Fundraiser sets Walla Walla up for a jazz takeover

The Shanghai Woolies with Gavin Bondy will perform at Three Rivers Winery, 5641 Old Highway, on Aug. 24 as part of the Friends of Children of Walla Walla Jazz & Wine Among Friends festival Aug. 23-25.

The Shanghai Woolies with Gavin Bondy will perform at Three Rivers Winery, 5641 Old Highway, on Aug. 24 as part of the Friends of Children of Walla Walla Jazz & Wine Among Friends festival Aug. 23-25. Courtesy photo


Live jazz in the airport? At a winery? How about at a downtown Walla Walla restaurant?

The sixth annual Jazz & Wine Among Friends festival has a lot planned for Aug. 23-25 — and at a lot of locations.

Tickets and schedule

Aug. 23-25

Tickets range from $10 to $75 each, depending on performances. Tickets are available at the Visitor Center on Main Street, call 527-4745, or click here.


Aug. 23

Sinclair Estate Vineyards, 109 E. Main St., 6-7 p.m. — Gary Hemenway and Kate Morrison

Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center Terrace, Rose Street and Second Avenue, 7:15-8:15 p.m. — Fork in the Road

Charles Smith Wines, 35 S. Spokane St., 8:30-10:30 p.m. — Gail Pettis

Aug. 24

Walla Walla Regional Airport, noon-3 p.m. — Soul Essentials and Saeeda Wright

Three Rivers Winery, 5641 Old Highway, 6:30 p.m. — Crawford Glenn Band followed by The Shanghai Woolies with Gavin Bondy

Aug. 25

Whitehouse-Crawford restaurant, 55 W. Cherry St., 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. seatings for a New Orleans-inspired jazz brunch with music by the Uptown Lowdown Jazz Quartet

Mark Brown, executive director of Friends of Children of Walla Walla, the group for which the weekend festival will benefit, is jazzed about this year for a number of reasons.

Besides being “bigger and better than ever,” he said, the festival’s growth is part of the Friends mission to help the community.

The Friday-through-Sunday festival lineup includes The Shanghai Woolies, The Gail Pettis Quartet, Saeeda Wright, The Uptown Lowdown Jazz Quartet, The Crawford Glenn Band, Gary Hemenway and Kate Morrison, Fork in the Road and Soul Essentials.

A new venue for the festival is the airport’s winery incubators, where on Saturday afternoon Soul Essentials — local artists Gary Winston, Gary Hemenway and Doug Scarborough — perform soul-influenced jazz, and Portland’s Saeeda Wright will bring her powerful, soulful stylings.

“The airport will never be the same,” said Brown.

The big ticket event is at Three Rivers Winery on Saturday evening, when The Shanghai Woolies with Pink Martini trumpeter Gavin Bondy headline and The Crawford Glenn Band open the show.

The Portland-based Shanghai Woolies play “hot music,” the kind of jazz and pop prevalent in Chicago and New York in the 1920s and ’30s.

The eight-member band assembled in 1999 by trumpeter Gavin Bondy of Pink Martini was popular from the start and played large venues.

The Woolies are part of a vision that was created during Bondy’s projects with the work of Louis Armstrong.

According to musical director Ben Medler, Bondy was a student of Armstrong and his vision evolved from the music of the legendary trumpeter’s Hot Five and Hot Seven bands he has been studying, but with the addition of a big band and distorted guitar.

At first, the Woolies covered music from different time periods. Now they’re making their own and are working on a CD due out in 2014.

“Our new music could be compared to music of Midnight Revival, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies and The Squirrel Nut Zippers” said Medler.

The Shanghai Woolies consist of Medler, trombone, vocals and musical director; Bernardo Gomez, bass; Brooke Zimet, lead vocals; Greg Garrett, trumpet; Joe Haegele, drums; Michelle Medler, saxophone, clarinet, flute and vocals; Nick O’Donnell, guitars, banjo and vocals; and Tyson Schmidling, lead guitar.

Medler said the band really cares about how it is perceived by the audience, and the professionalism of the group constantly surprises him. The Woolies are always asked when playing a show if it is really fitting the crowd?

The Woolies travel as far north as British Columbia and far south as San Francisco on average.

They like to go as the whole eight-piece group, or with a guest trumpeter when Bondy is unavailable — though he will be playing at Three Rivers Winery — and also as a dance group out of Portland called SwingTime.

Medler said everyone in the band is a teacher with a family, so travelling too far away can be difficult.

Also, some members run a youth jazz education program throughout the year.

Medler says the band had an excellent time playing in the area last year. He thinks that one of the reasons the band likes Walla Walla so much is it’s a comfortable distance from a major city like Portland, giving it an extra something.

The festival opens Aug. 23 with three performances at three downtown locales: Gary Hemenway and Kate Morrison at Sinclair Estate Vineyards; Fork in the Road at Marcus Whitman Hotel Terrace; and Gail Pettis at Charles Smith Wines.

The Aug. 25 festival closer will have a New Orleans flair, with Seattle’s Uptown Lowdown Jazz Quartet leading a 10 a.m. processional of whomever wants to follow along from Fourth Avenue and Main Street down to the Whitehouse-Crawford Restaurant for a jazz-inspired brunch.

From a one-concert event in 2008, the Walla Walla Friends Foundation fundraiser has blossomed into a three-day festival.

“And it’s all for such a good cause,” said Brown, whose organization since 1999 has matched adults in the community as mentors to more than 750 children.


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