The lazy days of summer deserve a soundtrack. For Birmingham’s jazz aficionados (or even casual listeners), the Jazz in the Park series offers the leisurely entertainment expected of a summer evening — a picnic basket and bottle of wine, friends and family gathered to listen and dance while kids romp the hills of the city’s finest parks.
Magic City Smooth Jazz recently announced the dates, venues and performers for the 4th annual Jazz in the Park summer concert series. This year, nine Birmingham parks will be host to 12 concerts highlighting local and national jazz acts.
As the Jazz in the Park series offers free concerts throughout Birmingham, the program serves the community in a number of ways: introducing jazz to a new wave of listeners, celebrating and making use of local parks, and creating opportunities for residents and neighbors to connect.
Started in 2010, Jazz in the Park is an effort to promote cultural activities in neighborhoods around the Greater Birmingham area while providing an outlet for small and national acts to share their talents with new and longtime listeners of jazz.
The 2013 concert series will begin on June 9 at Avondale Park and includes a lineup featuring 2010 Billboard Contemporary Jazz Track of the Year winner Chris Standring as well as Alabama group RAW Jazz Trio.
Avondale will also be hosting concerts on June 16, 23 and 30 featuring artists such as the American Smooth Jazz Awards 2009 “Best New Artist” Kim Scott, saxophonist Vann Burchfield and the Mobile native trio, Roman Street.
Coinciding with the Fourth of July, contemporary jazz chart-topper Lao Tizer and local jazz flutist Kim Scott will be performing at Railroad Park. For the remainder of July, Wiggins, W.C.Patton, Ensley, and East Lake Park will hold concerts on July 7,14, 21 and 28. Musicians playing in July will include a plethora of homegrown acts such as the five-piece jazz/R&B band T.A.D of Jazz, drummer Fred Spraggins and the Goodfellas Jazz duo.
Linn, Caldwell and Beacon Parks will be the featured parks for the final month of Jazz in the Park. On August 6 jazz groups Foxxy Fatts and Take 7 will be opening for Julian Vaughn, whose single “On Your Feet” reached the top of the Billboard “Smooth Jazz Songs.” The Neo Jazz Collective and soul-jazz trumpeter Lin Rountree will be performing on the 11th. The concert series will conclude its season in Beacon Park when Broadway performer and jazz vocalist Rickey Powell will perform along with Lasers Edge and KB’s Technique.
Concerts are being held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and will be free for the general public. Magic City Smooth Jazz Executive Director Bernard Lockhart feels like the concerts “build communities through jazz,” which helps the organization.
“Instead of having concerts at one venue and people coming to us, we wanted to take concerts to the community. We try to help build communities. People travel with jazz and can become more familiar with the communities and with the parks. We want to get people to come together because jazz brings together a very diverse group,” Lockhart said.
This year, Magic City Smooth Jazz was awarded the National Endowment for the Arts’ Challenge America Fast-Track Grant for the second year in a row. The $10,000 grant is being put towards the Jazz in the Park summer concert series.
“We are trying to enhance cultural arts in communities by supporting area jazz musicians and educating people through music,” Lockhart said.
Magic City Smooth Jazz was founded in 2008 as a nonprofit organization with the mission of introducing various styles of jazz to the Birmingham community. Since its inception, Magic City Smooth Jazz has hosted over 25 local concerts.
Weld’s cover story this week, “Celebrating Summer,” is a detailed look into the sundry of summer events offered in the Magic City.
For more information regarding Magic City Smooth Jazz or the Jazz in the Park concert series visit magiccitysmoothjazz.com.