Free jazz hookup Saturday

For the eighth year, Tacoma’s showing off its jazz and blues. The annual Tacoma Jazz and Blues Festival is on again at three venues this Saturday, featuring local favorites plus guitarist and former Tacoman Jerry Miller.

“The cool thing about the Northwest is that there’s a handful of really prominent musicians,” says trumpeter Rich Wetzel, founder and director of the festival.

Wetzel’s not just talking about festival favorites such as blues singer Maia Santell, recent Washington Blues Society award-winner Little Bill and the Bluenotes, and Wetzel’s own Groovin’ Higher Orchestra.

He also is talking about big names such as Jerry Miller, named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top 100 guitar players and a Tacoma native who occasionally does gigs back home.

“He’s recently been doing a lot more blues,” says Wetzel of the primarily rock guitarist. “This is the first year we’ve been lucky enough to get him, and we’re really excited.”

Other highlights include the ’40s swing of the Johnny Lewis Big Band, Seattle’s modern-jazz Roadside Attraction Big Band and the Mukilteo-based MOJO Big Band.

The festival will feature the same three stages as last year: blues at the Harmon Pub on Pacific Avenue, big band at Freighthouse Square (downstairs, this year) and a rockin’ after-party from 8-11 p.m. at Stonegate restaurant on South Tacoma Way featuring Wetzel and his jazz-rock-Latin fusion band upstairs and a youth jam downstairs.

Selected musicians from the other stages will solo with Wetzel’s orchestra.

Best of all, the festival is free thanks to the generosity of sponsors and venues.

“That’s what makes it possible,” Wetzel says.

Here’s the complete lineup:


12:30-1:30 p.m. Blues Buskers; 2-3 p.m. Little Bill and the Bluenotes; 3:30-4:30 p.m. Harmon All Star Brew (Al Alto, Jumpin’ Josh Violette, Billy Barner, Joe Hendershot, Steve Sarandos and Maia Santell); 5-6 p.m. Jerry Miller and Company


12:30-1:30 p.m. Johnny Lewis Big Band; 2-3 p.m. Roadside Attraction Big Band; 3:30-4:30 p.m. MOJO Big Band


8-11 p.m. All Star Youth Blues Jam (downstairs), Rich Wetzel’s Groovin’ Higher Orchestra (upstairs).

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568