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Published: Wednesday, 5/14/2008

Chart-topping band, other key acts to rock River Raisin Jazz Festival

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Flutist Alexander Zonjic helped organize the event. Flutist Alexander Zonjic helped organize the event.
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MONROE - Another lineup of chart-topping jazz acts has been booked for the seventh annual River Raisin Jazz Festival.

The festival, which attracts as many as 50,000 from across the region, will be held Aug. 9 and 10 at St. Mary's Park.

This year's performers will include Russ Freeman & The Rippingtons, tenor saxophonist Euge Groove, Alexander Zonjic & Friends, the Motor City Horns from Detroit, and guitarist Joyce Cooling.

"These are world-class musicians," said Mr. Zonjic, who helps organize the event and hosts a "smooth jazz" morning radio show on WVMV in Detroit. "The headliners are all major, major players in the smooth jazz world."

Russ Freeman & The Rippingtons, whose latest CD, 20th Anniversary, reached No. 1 on Billboard's contemporary jazz chart, will get top billing. The band's earlier Moonlighting was voted the most influential contemporary jazz album by JAZZIZ magazine.

Mr. Freeman's band has been a revolving door for up-and-coming musicians in the smooth jazz scene, Mr. Zonjic said.

"They're really one of the great bands in this format," Mr. Zonjic said.

Mr. Groove has toured with Tina Turner, and Huey Lewis & the News, and has performed on albums with Paula Abdul and Elton John.

"His music is very, very urban funky," said Mr. Zonjic.

Another rising star in the jazz world, Ms. Cooling is a versatile and eclectic guitarist, who hails from the San Francisco area. She has been featured on National Public Radio and was voted one of the best female jazz musicians of 2000 by Gibson Guitar.

"She gets a lot of airplay," Mr. Zonjic said. "She's got a very, very cool vibe."

Detroit native Johnny Lawrence and the River Raisin Big Band are among area acts scheduled to perform.

Mr. Zonjic and John Patterson, president of the Monroe County Convention and Tourism Bureau, are finalizing the local lineup. A few national groups still may make it into the show as well, Mr. Zonjic said.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of the festival, the tourism bureau is kicking off its annual Jazz Series between 6 and 10 tonight at five downtown restaurants. During the seven-week series, held every other Thursday, regional jazz acts will play at 129 Lounge, Cafe Classics, McGeady's Town Pub, Monroe Street Grille and Rendezvous Coffee & Sweets. Participating musicians include Herbie Russ, Sheila Landis, Shelby Brown, Lin Rountree, and the Bob Rex Trio.

"It gets a lot of folks on the sidewalks of downtown," Mr. Patterson said. "It is a great event."

For more information call 734-457-1030 or visit the Web site www.monroeinfo.com.

Contact Angie Schmitt at:

aschmitt@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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