Jazz that pops

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Popular summer concert series to feature big band jazz sounds at Frank Liske Park

By Jonathan E. Coleman
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The ideallic setting of Frank Liske Park will play host to the soulful sounds of the North Carolina Jazz Repertory Orchestra in what is being billed as a new twist on an old favorite.

The Cabarrus Arts Council has teamed up with area parks and recreation departments to bring Pops in the Park events to Cabarrus County for several years.

Typically, the productions are highlighted by a performance by a full 60-piece orchestra. This weekend’s main attraction is an 18-piece jazz orchestra.

But don’t let the smaller size fool you, said Arts Council communications director Pat Verner, the group will still bring a “big sound.”

“We decided to go in a little different direction this year,” Verner said. “We wanted to bring something that’s big. If it’s not going to be a symphony with 60 people, we wanted a big sound.”

That sound, according to Jim Ketch, the North Carolina Jazz Repertory Orchestra’s music director and chairman of the music department at UNC Chapel Hill, will harken back to the 1930s and 40s — a sound that is uniquely American.

“American jazz has been a symbol of democracy for nearly 80 years”, Ketch said. “When Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, or Benny Goodman would tour internationally, people gathered in the thousands to hear the sound of freedom.

“The sound of a big band is one identifiable way we can musically answer the question ‘What does it mean to be American?’”

The evening will kick off at 6:30 p.m. with the sounds of the Freeport smooth jazz quartet and continue with the N.C. Jazz Repertory’s “Swing Fling” at 8 p.m.

Despite changes in the headliner, the event still promises to offer people an experience they might not otherwise get to enjoy, Verner said. It’s also a great opportunity to expose children to jazz music in a more informal and relaxed atmosphere.

“It’s a good opportunity for families,” she said, “but not just for families — it’s a cheap date, too.”

Guests are encouraged to bring blankets and picnics, but alcohol is prohibited on park grounds. There is no rain date for the event, but Verner said she’s hoping that won’t be an issue.

“We’ve tried an indoor concert and it’s just not the same,” she said.

“The (park) is just beautiful. The stage is set up in front of the lake and the audience sits on the hill. It’s just great.” 

The summer’s second Pops concert is planned for Wednesday, July 2. That event, which Verner said has become increasingly popular in recent years, includes a patriotic performance by the Charlotte Symphony just in time for the Fourth of July holiday. The evening will conclude with fireworks.

• Contact Jonathan E. Coleman at 704-789-9105.


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