Jazz series expands to summer dates

Coming off a sellout of its winter/spring season of dates, the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic’s Jazz at Helen’s series has added summer dates for the first time. Tickets go on sale Monday.

One of the scheduled groups, Bleu Django, with Brown County violinist Carolyn Dutton, has been well known to local audiences for the last decade or so.

In the past, the series has featured both nationally known performers such as pianist Steve Allee and more regionally known artists such as Columbus native Cathy Morris, though she has also performed in such far-flung locales as Japan.

Plus, the just-completed series featured New York City vocalist Alexis Cole singing Joni Mitchell.

Warren Ward, the series’ producer, brought the idea for the series to the Philharmonic. After discussing the concept with the Philharmonic, he also talked over the idea with Allee, who came to Columbus from his Indianapolis home and was impressed with the venue and the venue’s piano that he played. In past years, Allee had played concerts locally at the original Commons and built a substantial area following.

Ward recalled that meeting.

“Of course, all the organizational pieces had to be in place to do this,” Ward said. “But if Steve had said he hated the idea, this never would have happened.”

Ward said the series success can be traced to”stellar talent that really is almost overwhelming.”

“The jazz series has been a booming success,” said Donnie Robinette, the Philharmonic’s executive director. “We knew there was a craving for jazz. But it’s a little surprising that all this has happened.”

Organizers call the 96-seat layout at Helen Haddad Hall, 315 Franklin St. in downtown Columbus, “a speakeasy feel,” with the front row only a few feet from the stage — a coziness that artists say they love for the audience energy and the connection.

A cash bar will be available for beer, wines, spirits and specialty themed cocktails. Here is the lineup:

  • 7:30 p.m. May 31: Pavel Polanco-Safadit & Direct Contact, a group is known for its energetic, fiery performances, much in the vein of today’s Latin jazz world. Pavel Polanco-Safadit is an internationally known Dominican pianist and a Chicago Music Awards nominee. Information: https://linktr.ee/pavel.directcontact
  • 7:30 p.m. June 28: Bleu Django is an acoustic hot club jazz/swing combo. Its instrumentation (violin, guitars, bass) and repertoire pay tribute to a unique musical group created in Paris, France, more than 80 years ago—the Quintette du Hot Club de France. More info: https://www.bleudjango.com
  • 7:30 p.m. Aug. 16: Kelleen Strutz, known simply as Kelleen, is an accomplished pianist and vocalist of the Great American Songbook. Musically versatile, she integrates jazz, classical, and pop standards –reminiscent of her early influencers Carol King, Carly Simon, Nancy Wilson, and Barbara Streisand– to create a sultry sound coined by fans and followers.

General admission tickets are $45 each. Or people may purchase the entire summer series for $120. Attendees must be age 21 and older. “Jazz at Helen’s” is made possible through the support of Mark and Melanie Henderson.

Information and tickets: thecip.org.