On Saturday, the Munster Parks and Recreation Department invite all to the Grape Escape, a wine tasting, ethnic market and fine arts fair with plenty of great music.
The event begins with singer/songwriter Jef Sarver taking the stage at 12:30 p.m. with a mix of covers (Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Jim Croce) and original tunes from his albums.
At 2:30 p.m. there will be two back-to-back sets. The Michael Turner Band — the international saxophonist’s self-named group — will deliver a broad mix of contemporary jazz tunes and vintage R&B favorites. Then national touring group Mellencougar will wrap things up with their high-energy tribute to Indiana’s own John Mellencamp, as vocalist Don Wilson rocks the afternoon away with songs spanning the famous Hoosier’s catalog.
There is a $5 charge to enter the wine tasting tent for those 21-and-older, but otherwise this event is free to the public and all ages are welcome.
MICHAEL TURNER BAND: Saxy sounds abound
When he is not on the road blowing his saxophone as a member of the renown funk group The Ohio Players, Chicago native turned region resident Michael Turner is fronting his own self-named quartet.
“Music is my life,” Turner said. “I first started playing saxophone in 1987 when I was a sophomore at Chicago Vocational High School and I just never stopped.” Taking to the instrument quickly, Turner spent three years played in both the marching band and jazz band at CVHS.
Music — which Turner refers to a his “blessing” — has allowed him to visit nearly every state and taken him aboard to foreign lands.
After attending college at Grambling State University in Louisiana, Turner became a professional musician and traveled the world with veteran performer Otis Clay, playing R&B and old school blues.
Weary of the road, Turner later joined the Marine Corps, and after completing basic training, spent the duration of his military career honing his horn-playing skills further with The 2nd Marine Division Band.
The Michael Turner Band has been together and playing concerts throughout the Midwest for four years. Fleshing out Turner’s musical crew are Bubbles on drums, Q on bass and JT on keyboards.
“We do a lot of musical styles,” Turner said. “We do contemporary jazz by saxophonists like David Sanborn, Grover Washington Jr. and Gerald Albright. We do old school R&B, stuff by Luther Vandross, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye. We even do some traditional stuff that we contemporize by artists like Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck, and do our own interpretations of standards like ‘Misty,’ ‘The Girl From Ipanema’ and other familiar songs.”
Turner will also treat Saturday’s audience to a couple of original songs from his eight-song solo album, which will be available at the show.
MELLENCOUGAR : Hits from the heartland
Given John Mellencamp often opts out of playing some of his biggest hits in his current live shows, catching the Midwest tribute group Mellencougar has become all the more rewarding.
Mellencougar's frontman Don Wilson happily gives fans a nonstop, high energy show chock full of staple Cougar/Mellencamp radio hits, plus a healthy sprinkling of deeper album cuts.
“When people come to see a tribute band they expect all the big hits,” Wilson said. “Everybody knows 'Small Town,' ‘Little Pink Houses,’ ‘Jack And Diane’ and ‘R.O.C.K. In The USA,’ but the fans who went out and bought the albums like I did growing up really love it when we dig out songs like ‘Minutes To Memories,’ ‘Rumble Seat,’ ‘Between A Laugh And A Tear’ and a personal favorite of mine, ‘Now More Than Ever.'"
A part-time radio personality, Wilson fell into doing the tribute act after a station co-worker heard him sing a few acoustic Mellencamp favorites.
It took that co-worker two years to convinced Wilson to form a band, but less than six months after Mellencougar came together in 2007, they were performing at Chicago’s House of Blues. “It was a quick start,” he said. “It just took off from there.”
Over the years, Mellencougar has shared the stage with Loverboy, Eddie Money, Styx, Night Ranger, The BoDeans and The Spin Doctors.
Wilson remains protective of the group’s reputation and prides himself in keeping the level of talent top shelf. “I’ve got amazing musicians up there every night with me,” he said of the group's current line-up — guitarists Joe McDowell and Brian Hilty, drummer Mark Cox, bassist Kenji Juravic, keyboardist Lukas Kulik and violinist/vocalist Jackie Rae.