For the 23rd year, the grassy amphitheater at Rodney Strong Vineyards on Old Redwood Hwy. will play host to crowd-friendly musical groups in a series of five concerts – two of them on one weekend.
Although the series is a perennial font for the “smooth jazz” format of musicians, due in part to its co-sponsorship by local radio station KJZY-FM, this year two artists break the mold in a big way.
On Sunday, Aug. 4, C&W star Dwight Yoakam will bring his cowboy hat, blue jeans and catchy melodies to the stage in support of his latest album 3 Pears. The singer-songwriter-actor has pulled in collaborators including art rock artist Beck and rap rocker Kid Rock to support the album, but don’t look for them on stage. Show starts at 5 p.m., tickets are $75 general, $115 VIP.
B.B. King, doubtless the world’s most well-known blues artist, will show up on Sept. 1 with his sturdy touring band and the liquid sound of Lucille, his guitar. Don’t expect him to dance – he’s a big guy, and 87 years old – but you know he’ll play the classics such as “The Thrill Is Gone,” “How Blue Can You Get,” and “Every Day I Have The Blues” from his deep repertoire. Show starts at 5 p.m., tickets are $75 general, $115 VIP.
Other performers include the return (for the umpteenth time) of Michael McDonald, who kicks off the series on June 22. From his Doobie Brothers classics such as “What A Fool Believes” and solo hits like “I Keep Forgettin” through two Motown covers albums, the silver-haired the five-time Grammy-winning McDonald never fails to please his loyal fans. Show starts at 5 p.m., tickets are $75 general, $115 VIP.
Saturday, August 3 – the day before the Yoakam concert – the jazzy “supergroup” known as BWB brings Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum and Norman Brown back to town. Their album of a dozen years ago Groovin’ made them the sought-after trio they are today. Their newest album Human Nature is released in June, an 11-song tribute to you-know-who. Show starts at 5 p.m., tickets are $60 general, $90 VIP.
If you’re wondering where Dave Koz and Friends are this year, here they are: Saturday August 17. This year the 8-time Grammy nominee brings fellow saxophonists Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright and Richard Elliot with him to fill the stage with expressive reed-and-brass voices of the sax on the “Summer Horns Tour.” Show starts at 5 p.m., tickets are $60 general, $90 VIP.
Show times and ticket prices are as noted above. This year there will be General Admission Season Pass tickets available for $345 per person for all shows; VIP Season Pass tickets are $525 per person. All ticket shipping and handling fees are waived for Season Passes, a savings of $35.
Ticket sales start Monday, April 29, when season passes and individual concert tickets will be on sale by calling (707) 869-1595 ext. 4 or through www.rodneystrong.com/concerts. Tickets can also be purchased in person at the Rodney Strong Vineyards Tasting Room at 11455 Old Redwood Highway, off Highway 101 just south of Healdsburg.
NOTE: The venue is also the scene of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival season finale, on Sunday June 9, but that concert is not part of the “Rodney Strong Summer.” That show will feature the female a cappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock, with “real jazz” from the Azar Lawrence Quartet. More info on that show here.