JAZZ in the Park

August 19, 1999

Jazz festival


Paul Bollenback, guitar

Rene Croan, vocals

Sam Yachel, organ

and Allison Miller, drums

Sunday, Aug. 22, 2 to 4 p.m.

Renfrew Park, 1010 E. Main St., Waynesboro, Pa.


Details: Bring lawn chairs or blankets. An informal question-and-answer period will follow the concert.


In case of rain, the festival will be at Waynesboro Area Senior High School auditorium.

For information, call 1-717-762-0373.

By MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

Where there's a common knowledge of the jazz language and a handful of seasoned performers, there's a cool musical experience in the making.

The basic ingredients already are in place for the jazz festival Sunday, Aug. 22, at Renfrew Park in Waynesboro, Pa. The people cooking them up are guitarist Paul Bollenback, vocalist Rene Croan, organist Sam Yahel and drummer Allison Miller.

[cont. from lifestyle]

"In jazz, you have a common vocabulary and a common repertoire," says Bollenback, 40, who is appearing for the eighth consecutive year at the festival.

When dealing with high-level professionals, that common background and the ability to sight-read make for an easy flow, he says.

Bollenback says Renfrew offers the two basic elements that lure him to a gig.

"I like to play where there's good music and a good audience," he says in an interview from Litchfield, Conn., where he was helping conduct a summer camp.

Paul BollenbackBollenback has recorded three CDs as a leader and several other albums with organist Joey DeFrancesco, saxophonist Gary Thomas and singer Melissa Walker. His latest recording, "Soul Grooves," is composed mostly of jazz reworkings of soul tunes from the 1960s.

Bollenback started playing guitar at age 7 and says he is a "shower singer" on instruments other than guitar, including bass and piano. He plays more than 300 concerts a year.

Joining him on stage will be a musician who's been performing since her teens.

Croan, 43, got her professional start in rhythm and blues at age 15 with The Randolph Brothers in Roanoke, Va., her hometown. She married young and shifted her focus to being a full-time mother of two sons until 1996, when she entered the jazz arena.

She began to enjoy jazz more as she got older, feeling herself drawn to the freedom of expression associated with it.

Other than swinging around a carrot in the kitchen while singing with the radio, Croan wasn't doing much performing while her sons were growing up, except at a few weddings.

She says her move back into the music world was not intentional.

René CroanHer oldest son, Michael, now 24, told her about a woman he heard performing at a restaurant whose talent he considered inferior to that of his mother. That sparked her to work on some songs with her sister-in-law, a jazz pianist, and bring their act to the restaurant, where she says they were well-received.

"Once a ham, always a ham," said Croan during a telephone interview from Richmond, Va.

Both Croan and Bollenback have shared their talents with sizable and small audiences. They share an appreciation for the intimate setting of jazz clubs.

But the openness of festivals has appeal, too.

"People are just so loose. They're ready to have a good time," says Croan. And outdoor gatherings allow people of all ages to be exposed to jazz, while clubs tend to have minimum age limits.

Croan also has tasted the sweetness of the recording studio while working on her first CD, "Renaissance," which was released in September.

"It's wonderful. Playing music is like having a conversation with the musicians," she says. Without an audience present, "I'm just listening to them and responding back."

She has never performed with Bollenback, nor with an organist, both of which she's looking forward to experiencing at Renfrew.

Rounding out the performing group are Yahel, who has recorded on the Criss Cross label and recently toured with saxophonist Maceo Parker, and Miller, who is making her second appearance at the Renfrew festival. She recently was chosen to travel to East Africa as a representative of the United States for the Kennedy Center-USA Jazz Ambassadors program.

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