Hot headliners hit the Selby Ave. music festival


It is with great pride and pleasure to announce, it’s time to kick back and enjoy one of the best free music festivals in the upper Midwest. I’m talking about the 2012 Selby Ave. JazzFest happening on Saturday, September 8, 11 am — 8 pm, at Selby Avenue and Milton in St. Paul. The festival is presented by Golden Thyme Coffee Cafe and is now in its 11th year. Allina Health is this year’s JazzFest stage sponsor.

If you go, here’s what you can expect: live jazz from local, regional, and national acts. Delicious food from area restaurants. Talented artisans demonstrating their skills. Fun family and kids’ activities. Don’t forget to bring along your lawn chair. And go with open ears.

Three things I can say about the Selby Ave JazzFest: One, there is a rich diversity of festival-goers from the community and beyond. Two, there is an imaginative presentation of talent year after year. Lastly, the variety of vendors on site is top-notch.

It’s always a joy to learn about the fresh talent presented and find out who will be the headliner for the festival. Last year, Gerald Albright was the JazzFest headliner. Also, there is a lot of care and consideration that goes into each and every detail of the festival, not just the entertainment aspect.

Abdul Zuhri, one of the headliners at this year’s Selby Ave. JazzFest, held Sept. 8 in St. Paul.
Photo courtesy of Selby Ave. JazzFest

All the way around, it’s enjoyable to see the variety in terms of the intergenerational representation at the festival. You will indeed, see mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and grandparents, too, all having a good time.

The 2012 performers at this year’s Selby Ave JazzFest include:

Dick and Jane’s Big Brass Band: For 14 years this group has brought the Twin Cities its own brand of New Orleans music.

Walker West Music Academy’s Legends of Jazz: The school is well known for its artistic excellence in all styles of music from classical to gospel and jazz. The year 2012 is particularly meaningful, as it marks the 11th year that the school’s talented staff and students have performed at the Selby Ave. JazzFest.

Brio Brass: This ensemble includes 44 adult musicians and is described as a nontraditional, rockin’ brass band that performs their own unique arrangements written specifically for its members. This large repertoire features a broad range of musical styles. 2012 marks this group’s third JazzFest appearance.

Jazz Heritage Showcase: This is a collection of Penumbra Theatre regulars who bring back the genre’s golden age. Each entertainer dresses in period-specific outfits.

Headliner Abdul Zuhri featuring vocalist Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley: Zuhri is a native New Yorker and a graduate of the prestigious Five Towns College on Long Island. His collaborations have included working with such musical legends as Paul McCartney, Dennis Chambers, Lionel Richie, Ben E. King and Herbie Hancock.

Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley
Photo courtesy of Selby Ave. JazzFest

Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley exploded onto the music scene in 1988 with her debut album, Me, Myself, and I. From that album, Riley recorded her number-one soul/R&B hit “Thanks for My Child,” a song considered by many women an anthem of hope and courage that also helped bring this Brooklyn, New York native to national and international acclaim.

The MSR caught up with Selby Ave. JazzFest founder and owner of Golden Thyme Coffee Café, Mychael Wright (MW), to explore his thoughts on this year’s festivities.


MSR: Now that the Selby Ave. JazzFest is in its 11th year, what are you most proud of when you think about the entire presentation of it all?

MW: I’m proud that we connect with the community in a positive environment. The mix of people make it that more special.

MSR: What do you see as some of the highlights of this year’s Selby Ave. JazzFest that help make it one of the best ever?

MW: We are helping celebrate not only our community but also our local artists, like Pippi Adreana, who has been voted one of the best and admired singing artist in the Twin Cities. So we honor that acknowledgment. I let the people determine what they may say is the best. I want to sustain the feel and the atmosphere.

MSR: Tell us a little about what lead you to book this year’s headliner.

MW: Why I selected this year’s headliner is what I perceive as a “cool breeze smooth jazz” artist — light and airy with depth of flavor. Special guest songstress Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley helped me lean toward our beautiful female counterparts to feel that special musical touch.

MSR: What has been the Selby Ave. JazzFest attendance numbers to date?

MW: [At] its height last year with Gerald Albright, we estimated approximately 12,000-15,000 throughout the day.

MSR: What makes the Selby Ave. JazzFest one of the most successful free jazz festivals in the Twin Cities?

MW: Success is the measurement of those who have helped the Selby Avenue JazzFest grow in 11 years. I do my best in listening to the rhythm of my community and bring variety to this part of the avenue. To hear folks talk about what was and what is now the best in local talent as well as national and international musicians up close and personal in their backyards, so to speak, just makes it that more special of an event.


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