The two-day GRandJazzFest drew enthusiastic fans to Rosa Parks Circle with invigorating sets by stars national and local. The festival wrapped up Sunday night.
Talk about a spectacular kickoff to a celebration of jazz.
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GRandJazzFest 2017 powered up Saturday with record attendance amid perfect summer weather, a free weekend festival with a diverse opening day lineup that ranged from the Big Band vibe of the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra with Edye Evans Hyde which launched the affair at Grand Rapids’ Rosa Parks Circle to the smooth jazz/R&B of saxophonist Richard Elliot who closed things out.
For many of those on hand, the jazz music was the draw, but the connection to community is what made GRandJazzFest special: an appreciation for a shared joyful atmosphere.
This is the sixth year of the festival, with a noticeably larger turnout on Saturday as Rosa Parks Circle filled up with lawn chairs shoulder-to-shoulder before opening night headliner Elliot took the stage.
Earlier in the day, the sun beat down while attendees took to the shade around the cement circular park.
“I was just looking through different dates for what we could do at no extra cost,” noted attendee Shirley from Jenison, who enjoys the encompassing experience — “the beat, the music and the atmosphere” — that jazz provides.
For Monica, from Grand Rapids, who reveled in the early evening set by guitarist Bryan Lubeck and his band, it’s all about the familiar feeling of community: “The laughing, the talking as well as the music, so the whole environment. I like hearing the true instruments, the positive vibes, the energy, and the flow. The performers kind of bounced off each other.”
Interspersing jazz into community was a heartfelt common theme.
“I think that tones and people expressing themselves through sound is a profound way to exist,” suggested concertgoer Nicholas, from Grand Rapids, adding that a free community and family-friendly event encourages the sharing of culture that can bring people together.
“People of color have been expressing themselves through jazz music for generations and this is another way to have us come together as a community and maybe help break down some barriers. I see a lot more people of color out and about and I really enjoy that.”
Also performing Saturday were Terry Lower & The Jazz Expedition Sextet, Detroit’s Ed Stone & The Flowmasters and Tumbao Bravo.
GRandJazzFest continued Sunday with performances by Blushing Monk, The Isaac Norris Project, Organissimo, Four80East and, finally, at 7 p.m., Nate Harasim & NILS, featuring Brandon Willis. Get more info online here.
PHOTO GALLERY: GRandJazzFest (Grand Rapids)
Photos by Schyler Perkins and Colleen MacLauchlan
Copyright 2017, Spins on Music LLC