Kirk Whalum teams with Dee Dee Bridgewater as Tri-C JazzFest channels Memphis

May 22, 2018 GMT

Kirk Whalum teams with Dee Dee Bridgewater as Tri-C JazzFest channels Memphis

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Grammy-winning sax man Kirk Whalum, a frequent visitor to Cleveland, will fill the void in the Tri-C JazzFest left by Tony winner Leslie Odom Jr.’s decision to focus on a movie instead of co-headlining the 39th installment of the annual event.

It’s a good pairing, since Whalum and the remaining co-headliner, Tony winner Dee Dee Bridgewater – she was Glinda in “The Wiz″ on Broadway – have Memphis ties. Whalum even co-produced her latest album, “Memphis . . . Yes, I’m Ready.″

And with that, the JazzFest is shifting from a Broadway-oriented focus to a Memphis-oriented JazzFest.

“Few cities can claim anything like the Memphis music tradition,″ said JazzFest director Terri Pontremoli in a release announcing Whalum’s inclusion. “Seeing Dee Dee and Kirk team up will be a powerful and one-of-a-kind experience.″


The two Grammy winners – Bridgewater has three in addition to her Tony Award - will headline the opening night concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 28. The festival runs through Saturday, June 30, at various Playhouse Square indoor theaters and outdoors on a special stage that will feature 19 local acts.

Whalum is a Memphis native who still lives in his hometown. His sax has produced a dozen Grammy nominations, and is even heard on Whitney Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.″ He toured with Houston for seven years.

Tickets to all the shows are on sale now at the Playhouse Square box office, online at and by phone at 216-241-6000.

For a full lineup, check