Crowds dig the tunes at Renfrew Jazz Festival

August 29, 2005|by DON AINES

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Just as a working knowledge of clocks is not needed to tell time, many of those who attended Sunday's jazz festival at Renfrew Museum and Park did not need to know much about the music other than they enjoyed it.

Guitarist Paul Bollenback returned for the 13th time in the 14 years the free festival has come to Renfrew, bringing with him saxophonist Bud Shank, bassist James King and drummer Nasar Abadey. Chris McNulty joined them on vocals.

While Bollenback almost always comes back, the group that joins him underneath the shade of the horse chestnut tree behind the Royer House is never quite the same, although some, such as McNulty, have performed here before.


The quintet kicked off their 21/2-hour concert with "The Touch of Your Lips," before a crowd of about 500 people who set up lawn chairs and blankets under the shifting afternoon shade afforded by the trees.

"I couldn't tell you one tune they're going to play," said Paul Mackrell, a Hagerstown musician. "I don't think jazz musicians ever play the same way twice ... I don't either."

Magisterial District Judge Larry Pentz confessed he does not know much about jazz, but "it's a really relaxing form of music ... What better way to spend a summer afternoon."

Pentz said the crowds for the festival seem to be growing each year "because I have to park farther away each time."

"It's a great way to end the summer," said state Rep. Patrick Fleagle, R-Franklin, who was lounging a few lawn chairs away. "Everybody is laid back."

"I don't think I've missed many out of the 14 years," said Ed Miller, the former buildings and grounds superintendent at the park. Miller said he, too, knows little about jazz except, "I just enjoy the beat of the music."

The crowd did have its share of aficionados, such as Jerry and Gwen Leahy of Frederick, Md., who were attending the Renfrew festival for the first time, although they had seen Bollenback before. Jerry Leahy said they recently attended a wee-long festival in Montreal along with 100,000 other fans.

"This is a treat to be able to hear something this good for free," Gwen Leahy said.

Mike Peshkin of Chambersburg, Pa., got Shank to autograph an album, an ancient LP he said was 45 years old, a testament to the longevity of the saxophonist's career.

"You are listening to dynamite stuff," Peshkin said. "Like most jazz musicians, they are well-versed in the jazz repertoire ... It sounds like they've been playing together all their lives."

"When you're listening to jazz and tears come to your eyes, you know it's good," he said.

The cold and rain of Saturday gave way to hot and humid weather Sunday. Only once in 14 years has the concert been forced indoors to Waynesboro Area Middle School because of bad weather, said Melodie Anderson-Smith, the executive director of Renfrew Institute.

"Paul Bollenback brings good weather and good tunes," she said.

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