Swingin’ Beats and Rockin’ Tunes

Akron celebrates its third annual Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival

Jillian Holness


 The Rubber City Jazz & Blues Festival first started in 2016 to revitalize the rich history of Akron’s jazz and blues scene that took place on Howard Street during the 1940s and 50s. Now in its third year, the festival has grown into a four-day celebration.

Theron Brown, the co-creator and director  of the festival says the event exposes Akron’s rich music history and the artists that help carry on the legacy.

“Our artists need the community and our community need the artist. The festival is a way to expose both sides to each other,” Brown says.

Besides supporting local musicians, attendees also help keep music education alive for Akron Public Schools.

Brown says the festival partners with Open Tone Music, which focuses on making music performance and education accessible to students.

Over the past two years, Brown and Open Tone Music have been able to work with students in the Akron Public Schools. They also started a Saturday music program at Compass Christian Church and a summer camp.

“These students are able to work with local professionals and gain performance opportunities,” Brown says. “We also help students that may not be able to afford instruments.”

Brown hopes that these programs will help to strengthen Akron’s music scene for years to come.

The festival kicks off Aug. 23 with a jam session at BLU Jazz+. This family-friendly event features free jazz and blues performances from local musicians, including a performance by the festival’s co-founder and director Theron Brown and the Theron Brown Trio. After the performances, audience members can take the stage and share their own soulful tunes for the open jam session.

Local funky soul band, The Admirables, fronted by saxophonist Nathan-Paul Davis headline the second day of the festival. According to the band’s website, their hypnotic tunes and bold saxophone notes are inspired by many feel-good muses of groove music such as Kool & The Gang, J-Dilla, James Brown, Erykah Badu, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, plus many more.

The festival concludes on August 26 with an opening performance by Pat Harris followed by performances throughout the day and evening by Schantz Quartet, Bluelight, Dan Wilson Quartet, Lucas Kadish Tundra, Shekwoga and Sammy De León y Su Orchestra.

This year, there will be two new special events.  For the festival’s piano series called “Piano Palooza,” Justin Kauflin, a blind pianist will be sharing his documentary at the Akron Public Library followed by a solo piano performance. Gospel band Judah Brown will help close the festival with the new  event, “Be a Miracle Concert” at Burning Bush Church.

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3rd Annual Rubber City Jazz and Blues Festival

Lock 3, 200 S. Main Street

Aug. 23 – Aug 26

Free Admission



(All photos courtesy of Rubber City Jazz and Blues Festival.)