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Entertainment & Lifestyle

Civic presents blues, jazz series

1/9/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

The Juke Hounds will perform as part of Blues @ The Civic Jan. 17.
Akron-based jazz trumpeter Josh Rzepka will play at Jazz @ The Civic Jan. 24.
Colin John, an Ohio favorite based in Hawaii, will perform as part of Blues @ The Civic Jan. 17.
Photo courtesy of Akron Civic Theatre
DOWNTOWN AKRON — After the success of its Jazz @ The Civic series, the Akron Civic Theatre is bringing a new blues series to local audiences.

The Northeast Ohio Blues Association (NEOBA) will present Blues @ The Civic Jan. 17 with Colin John and The Juke Hounds, while local favorite Josh Rzepka will perform at the next Jazz @ The Civic show Jan. 24. Both shows are at 8 p.m.

Howard Parr, executive director of the Civic, said the jazz series is in its third year, but this is the first time for Blues @ The Civic.

“It’s a new series we’re hoping to build up based on the success of the Jazz @ The Civic series,” Parr said.

The shows take place cabaret-style on the Civic stage, Parr said.

“It’s such a unique experience, with performer and audience on stage,” Parr said.

Up to 200 people can be accommodated on the stage, he added.

Andy Pressler, a Uniontown resident who is president of NEOBA, said he’s thrilled to see the Civic host the first Blues @ The Civic. The organization was founded in 2006 to promote the blues to Northeast Ohio music fans.

“Our goal is to help promote the blues groups that are out, whether bands or solo players,” he said. “And also to educate about the history behind what brought this music to our country.”

NEOBA conducts an annual competition to send local blues acts to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. This year’s winners were The Juke Hounds and John, and Pressler said they will perform the sets at the Civic that they will then perform in the competition later this month.

“They will be performing the music that they will be performing on Beale Street in Memphis,” Pressler said.

He added that if this first Blues @ The Civic show goes well, there will be the opportunity to do a few a year.

“We’re really looking to introduce blues music to a group of people who haven’t considered it before,” he said. “We’re very excited about the opportunity to do this.”

Parr said the Civic has presented between four and six shows a year as part of the Jazz @ The Civic series the past few years. Rzepka, a Fairlawn resident who’s preparing for a move to Chicago later this month, said it’s been a great series.

“The Akron area doesn’t have many places to go to hear live jazz, but we do have all these great jazz musicians in town,” he said. “It’s a great venue to be able to hear all these great local people.”

He especially likes the cabaret set-up at the Civic.

“It really makes it feel like a jazz club,” he said.

Joining Rzepka, who plays trumpet, will be local musicians Theron Brown on piano, Mike Forfia on bass and Mark Gonder on drums. The quartet will play originals and some covers, Rzepka said.

Tickets for both shows are $20 or two for $30. Tickets are available at the Civic Box Office and by calling 330-253-2488. For more information, go to www.akroncivic.com.

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