The Traverse City Wine & Art Festival is quickly approaching—about a week away!—and the city is gearing up for this “can’t miss” Northern Michigan festival. With music from the folk-band, the Crane Wives, the funk/soul band, The Mainstays, the folksy duo, The Accidentals, and the smooth jazz saxophonist, Phil Denny, there’s a diverse range of musicians that are perfectly paired with Northern Michigan wine and art. You can purchase tickets for the festival at

MyNorth’s Adrienne Roberts spoke to Phil before his appearance at the Traverse City Wine & Art Festival.

How did you get into smooth jazz?

I give that credit to my brother. He worked at Warehouse Records and he would bring home demo CD’s, from artists such as Kenny G, Richard Elliot, and George Howard. In middle school, I attended two summer sessions at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.

Who’s your audience? Do you think younger people are starting to appreciate smooth jazz?

I think it’s primarly females from 35 to 65. But, we’re starting to see more young people interested in pop, R&B, and urban jazz.

What do you like about playing at outdoor festivals?

There’s such a short festival lifespan in Michigan! So it’s just great to be outdoors with a receptive audience. Performing at a large stage production is really fun. I get the chance to jump off the stage and go into the audience to connect with the listener. This is my first time performing at an outdoor festival in Traverse City.

Anything coming up for you in the near future?

Last year, I was featured as the headlining artist for “Jazz Under the Stars.” I was invited back to Nairobi, Kenya to play in August. In August, too, I’ll be opening for Sheila E at the Flint Jazz FestivalI’ll be performing at the Shoreline Jazz Festival in Muskegon on August 24, 2014 with the pianist and producer Oli Silk. And then in September, I’ll start working on my next CD project.

I know that you’ve written about how much you love Michigan. What do you think is unique about the music scene here?

There’s so many different musical formats here. There’s straight-ahead jazz, but then there’s also the jazz coming from different universities. There’s a myriad of different musical influences and talented artists coming from all over the place. It’s not like other states, where there’s just one musical hub. In Michigan, it’s widespread.

What do you like about playing in Traverse City?

I love Up North. I grew up in Florida so I love being close to the water. My wife grew up in Traverse City so we visit there once a year and we love it.

You can view all of Phil Denny’s summer gigs on their website:

Make sure you purchase your tickets for the Traverse City Wine and Art festival at

More Traverse City Wine & Art Festival Information