Founded in 1962 by Dino Santangelo and legendary Jazz promoter George Wein as the all-Jazz Ohio Valley Jazz Festival, Cincinnati’s popular “Jazz Fest” has gone through a lot of changes in its half century-plus history. It has moved locations from its original Carthage Fairgrounds to Crosley Field and then Riverfront Stadium, before shifting to its current home at the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium. Before claiming the Cincinnati Music Festival name a few years ago, it had undergone numerous name changes over the years, largely reflecting sponsorships, like Ohio Valley Kool Jazz Festival, Coors Light Riverfront Stadium Festival and Macy’s Music Festival.
Though early on it began to feature a mix of Jazz and R&B — for example, 1972’s event included everyone from Ike & Tina Turner, The Staple Singers and B.B. King to Thelonious Monk, Cannonball Adderley and Nina Simone —Jazz eventually took a backseat to Soul and Funk. Still, to this day, it’s most commonly referred to as simply “Jazz Fest.” (Last year, Aracadia Publishing released the historical photo book The Ohio Valley Jazz Festival about the event.)
This year, Cincinnati Music Festival’s lineup is especially strong. After an opening night event that features MC Lyte and DJ Jazzy Jeff, Cincinnati Music Festival presents a lineup of the kind of acts that have become the event’s bread and butter, with legacy artists like Boyz II Men, Charlie Wilson (of The Gap Band), After 7 and Xscape. Day 2 includes fest favorites The O’Jays and Keith Sweat, as well as Hip Hop/Neo Soul pals The Roots, Common and Jill Scott. Cincinnati’s own Bootsy Collins also performs on the fest’s second day.