Arts & Entertainment

Bluesman Robert Cray sticks to his groove

Robert Cray, a five-time Grammy-winning blues musician, might be pushing age 60, but he still plays a mean guitar and flaunts a killer smile.

He's coming to the Tri-Cities on Sept. 12 for an outdoor concert from 3 to 10 p.m. at the band shell at the east end of Columbia Park in Kennewick.

Also appearing with Cray will be jazz musicians Lee Ritenour and Jessy J. Area restaurants and wineries also will be participating in the event.

Concert organizers say a good turnout at the event could mean more Tri-City concerts next year.

The Riverfront Concert Series is organized by the newly formed Riverfront Concerts LLC promoter business, co-owned by Marc Solferino and Monte Mills, both of Richland, and Ken Phebus of Southern California.

The Cray concert will be the first and last concert of this year's series.

As Solferino explains, "I've been wanting to bring this kind of top name entertainment to the Tri-Cities for a long time now. I knew I had to at least have one concert before the year was out to test the market."

If the Cray concert goes well, then a new full six-concert season starts in the spring in Columbia Park.

"If we break even on this concert with Robert Cray we'll be happy," Solferino said. "Next year we'll have a minimum of six concerts in the same location. We'd like to see this series have an amphitheater flavor to it where people bring blankets and lawn chairs. But we do have a VIP section where there are chairs too."

Cray's new album, This Time, is now available in record stores. The album also marks the return of Cray's longtime friend and bassist Richard Cousins to the band.

Cray fans can rest easy knowing This Time -- his first new album in four years -- doesn't stray from his unique guitar-driven blues style.

According to Cray's website, he self-produced the new album in Santa Barbara. His band roster has shuffled around a bit since his last album in 2005, but the new release features Cray's longtime keyboardist Jim Pugh, Cousins and veteran blues drummer Tony Braunagel.

Lee "Captain Fingers" Ritenour is a guitarist, recording artist, composer and producer. Since 1976, he has recorded more than 40 albums and charted more than 30 instrumental and vocal contemporary jazz hits.

Ritenour -- perhaps best known for the 1981 hit song, Is It You -- is considered a pioneer in smooth jazz.

Jessy J is a jazz saxophonist from the Portland area who's been playing the sax since she was 9 years old. She'll be accompanied by her six-piece band at the concert.

Complementing the music will be a variety of Tri-City area restaurants and wineries. Solferino plans to include different food and wine establishments at each concert.

This year's contributing restaurants include Bonefish Grill, Outback Steakhouse, P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Famous Dave's Legendary Pit Bar-B-Que, The King & I Asian cuisine restaurant, and Fiesta Mexican Restaurant. Wineries include Bookwalter, Gamache Vintners, Goose Ridge Vineyards, Mercer Estates, Caon de Sol, Fidelitas and Anelare.

"We'd really like to give people a taste of the Tri-Cities as well as good music," Solferino said.

General admission to the Cray concert is $28, with preferred seats at $48. For those craving a seat up close, it'll cost $100. Tickets are available at

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;