A Conversation With Walter Kemp, III: A Week-Long CMC Jazz Festival Returns

Walter Kemp, III, JazzBuffalo

Last year, the Historic Colored Musicians Club celebrated its 100th Anniversary.  Using the momentous occasion to produce their first week-long jazz festival.  Expanding from the weekend festival traditionally held at the club’s location on the historic corner of Michigan and Broadway.

One of the driving forces behind the CMC Jazz Festival is musician extraordinaire Walter Kemp, III.  In addition to his noteworthy endeavors with the innovative Walter Kemp 3oh! jazz trio and the jazz group Gruvology, Walter serves as the Music Director for the CMC Jazz Festival.  An ardent supporter of the Colored Musicians Club and the idiom of jazz, Walter has been instrumental in shaping the CMC Jazz Festival into a week-long community program.

Recently, I had the chance to catch up with Walter to talk about this year’s 2018 CMC Jazz Festival:

This is the second year of the switch to a week-long program of jazz performances.  What were the best things you learned last year about moving to a full week?

People love having a full week of music all around the city. With one week, there is time to take in the music–one act at a time. Next year, we’re looking to increase the density of performances, making it more of a “Week’s End” destination event.

What excites you about this year’s lineup that you want to share with the festival goers? 

The music is fresh. We have Joel Ross, a vibraphone phenomenon. Pianist Onaje, who got his start right here in the Queen City, while Charles Mingus was teaching at UB. Four pianists, including Simona Premazzi, the phenomenal pianist from New York City, come together for an unprecedented piano tribute to Cecil Taylor…Vocalist Mwenso & the Shakes, an exciting international 10-piece ensemble with a big sound. Francisco Mela and his Crash Trio, one the most awesome drummers and trios in jazz, close out the festival.

As a Music Director planning the festival, what did you look for in terms of selecting jazz artists?

When selecting artists, I try to make sure that the range of musicians represents the musical diversity within the genre. There’s so much music today in the jazz genre.  It’ s nice if we can enjoy a snapshot of both the traditional jazz and the contemporary jazz scenes.

The festival is associated with the Historic Colored Musicians Club.  How has the festival helped to make people aware of the history of the club?

The festival helps to bring renowned and international artists to the historically-rich Club; one of the physical places that helped birth the music. Artists from all around get a chance to experience our scene in Buffalo, with our top resident talents. We love to keep the collaborative musical spirit alive. 

The Historic Colored Musicians Club, under the leadership of President, George Scott, and the music direction of Walter Kemp has led to receiving sponsorship from M&T Bank.  As well as, support from Mayor Byron Brown and the city.  All designed to make the CMC Jazz Festival a week-long city-wide community event for Buffalo.

The CMC Jazz Festival performances will take place at the historic club’s location along at partnering venues such as Pausa Art House, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, and Ashbury Hall at Babeville.  On Saturday, July 28, the festival traditional presentation of local jazz talents will take place inside the club and at the outdoor stage set up next to the club.

The week-long festival kicks-off on Monday, July 23rd at the outdoor stage with the Katy Miner Quintet and is part of the city’s “Slow Roll” event that happens on Mondays during the summer.  Running through Saturday, July 28th, you can find the full schedule and descriptions on JazzBuffalo’s event listings and at the CMC Jazz Festival website.  Relevant links for your convenience:

On JazzBuffalo

2018 CMC Headliners Announced

CMC Jazz Festival Events

CMC Jazz Festival Website

CMC Jazz Festival Website

Enjoy the festival!

One thought on “A Conversation With Walter Kemp, III: A Week-Long CMC Jazz Festival Returns

  1. I’m so honored to have met you Walter Kemp on Monday night of the BFLO slow roll. Not only did I finally step foot in one of our city’s famous historical places, but meeting the Grandson of a dear friend (and he happens to be the musical director of the CMC Jazz festival) all I can say is WOW!! So happy for you Walter. Anna is beaming from above . Have a Jazzy week ❤️

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