Pops Orchestra is also Celebrating 100 Years of Jazz Recordings in a concert featuring a jazz artis.t playing and entertaining son)   The concert will be part of the Pops' regular season.

Nov. 17    Bobby Selvaggio and Red Rhinocerous.  Erie Art Museum.  Following a career in NYC, which included accolades from fellow saxophonist Joee Lovano and pianist Kenny Werner,  Selvaggio returned to NE Ohio to direct the Jazz Studies program at Kent State University.  He has formed and played with a number of groups in the Region. His latest is a revival of his band Red Bobby SelvaggioRhinocerous.


If you have questions, please contact me at 814/923-4101 or


Dick Thompson
December 1, 2016