Akron has been putting in this work this summer and I’m entirely here for it. Knight Arts Challenge winner Theron Brown, along with Opentone Music, put together Akron’s first Rubber City Jazz and Blues Festival at the end of August. This area is no stranger to Jazz. Unknown to many outsiders, Akron was home to a thriving scene in the early 1900’s. During the 1940’s, the Howard St. area was the African-American business district with over a third of businesses owned by African-Americans.
The area was thriving until the construction of OH-59 cut it off. Now all that sits on that portion of Howard is the Interbelt Nightclub and some condo developments. Across from the Interbelt, there used to be The Matthews Hotel, a common place of rest for some of the world’s Jazz greats like Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, and Ella Fitzgerald during the 40’s and 50’s. The hotel was torn down in the 80’s and there now sits a monument to it and Akron’s African-American history. Behind the monument is the bustling Northside district that has recently been in a state of growth.
I won’t say that Jazz died in Akron, but it did take a bit of a backseat for many years. Recently, people like Theron Brown, Dan Wilson, and Tony Troppe have been trying to get Akron to remember its rich musical history. This festival has helped add fuel to the fire. Akron is more than tires, rust, and Punk.
The Rubber City Jazz and Blues Festival brought out some of the best musicians in the region and the world to come give Akron a show they would never forget. Their schedule included groups like Bluelight, the Sam Blakeslee Large Group, Austin Walkin’ Cane, Moustache Yourself, Acid Cats, Bobby Selvaggio Grass Roots Movement, and the DTC Organ Trio with world renowned saxophone player Chris Potter. The day was live and the evening was rocking. In my perspective, their first event was a great success.
I’m excited for what they have in store for next year.
Thanks for reading,