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Published: Friday, 8/13/2004

Jazz spells success in Monroe

Flutist Alexander Zonjic will perform at the River Raisin Jazz Festival. Flutist Alexander Zonjic will perform at the River Raisin Jazz Festival.
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In just three short years, the River Raisin Jazz Festival has gone from a brisk current of great music to a veritable jazz flood.

The first two years featured such prominent artists as Spyro Gyra, Chris Botti, Pieces of a Dream, and Stanley Jordan.

This weekend, the free festival set in the riverside St. Mary's Park is offering a mix of top national, regional, and local jazz talent on two stages, led by trumpet ace Chuck Mangione, guitar star Peter White, saxophonist Nelson Rangell, and flutist Alexander Zonjic.

"We raised the bar again this year," said Zonjic, who has served as a consultant since the festival began in 2002. "We're going to rock the park."

"Chuck Mangione was the Kenny G of his time," said John Patterson, festival director and president of the Monroe County Convention and Tourism Bureau.

"People of all ages recognize the music, the man, and especially the hat."

Known for his uplifting trumpet and flugelhorn style as well as a trademark fedora, Mangione was a pioneer of smooth jazz who moved into the mainstream in the 1970s with such hits as "Feels So Good," "Chase the Clouds Away," and "Bellavia."

Rangell is one of the most respected saxophonists among jazz aficionados, and also is an accomplished flutist, although he has yet to enjoy a mass-market breakthrough, Zonjic said in an interview from Detroit.

"Peter White is the No. 1 smooth jazz artist in the country this year," he said. "This festival is quite a success story."

Zonjic will be accompanied by an all-star band featuring David McMurray, Rayse Biggs, and Detroit blues singer Thornetta Davis.

The Box Rex Trio, featuring singer Odessa Harris; Johnny Trudell and his orchestra; Gerard Gibbs and ReORAN'YZ; the Windsor Jazz Ensemble, and the Monroe Big Band also will be performing at the fest.

In addition, artworks by up to 35 artists will be on display in a fine-art fair on Washington Street from noon to 7 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday.

The Third Annual River Raisin Jazz Festival will run from 1 to 9 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday in St. Mary's Park in downtown Monroe, Mich., near Washington, First, and Front streets. Admission is free. Information: 1-800-252-3011 or www.monroeinfo.com.

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com

or 419-724-6154.

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