This week, the Tri-C JazzFest returns for its 39th annual edition. It’s a pretty action-packed couple of days with what should be some really top-notch shows from nationally known artists mostly at Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, as well as some interesting local cats playing various outside stages over the course of the weekend.

First up on Thursday night at the KeyBank State Theatre is the pairing of two Grammy-winning artists: smooth-jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum and singer/songwriter Dee Dee Bridgewater.

Last summer, Bridgewater, a Memphis native who has three Grammys, plus a Tony for playing Glinda the Good Witch in the original 1975 Broadway production of The Wiz, enlisted fellow Memphian Whalum to produce her audio love letter to the music of the city, Memphis ... Yes I’m Ready.

The songs featured on the funky, contemporary southern, soul record include some tunes made famous by Elvis Presley, such as a slowed-down Don’t Be Cruel and a sassy Hound Dog, along with B.B. King’s The Thrill Is Gone and Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand the Rain.

Opening will be the New York-based DIVA, a 15-piece jazz orchestra of women who have performed contemporary and classic big-band jazz around the world and have a new album, The DIVA Jazz Orchestra 25th Anniversary Project, featuring all original music by the band members.

At 6 p.m. Friday in the Ohio Theatre, look for world-famous saxophonist Joshua Redman and his Still Dreaming Quartet, named for the album released last month.

Redman is a much-celebrated composer and improviser and he’s got awesome drummer Brian Blade, as well as bassist Scott Colley and trumpeter Ron Miles, and the band’s name and songs are a tribute to Old and New Dreams, a band that featured Redman’s father, Dewey, along with other former members of legendary sax and composer Ornette Coleman’s bands. The group will mix their loose originals with some covers of Coleman and Coleman-related folks.

Fans of funkier, electric fare should dig the twofer of keyboardist Brian Simpson’s Smooth Jazz All Stars, featuring singers Maysa and Kenny Lattimore, along with popular sax guys Kim Waters and Paul Taylor. Then, Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles, who had the crowd at BLU Jazz+ up and dancing a few years ago, will bring their high-energy sonic bouillabaisse of R&B, contemporary jazz, funk and other stuff. Since the Snarky Puppy show (Saturday at the Ohio Theatre) is long sold out, seeing the former S.P. member and his groovin’ band will be as close as you’re likely to get.

Also on Friday, at 10:15 at the Allen Theatre, Dr. Lonnie Smith will keep the grooves going from behind his B-3. Not to be confused with fellow keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith, the septuagenarian Dr. Smith (he’s the one with the turban and the wizard-worthy gray beard) has a smokin’ new live album, All In My Mind, which features a real sexy take on 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, and he will be performing with his very talented longtime collaborators guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg and drummer Johnathan Blake.

Early birds get a break at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Hanna Theatre with Brazilian singer/guitarist/composer Vinicius Cantuaria, a modern master of the Bossa nova.

Then at 3:30, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, returns to the festival with either his critically acclaimed Jazz In Film project featuring a band led by Cleveland trumpeter Dominick Farinacci (according to the festival), or his eclectic socially conscious E-Collective band (according to his own website). Either way, it’s going to be an evening of good music with young, up-and-coming singer/saxophonist Grace Kelly opening.

If you don’t already have a Snarky Puppy ticket for the 6 p.m. Saturday show in the Ohio Theatre, you’re screwed. But you can still check out NYC singer José James perform music from his latest album, a tribute to rock hall of famer Bill Withers, along with rapper/actor/spokesman Common.

By the way, Common is one award away from reaching EGOT status. He already has an Oscar, an Emmy and a Grammy along with a Golden Globe. All he needs is a Tony Award to join the rarefied air of entertainment legends including Audrey Hepburn, Mel Brooks, Marvin Hamlisch and Whoopi Goldberg.

That’s it for the big inside stuff and there are too many outdoor shows taking place at the Playhouse Square plaza to list them all, but some good ones include local soul/funk/jazz group the Acid Cats, Carlos Jones & the P.L.U.S. band, trumpet-playing Ohio-to-Chicago transplant Josh Rzepka and his quartet and eclectic hip and happening Cleveland rapper/singer/musician Jul Big Green.

For the full lineup, go to www.tri-c.edu/jazzfest/outdoor-stage.html.

Rib, White and Tribute

This weekend at Lock 3 Park will be the annual Rib, White & Blue Festival, which will feature a gaggle of tribute band headliners and local openers. On Saturday, it’s local rockin’ folk trio Shivering Timbers opening at 7 p.m. and then at 8:30, Ryan Humbert will once again conduct an encore performance of the popular Won’t Back Down: A Northeast Ohio Celebration of the Life and Music of Tom Petty.

As with the show at the Civic Theatre last year, loads of area musicians will participate, including Angie Haze, Brian Lisik, Gretchen Pleuss, Marc Lee Shannon, White Buffalo Woman, Tracey Thomas, Zach and several more. This time, the show is free.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.