Ira Sullivan
Ira Sullivan, will appear at the Cedar River Complex on May 21. Submitted photo

OSAGE — Jazz musician Ira Sullivan will perform in concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, at the Krapek Family Fine Arts Center at the Cedar River Complex in Osage.

He will be joined by five musicians — from Chicago to Miami — during the first Ira Sullivan Jazz Conference.

“This group of performers come with about 400 years of playing music,” said Mike Flack of Cedar Rapids, event organizer. Flack is a former resident of Osage.

“They will entertain the people of Mitchell County and surrounding communities of Iowa like never before. I’ve been entertaining for about 48 years and Sam Crosser has been playing just about as long, and neither of us can play jazz like these men.”

The idea for the event came following a performance by Flack and Crosser at the grand opening of the Cedar River Complex in April 2010.

“I promised Brad and Rae Ann Havig that one day the finest musicians would soon be in Osage to perform to everyone’s satisfaction at this fine venue,” said Flack. “On May 20, that promise will become reality.”

Leading the all-star jazz event is Sullivan, 80.

“Ira is a gentleman and giant among men,” Flack said. “He sounds like a street-tough kid from Chicago, but is a sweetheart of a man in every manner of his being.”

Sullivan started playing the trumpet and saxophone at the age of three and by age five began playing in church.

He is considered one of a few people who have developed the ability to play a trumpet and flugelhorn, clarinet and saxophone, or flute and can also perform with percussion devices, piano and voice.

Sullivan is widely recorded and tours on the national and international jazz circuits.

He is a five-time Grammy Award nominee and serves as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Playing in the band will be Rusty Jones, drummer and a graduate of the University of Iowa and a sideman for many years in the George Shearing Band. He also backed up Marian McPartland and was one of the last drummers to record with Chet Barker in 1986, shortly before Baker’s death. Jones’ uncle was Ishlam Jones, the world famous songwriter from the 1940s.

Rounding out the band will be Nick Schneider on bass and Larry Harris on piano.

At 6:30 p.m., local favorite Sam Crosser of Osage will perform.

“I will join him on percussion. We talked about doing that, since we have played together for so many years,” Flack said.

Flack also had a suggestion in recognition of Sullivan’s 80th birthday.

  “Would it not be appropriate, for the audience, to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Ira? I will prompt the audience to do so after applause and as an end to the evening’s performances,” said Flack. “The hospitality of the Midwest is on review on May 20.

“As in every occasion, when music is played, there are always two sides to the stage and the people in the seats are so important as are the performers.”

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