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Cool jazz draws hundreds to Renfrew

August 28, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Cool jazz occupied a humid summer day for hundreds of people at Renfrew Museum and Park on Sunday.

The Renfrew Jazz Festival celebrated its 15th anniversary by bringing headliners David "Fathead" Newman on saxophone, Paul Bollenback on guitar, Ed Howard on bass, Steve Johns on drums and Chris McNulty providing vocals.

Funded in part by a $1,300 Pennsylvania Partners in the Arts grant, admission was free for the crowd, who brought blankets, chairs and picnics to the lawn.

"Since our mission is education, we look at this as bringing jazz as an art form to the rural community," Renfrew Institute Director Melodie Anderson-Smith said. The musicians made themselves available for a question-and-answer session after the two-hour performance, she said.

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Bollenback has played at the jazz festival for 14 of its 15 years and has been instrumental in forming the band each year, said Andrew Sussman, who launched the end-of-summer event. The pair connected after Sussman heard Bollenback play in Hagerstown.

"I could hear he was a really excellent musician," Sussman said. "I think it's a unique tradition bringing Paul (Bollenback) back."

The world-class musicians performing every year bring people from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, Anderson-Smith said, noting that about 400 people attended Sunday's event.

"These are all professional musicians who have played all over the world," Bollenback said. Playing together is easy because each musician can be counted on to perform his or her part correctly, he said.

The crowd, talented performers and beautiful setting make the jazz festival "a pleasure to play," said Bollenback, who added that he'll gladly be back on the last weekend of next August.

"It's a summer ritual for Paul (Bollenback)," Howard said. "He always looks forward to it."

In addition to the grant, the event was sponsored by Blue Ridge Mountain Cookery, Cinetic Landis Grinding, Hamilton Nissan and McDonald's of Franklin County. The Renfrew Institute event was staffed by three employees and 12 volunteers from the board of directors and membership committee, Anderson-Smith said.

She was especially pleased to feature Newman, who played with Ray Charles for 12 years, recorded several of his own albums and toured in Europe and Japan. He played at Renfrew Jazz Festival in 1994.

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