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Crowd favorites return for 2014 Jazz in the Valley

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Jazz in the Valley is quite the insider’s festival. Based in Ellensburg, WA, the small, cozy festival started out in 1998 as an artisan’s haven.

It’s steadily grown from eight bands to 24. Many of the original festival artists have returned year after year, either as headline acts or visitors. Bigger, box office draws go to Detroit, Montreux, or Monterey. But Jazz in the Valley artists tend to be best-kept secrets, crowd favorites, and every once in a while, a true national treasure.

Once again, Jazz in the Valley returns with performances at various venues throughout historic downtown Ellensburg — east of Seattle. Whether they’re returning artists, Northwest legends, or international stars, they appeal to audiences of all ages and different musical styles.

Brian Nova heads up his trio for two shows July 26, the first at 4 p.m. on the Main Stage at the Rotary Pavilion, the second at Fitterer’s Furniture, 8 p.m.-11 p.m. The Grammy-winning guitarist originally came from Seattle, having taken on the role of director of Jazz and Guitar Studies for Seattle University in the 1990s. Currently, Nova calls California home. He’s been associated with Arturo Sandoval’s 2013, Grammy-winning best large jazz ensemble, Dear Diz. Before that, he toured with Joe Pass and Herb Ellis, as well as Illinois Jacquet, Bud Shank, and Tom Scott.

Another festival favorite is back. L.A.-based saxophonist/flutist Bruce Babad hits the Main Stage at the Rotary Pavilion July 27, 12:30 p.m., with his all-NW quartet. The quartet is made up of Central Washington University Jazz Studies alumnus: keyboardist Nick Moore, bassist Paul Gabrielson, and Ellensburg native Garey Williams, drummer. The university is one of Ellensburg’s main attractions for aspiring music students.

Everyone from the Northwest knows about saxophonist Darren Motamedy. Originally from L.A., the Iranian/German/French/Irish American lived for a time in Taiwan before settling in Kent, WA. He attended Central Washington University too, playing saxophone, clarinet, and flute. After moving to Vegas a few years ago, Motamedy continues to gig in Seattle. His Sunday Muckleshoot Casino Smooth Jazz jams attract some of the finest musicians in the area and more than a few national surprises. Check him out on the Main Stage at the Rotary Pavilion July 25, 9 p.m.-midnight.

Just because the festival’s called “Jazz in the Valley,” doesn’t leave blues out. Blues is an essential part of this summer festival, represented by some popular bands, Kim Field (Muddy Waters, Robert Cray, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Gregg Allman) on his wild harmonica with the Mighty Titans of Tone, and Seattle’s own WIRED! Blues Band. The Kim Field Band goes onstage July 25, 9 p.m., at the Elmira. The winner of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, February 2012, the WIRED! Blues Band brings some of that excitement to the Main Stage-Rotary Pavilion, July 26, 9 p.m.

Other notable artists not to be missed: Lenny Price Quartet featuring pianist Hal Weary, Dmitri Matheny Group, and David Friesen Quartet.

Besides live local music, Jazz in the Valley gives visitors a chance to take in the natural beauty of Ellensburg, sample Northwest micro-brews and wine, specialty foods, a farmer’s market, and even the Children’s Activity Museum.

Jazz in the Valley happens this weekend, July 25-27.

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