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RACINE — The Racine Zoo has announced the artist lineup for the 2018 Animal Crackers Concert Series, which kicks off on July 11 at the zoo grounds, 2131 N. Main St.

“These Animal Crackers concerts are so much fun each year. We are really looking forward to this upcoming Series with a fantastic lineup,” said Amber Olsen, special events/sales manager for the zoo. “These concerts really do benefit the zoo and it’s just one more fun and exciting thing to do this summer in Racine.”

Scheduled to open the season on Wednesday, July 11, is the Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra with special guest Michelle Coltrane.

Curt Hanrahan is the head of jazz studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He co-founded the Lakeshore Conservatory of Music in Racine and performs with the Milwaukee Symphony. Hanrahan has worked with artists such as Tony Bennett, Rosemary Clooney, Cab Calloway, the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, Harry Connick Jr. and many others.

The MJO was born out of Hanrahan’s involvement with the annual Woody Herman Jazz Festival about five years ago, assembling alumni to guest at the festival every year and began putting a local big band together. Hanrahan’s son Tim, a bassist, graduated from school with a jazz studies degree and along with Curt’s brother Warren on drums, they have put a family band together.

Coltrane, born in Paris, is the only daughter of the legendary jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and his wife, Alice, a renowned jazz pianist. While living in Japan, Michelle worked as a disc jockey. She performed and arranged background vocals for prominent artists. She has toured the U.S. and France as a soloist and has performed with such artists as Kenny Kirkland, Jeff Watts, Ronnie Laws, Billy Childs, Jack DeJohnette, Marvin Smitty Smith and Reggie Workman.

During the late 1990s, Michelle co-hosted a radio program broadcast on Wisconsin Public Radio for five years. Michelle’s new band is a collaboration with guitarist and music director Shea Welsh. Michelle and Shea have composed new material and are arranging new and classic standards to create the band’s unique modern and retro sound.

July 25

The Wednesday, July 25, performance is scheduled to consist of three soulful jazz artists; Jackiem Joyner, Matt Marshak and Brian Simpson.

Jackiem Joyner’s musical talents stemmed from his bass-playing father, Jackie Charles Smith, singing in his church choir as a young man, as well as playing the saxophone in high school. At the young age of 21, Joyner became the “saxman” for Marcus Johnson.

A New York-based guitarist, Marshak brings a unique, one-of-a-kind, style of guitar playing to the stage. His repertoire is an eclectic blend of jazz, urban groove, pop, funk, R&B, world beat and more. His style and sound have led him across the globe performing at some of the world’s biggest jazz festivals. He has performed on the same festival bills with legends such as Santana, Larry Carlton, George Benson and many more.

Brian Simpson is not only a talented keyboardist, but also is a music composer as well as a producer. Simpson’s expressive playing, sophisticated harmonics, bluesy overtones and R&B soulful approach to music has made him first call for many, including Janet Jackson, Teena Marie, George Duke, Stanley Clarke and Dave Koz.

Aug. 8

Scheduled to perform on Wednesday, Aug. 8, is Karrin Allyson. Allyson lives in New York City, but originally hails from Great Bend, Kansas. Allyson received her degree in classical piano performance with important stints in Minneapolis and Kansas City, where she began her recording career with Concord Jazz.

Allyson sings in English, French, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish. The songs she performs are drawn from a variety of genres, such as samba, blues, bebop, and jazz standards. Allyson received five Grammy nominations for Best Jazz Vocal Album from 2001 to 2015.

Aug. 22

Wrapping up the Animal Crackers Concert Series on Wednesday, Aug. 22, is international jazz recording artist Eric Darius with special guest Gerald Veasley.

An American contemporary jazz/R&B/pop saxophonist, vocalist, songwriter, producer and educator, Dairus grew up listening to Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Earth Wind and Fire, and so many others. He developed a love for music at a young age. At the age of 17, Darius released his first independent album titled “Cruisin’,” which launched his professional career and instantly he became one of the new faces of Jazz.

Scheduled as special guest that night is Gerald Veasley. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Veasley played in multiple R&B groups as a teenager. Veasley’s musical talent has taken him to the top of the contemporary music world as a bassist, bandleader, composer, producer, educator and curator.

Veasley has recorded or performed with many of the world’s top artists in jazz, R&B and gospel, including McCoy Tyner, The Jaco Pastorius Big Band and Gerald Levert.

Gates for Animal crackers concerts open at 5:30 p.m., with concerts beginning at 7 p.m. Season tickets are on sale through March 31 for $60. Individual tickets are $25. For more information, visit the Racine Zoo website at


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