Moving from Ah-Nab-Awen Park, the West Michigan Jazz Society now hosts its Monday shows at Walker’s Millennium Park Meadows. Local Spins checked in this week to see how fans have reacted to the new site.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The West Michigan Jazz Society’s popular Jazz in the Park series moved this summer from downtown Grand Rapids’ Ah-Nab-Awen Park, where the free series had been held since 2015 (after moving from John Ball Park), to Millennium Park Meadows in Walker, about five miles away. Local Spins writer Autumn Babas checked in with the series this week to see how fans have adjusted to the new site. Scroll down for a photo gallery.
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Grand Rapids resident and longtime “Jazz in the Park” devotee Susan Wellers may have said it best.
“I have been listening to the (West Michigan Jazz Society series shows) since they had them at John Ball Park,” she said on Monday night at Walker’s Millennium Park Meadows.
“I think the new location is perfect. It’s gorgeous out here with nature surrounding you and a great place to listen to music.”
Hundreds of lively concertgoers seemed to agree as they lined up for another beautiful summer evening at Millennium Park, this time feasting their ears on Gustavo Cortinas and band.
The Monday night jazz series kicked off in June, taking place for the first time in its new location in Millennium Park Meadows overlooking the Grand River.
It’s the second time the location has moved: After setting up for 14 years at John Ball Park on Grand Rapids’ West Side, the series moved in 2015 to downtown’s Ah-Nab-Awen Park. But the society decided to move to Millennium Park due to construction activities in downtown Grand Rapids this year as well as problems with limited parking. The new location comfortably fits 265 vehicles and even has some overflow grassy parking.
“The parking is way better out here,” said Grand Rapids resident Bill Shuan, who attended Monday night’s concert. “It’s a lot easier to find somewhere to park.”
ENERGETIC MUSIC WITH MORE SHOWS TO COME
The shows normally takes place at Currie Amphitheater in Millennium park, with a covered pavilion in case of rain (where Cortinas and band performed this week).
There was nothing but abundant sunshine and ocean blue skies greeting Cortinas and his band, who brought their crisp beats, smooth jazz and astonishing melodies for the Monday evening crowd via piano, bass, trumpet, trombone and drums.
Cortinas delivered an energetic mixture of musical influences, including Latin American flavors and sounds from his native Mexico. The show included several intense, well-received solos by each musician.
“I love coming here and being able to enjoy such a nice venue and hear talented jazz musicians like Gustavo Cortinas,” said Emily Corra of Grand Rapids.
Some concertgoers enjoyed hot dogs and flavored slushies from vendors nearby while embracing the peaceful outdoor setting.
The free, family-friendly Monday jazz series will continue through mid-August, with Paul Keller performing on Aug. 5 and Bob Nixon with the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra on Aug. 12.
PHOTO GALLERY: Jazz at Millennium Park Meadows w/ Gustavo Cortinas
Photos by Autumn Babas