Tom Johnson, Melanie Deason and the The Jazz Chasers play for residents of La Villa Assisted Living, Tuesday afternoon. (Mark Wilson Photo)
Main Street was filled with the upbeat sounds of jazz music coming from Reischman Plaza on Tuesday as members of the Roswell Jazz Festival Committee entertained onlookers with bass and keyboard grooves, and Mayor Del Jurney proclaimed April 30th “Roswell Jazz Appreciation Day in conjunction with National Jazz Appreciation Month.”
As a nonprofit organization, RJF has been hosting an annual jazz festival in October for almost eight years. In order to celebrate National Jazz Appreciation Month and gain some publicity for its October festivities, RJF put on a small concert.
This “impromptu get- together” helped expose people to jazz music, an important part of history, said RJF Chair Natalie Martinez
“(Jazz is) part of our culture, part of who we are,” Martinez said. “It goes way back and is an art we can all appreciate.”
Exposing people, especially young people, to jazz music is one goal of RJF. For those who are already fans of jazz, the musical event gave them a chance to be outside and listen.
“It’s all for the public,” said onlooker Carole Schlatter. “It brings music to the people, and they don’t have any other place to get jazz.”
As committee members Michael Francis and Kent Taylor played keyboard and bass, crackers, cheese and grapes were served to the audience. The event was small, but the committee hopes to make it an annual event that grows larger each year.
“It brings people of all ages together around music,” said RJF Vice-Chair Paula Grieves.
Continuing the festivities to celebrate jazz, La Villa hosted live music for its residents later in the afternoon. The Jazz Chasers play music from the great band era as well as modern jazz classics. Melanie Deason and Tom Johnson led the way on saxophone while Sandra Weikel and Anthony J. Castle brought in the fanfare of trumpets, and Ed Eaton performed on cornet. Percussionists Mary Jo McGrath, Edward Swindell, Robert Bowles and Jesse Culberson held everything together.
They played for their audience, choosing tunes to remind the older generations of days gone by. Simply put, “this is their music,” Deason said.
It means a lot to the residents to hear music performed, said Branka Barrett, friend of some of the band members.
“Music in life is very important,” Barrett said. With a profession in classical music, Barrett has a special love and respect for the art.
The Jazz Chasers played for La Villa residents, but also for themselves. Music is just what they love. As Deason put it, she “sings in her heart.”