Lexus Smooth Jazz Fest
■ 7 p.m. Aug. 6. featuring the Positive Movement Jazz Band, Central Library's William Stamps Farish Fund Theater, 140 E. Main St. Free.
■ 8 p.m. Aug. 7 featuring Razzberry White at the Embassy Suites Hotel, Coldstream Ballroom, 1801 Newtown Pike. $25.
■ 7:30 p.m. Aug. 8 featuring Ken Ford and Grace Kelly at the Kentucky Horse Park Campground, 4089 Iron Works Pkwy. $20, $75. (859) 255-2653. Aafinc.com.
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Over the past decade, the African American Forum's series of summer concerts, which morphed in 2009 into the Lexus Smooth Jazz Fest, have been contained to single evening events. They have been especially hot nights, mind you, with performances by such chart-topping artists as Najee, Kirk Whalum, Alex Bugnon, Marion Meadows, Norman Brown, Pieces of a Dream, Kim Waters and Euge Groove. But the concerts were still singular in nature.
This year, the Smooth Jazz Fest encompasses an entire weekend. The multi-evening revision opens Thursday night with a free Jazz at the Library outing by the Positive Movement Jazz Band. The main events, however, unfold Friday night and Saturday.
Friday's Fest fun will be provided by Cincinnati vocalist and composer Razzberry White. While she has recorded frequently on her own (she released a well-received solo debut album, Be Yourself), White has been equally visible as a collaborator who has recorded and/or performed with the likes of Brian McKnight, Slave, Reggie Calloway (of Midnight Star) and veteran Cincinnati funk pioneer Bootsy Collins.
Then on Saturday, the Smooth Jazz Fest makes its debut at the Kentucky Horse Park campground. Sharing the bill will be violinist Ken Ford and saxophonist Grace Kelly.
The St. Louis-born, Detroit-raised Ford took up the violin at age nine after his parents noticed him playing note for note to an Al Green record on a toy piano. As a member and eventual concertmaster with the African American Philharmonic Orchestra, he performed with soul giant Barry White.
Based for many years in Atlanta, Ford detoured briefly into a career in computer technology. Inspired by such varied contemporary violinists as Jean-Luc Ponty and Noel Pointer, he re-established a blooming career playing with such R&B-pop celebrities as Ledesi, Wayman Tisdale, Wyclef Jean, Jill Scott, Bruno Mars, Wyclef Jean, Cee Lo Green, Maxwell and Lalah Hathaway. Ford's own soul-jazz recordings include 2004's Chevelle Lane, 2012's Burnt Toast and 2011's State of Mind.
Though still in her 20s, Downbeat Critics Poll winner and Berklee College of Music graduate Kelly has already enjoyed a remarkably far-reaching jazz career, from gigs with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to recordings featuring such traditionalists as Phil Woods and mentor Lee Konitz to solo albums steeped in shades of pop and urban contemporary sounds that spotlight her as a vocalist as well as saxophonist.
Kelly's performances, if anything, are even more stylistically expansive with covers of hits by Sia, Coldplay and Daft Punk sitting beside her own ultra-modern material. A recording artist since the age of 12, her newest release is the 2014 EP disc Working for the Dreamers.
Top of the Mountain
It's been a huge year of local exposure for bluegrass troupe Town Mountain. Already a Lexington favorite through performances at Willie's Locally Known and Natasha's Bistro, the self-proclaimed "hard drivin' Carolina string band'' wound up with the prestigious closing spot on the Saturday bill at the Festival of the Bluegrass in June with members of the homegrown troupe The Wooks sitting in.
Friday, both bands head to Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave., the same venue Town Mountain performed at this time last year (10 p.m.; $12, $15). But there will be even more of Town Mountain heading our way this fall.
The quintet is slated to play the Poppy Mountain Bluegrass Festival in Morehead on Sept. 19 before returning to Lexington yet again for a Best of Bluegrass show downtown at the Stephens Courthouse Plaza on Oct. 28 with the Travelin' McCourys and, once again, The Wooks. The show will be presented in conjunction with the Breeders Cup Festival.
As for Town Mountain itself, work is well underway on the band's fifth studio album with Grammy-winning fiddler Dirk Powell (a Ohio native with Eastern Kentucky parentage) serving as producer. Though the band has not released a record of new material since 2012's Leave the Bottle, the concert album Live at the Isis was issued last year to fill the gap.
For more information on tonight's performance, call (859) 309-9499 or go to cosmic-charlies.com