Every August, the Pine Grill Jazz Reunion noisily toasts the raucous legacy of the long-gone Pine Grill, a beloved lowbrow jazz venue on Buffalo's East Side. For two Sundays, this free jazz festival features the kind of gutbucket music the Pine Grill was known for -- music anchored by the smoky sounds of a honking saxophone, a tremulous Hammond B3. The event has come to resemble a fair, with vendors selling barbecue, pies and other merchandise.
Headlining this year's festival is Lonnie Smith, one of the great aces of the Hammond B3. Smith, who is from our area and has family here, is a world-class recording artist and one of the festival's most popular encore performers. Also featured this year is another proven Pine Grill Reunion great: organist Akiko Tsuruga, known for her association with Lou Donaldson.
The lineup also includes Grammy-winning blues harmonica player Billy Branch and an intriguing jazz vocalist, Ghanniyya Green. According to tradition, the evening will end with a jam session involving all the featured performers.
On Aug. 12 the fun continues with locally based talent including Denzell Ward and Cool Company, Chauncey Northington and the K.M.A. Experience, Evolution, Danny and the Blues Revue, and GLVT Love Xtreme.
Pack up your lawn chairs and get in the groove. Sunday's Pine Grill Reunion kicks off in Martin Luther King Park at 4 p.m. and is expected to last until 9 p.m. Admission is free.
-- Mary Kunz Goldman