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What’s Not to Like?

Where’s there’s music and wine, there will be dancing

     “I woke up and said, I can do this,” Onyx Linthicum reports of the morning he conceived the Southern Maryland Wine, Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and Funk Festival.
     The D.C. native and self-help writer imagined a country event where folks could get their groove on while diverse local and national artists brought cool music to offset the August heat.
      Back in 2015, Linthicum was ambitious, he admits. Jazz, Rhythm & Blues and Funk covers a lot of musical ground. Could he pull in all that music? Would the fans come? Would the weather hold?
     Drawing in local vineyards and food purveyors added another challenge.
      But this was a labor of love. Linthicum grew up in the church, where the sounds of gospel music were his inspiration. In college, he promoted comedy and jazz shows while working as a technician for musicians making original recordings. He found inspiration, too, in the death of a close friend who wrote hip-hop they recorded together. Later he became associated with the Capitol Jazz event and worked on their events at Merriweather Post Pavilion. 
      Linthicum was right. He could. In its third year, the festival coming this weekend to the Calvert County Fairgrounds attracts 4,000 music lovers, up from 1,000 the first year. 
 
The Lineup 
      This year’s lineup features a lot of really good talent. I found myself listening to it over and over. My top two favorites are, like me, guitar players.
      Plus, who wouldn’t want to hear a guy named Chooky? Especially as he reminds me of the late Wayman Tisdale, a favorite of ours at home. 
     Chooky, aka GZAM recording artist Antone Caldwell, is a D.C. neighbor from a large and influential musical family who’s had a bass guitar in his hands since the age of five. A multi-instrumentalist, composer and producer, he has played with a Who’s Who of musicians from Snoop Dog to Mariah Carey. 
     Drew Davidsen is a virtuoso guitarist selected by Guitar Player Magazine as one of the 10 hot players to watch. His latest album, A Good Life, was released in May to critical acclaim; even George Benson has endorsed him. Davidsen donates part of his recording profits to support the Ghanaian Mothers Hope, a charity in Ghana, West Africa, that builds schools, playgrounds and medical clinics. 
      There are women in this mix, too. Framewerk is a dynamic six-piece fronted by lovely SonJa, who looks like she knows how to take care of business. Get ready to move your feet as they take the stage.
     Back in the day, I wore the grooves out of my Tower of Power’s records. Fans like me will love the Will Power Band, hailing from the soul music-Jersey side of Philly. With a plethora of funk and R&B, this 11-piece band will get your groove on in a hurry.
     With 15 acts, the list just keeps going. 
     Bassist Christian de Mesones brings his Big New York & the Smooth Jazz All-Stars, featuring multiple Billboard-charting artists heard all over the airwaves of XM radio. De Mesones is also known for fronting the Groove Skool Band.
     Writer, producer and bandleader Rick White fronts guiltypleasures, which, as you might imagine, adds sensual soul music to the festival. 
     Another D.C. Metro area band, eight-piece Jazzy Blu, combines funk, jazz, R&B and alternative, keeping up with Linthicum’s vision. “No matter who you are, where you come from or what you request, Jazzy Blu has something special in store for you,” they say.
     Coloradan Tony Exum Jr. is a saxophonist extraordinaire who’s played since the age of 11 when his uncle gave him his first sax. He’s played with War and The Four Tops.
     Trumpeter Willie Bradley has performed worldwide, sharing the stage with many notable artists as well as maintaining a solo career.
      As their name implies, Unit 3 Deep is comprised of three talented musicians, Patrick Cooper on keys, David Dyson on bass and Duane Thomas on drums.
     D.C.’s The X Factor brings an eclectic mix of funk, R&B, rock and jazz. From sultry ballads to funky dance tunes, their two vocalists front an all-star four-piece band that will keep you moving on your feet.
      Sax man Marcus Mitchell fronts a smooth jazz quartet with infectious grooves and mellow melodic temperaments. A native of Temple Hills, he is also a businessman whose company, 24th Music, promotes other musicians. 
     When you hear trumpeter Rob Zinn, with The Rob Zinn Group, you’ll hear the influences of the masters blended into his music. 
     Keyboardist Marcus Young played with D.C. Legend Chuck Brown, the father of go-go music. His Groove Jazz mixes swing, fusion and Latin jazz. Young has toured with the Armed Forces Entertainment in the Mideast as well as playing throughout the States. He still finds time to lead the music ministry at the Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton.
     Guitarist and bassist Kevin Jackson, who hails from Baltimore, weaves a sensual stream of sonic magic from his smooth voice and phrasings on his Paul Reed Smith Guitar.
     It will take you two days to hear all that music.
 
Even More to Love
     You’ll have even more to love with 15 local vineyards — as many as bands — bringing wines from all over a state now garnering accolades. You’ll eat well, too, and you can even paint as you listen. Leave the kids at home for this adult festival.
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August 19 & 20, 10am-9pm with music nearly nonstop and DJ’s filling in the breaks. Calvert County Fairgrounds, Barstow, $30-$125 VIP: www.vendor-nation.com.