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Copyright 2011 / Chicago Jazz Magazine
September 30, 2011

Actual Story

Southwestern Michigan welcomes veteran Chicago jazz vocalist, the incomparable Judi K, as the featured performer for the 5th Annual Franz Jackson Jazz Celebration taking place at the Wood Fire Italian Trattoria, 134 S. Front Street, Dowagiac, Michigan on Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 6:30pm (ET).

Named in the swing category of the jazz history book “Jazz Singers, The Top 500” by jazz historian Scott Yanow, Judi K has made a name for herself among the best in her profession. Having been the featured singer with notable musicians such as the late Jethro Burns, the Dick Kress Swing Orchestra, the Jerry King Orchestra, and Jim Beebe’s Chicago Jazz, Judi has honed her vocal skills in a number of diverse settings. She sings the gamut from vaudeville to standards with the finesse only a seasoned professional can offer. Judi and Franz Jackson had a long history together, performing with each other in various groups and settings off and on for nearly 20 years. She was on hand to honor Franz at his 95th birthday gala concert in Dowagiac in November, 2007 and she’s thrilled to be back to pay tribute to him this year with her own show. Judi will be backed by three musicians well known to Michiana music lovers: the amazing Jim Pickley on piano, the outstanding Darrel Tidaback on bass and the unbelievable Billy “Stix” Nicks on drums. All three of these fabulous players played with Franz numerous times throughout the years during his gigs in the Northern Indiana/Southwestern Michigan area. Each of them were part of the select performers who feted Franz on his 95th.

The 5th Annual Franz Jackson Jazz Celebration honors Jackson, a former Dowagiac resident, for his lifelong contribution to the music world. Franz Jackson, who passed away at the age of 95 in May, 2008, started his professional career at the age of 16 with boogie-woogie pianist Albert Ammons and played with virtually every renowned jazz great including Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Fletcher Henderson, Jimmy Noone, Earl Hines, Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne. His resume boasted credits as a repeat command performer for the King of Sweden, a 2005 American Heritage Jazz Series Honoree as one of the Greatest Living Jazz Tenor Saxophonists, an appearance on “The Prairie Home Companion” with Garrison Keillor and an interview by Studs Terkel for Steppenwolf Theater’s TRAFFIC series on improvised music. In 2006, he received a nomination for the National Endowment For The Arts Jazz Masters Fellowship and was the recipient of the Jazz Institute of Chicago Walter Dyett Lifetime Achievement Award. Jackson continued his career until shortly before his death, appearing at the New Orleans Jazz Festival in May, 2007. In November, 2007, Mr. Jackson’s 95th birthday was celebrated in Dowagiac with a nearly 3-hour-long gala concert featuring two dozen musicians from across the country. The event raised over $7,000 which was donated to four non-profit organizations focused on arts education, preservation and promotion.

Cover for the 5th Annual Franz Jackson Jazz Celebration will be $15 for adults, $5 for children ages 5-12 and children under 5 are admitted free. Limited seating is available and reservations are strongly recommended. Reservations may be made by calling The Wood Fire at 269-782-0007. Please visit,, or for more information.

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