Music

South Bend Music Festival offers country, jazz and world fusion

The inaugural South Bend Music Festival takes place Oct. 6 at Century Center in South Bend, and the three primary performers will present quite different styles of music.

Country singer Jimmie Allen headlines the South Bend Music Festival on Oct. 6, 2022, at Century Center.

Headliner Jimmie Allen is possibly the fastest-rising artist currently in the country music world. He released his first single, “Best Shot,” in 2018, followed later that year by his debut album, “Mercury Lane.” Success has subsequently come in droves for Allen, most notably the CMA New Artist of the Year award in 2021.

Allen is only the second Black artist ever to win the prize, and it puts him in elite company. Most winners of the same award have gone on to become household names ― not just among lovers of country music, either. It’s a “who’s who” of absolute superstars, from Clint Black and Garth Brooks to Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves. Allen’s prominence has been bolstered by his participation on “Dancing With the Stars” in 2021 and his knack for attracting celebrity duet partners, including Brad Paisley and Jennifer Lopez.

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His newest album, “Tulip Drive,” came out in June of this year, and his set at the South Bend Music Festival is likely to feature a mix of “Tulip Drive” songs and earlier hits such as “Make Me Want To” and “Freedom Was a Highway.”

‘I like surprising’

Jazz vocalist Dee Alexander has enjoyed a long career as a performer and recording artist, and she also has branched out into broadcasting. Her radio show, “Sunday Jazz with Dee Alexander,” is syndicated by the WFMT Radio Network and is broadcast locally on WETF-FM (105.7). Her band will feature Chicago stalwarts Miguel de la Cerna (piano), Dennis Carroll (bass) and Greg Artry (drums.) Her horn player will be Austrian powerhouse trombonist Paul Zauner. They will need to be ready for anything.

“I was just speaking with Paul, and he was a little concerned, saying that we need to talk about what we’re going to do,” Alexander says by telephone from Chicago. “I said, ‘Oh Paul, we’re just going to play music.’ I like surprises, and I like surprising.”

Jazz singer Dee Alexander performs Oct. 6, 2022, at Century Center as one of the three acts on the bill for the South Bend Music Festival.

It’s a safe bet that she will sing a few songs that her mother used to play around the house. Alexander made a concept album in 2014 entirely devoted to that music, titled “Songs My Mother Loves.”

“My mother is the reason why I do this. My brothers and I were awakened to beautiful music on many mornings,” Alexander says. “I remember hearing Nina Simone and Billie Holiday and loving it even as a child. It was the sound of their voices and also the stories they were telling.”

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In a sense, much of Alexander’s repertoire could be considered songs her mother loves. The singer is glad that she didn’t wait too long to salute her primary influence.

“I wanted to honor my mom, and I wanted to do it while she’s still alive,” Alexander says. “Too often, the tribute happens when someone dies. At concerts, every time I acknowledge her, she stands up and does her pageant wave.”

‘World fusion’

Locally-based saxophonist Danny Lerman will present his own spin on contemporary jazz, highlighting music from his brand-new album, “Night Rider.” Steeped in smooth jazz, Lerman’s style has expanded in recent years to include strains of pop, R&B, Latin jazz and fusion jazz in the Weather Report tradition.

South Bend native and resident Danny Lerman performs Oct. 6, 2022, at Century Center as one of the three acts on the lineup for the South Bend Music Festival. The jazz saxophonist also released his newest album, "Night Rider," in September 2022.

The new album’s atypically aggressive track “Berliner Bob” is an example of Lerman trying new approaches. Parts of the first take made it to the final cut.

“Something pulled that whole melody out of me,” Lerman says. “Because the song starts on a pedal point, it kind of needs to go ‘out’ in order to create some tension and release. I normally don’t play avant-garde, but that’s what came out, and it was the perfect thing for the tune. In fact, I’ve had to transcribe it and study it, just so that I can play what I wrote.”

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Usually an alto and soprano specialist, Lerman will bring along a third horn for the festival ― a tenor for the Latin-tinged “Pepper Hot.”

“I don’t like to carry around three horns when I’m traveling,” he says. “When I was putting that song together, I tried it with soprano, alto and tenor, and tenor was the winner. We’re going to make a video for that song in Chicago with some Latin dancers.”

This is the cover of jazz saxophonist Danny Lerman's September 2022 album, "Night Rider."

Just as the festival blends together diverse genres, Lerman has found that variety has added spice to his own sound.

“I like combining vibes and formulas,” he says. “If I were a restaurant, I’d be a world fusion restaurant, mixing stuff from different countries all together, making something new.”

In concert

What: South Bend Music Festival

Where: Century Center, 120 S. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., South Bend

When: 5 p.m. Oct. 6

Cost: $100-$30

For more information: Visit southbendmusicfestival.org

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