Audience keeps its cool at jazz fest

August 29, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE
  • The audience soaks up some tunes Sunday afternoon at the Renfrew Jazz Festival at Renfrew Museum and Park in Waynesboro, Pa.
By Joe Crocetta, Staff Photographer

WAYNESBORO, Pa. --It was a fine way to spend a late summer Sunday afternoon -- sitting under tall trees in mid-90s heat listening to cool jazz.

From 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, 700 to 800 people assembled under the oak, locust and maple trees on the back lawn of Renfrew Museum and Park to hear five professionals interpret jazz. Their renditions covered old standards and some new material.

It just so happened that Sunday was the birthday of the late, great tenor saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker.

"He was born in 1920," said guitarist Paul Bollenback. "He'd be 90 years old today."

The band played a medley of Parker tunes, including "Lover Man," which was an audience favorite at the Renfrew Jazz Festival.

The festival passed its 19th edition Sunday from early beginnings in 1992, said Andrew Sussman, director of the Cumberland Valley School of Music and organizer of the jazz festival from the start.


Sunday was Bollenback's 17th performance at Renfrew. He and Sussman have collaborated over the years to bring the event together, Sussman said.

Sharing Sunday's stage with Bollenback was tenor saxophonist Jim Snidero. It was his second Renfrew gig. His first performance there was in 1992.

Also on hand Sunday was Roger Rosenberg, who wielded the baritone sax. He and Snidero did some duets.

Rounding out the quintet were Ugonna Okegwo on bass and McClenty Hunter, who sat at the drums.

The back of Sunday's program introducing the five musicians showcased their impressive backgrounds, Grammy Awards and Downbeat magazine write-ups.

Some were sidemen backing up live performances or were featured on albums with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Buddy Rich, Gerry Mulligan, Tony Bennett, Charlie Byrd and Wynton Marsalis. Some performed with the New York Philharmonic and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

The festival, which costs about $5,000 to produce every year, is free to the public, said Melodie Anderson-Smith, director of the Renfrew Institute for Cultural and Environmental Studies, an independent nonprofit that runs educational programs for Renfrew Museum and Park.

The event is sustained by donations, Anderson-Smith said.

"It's just beautiful here behind this old stone (museum) house with the stone wall behind us, sitting on the lawn and under the trees," said Linda Smith of Hagerstown.

Sunday was her sixth visit to the festival.

"Jazz is not my favorite music, but this is very, very good. And it's live," Smith said.

Ed Beecher of Fort Loudon, Pa., was by himself. He was slowly ambling around the edge of the audience getting into the music.

"I enjoy the improvisation, the spontaneity," Beecher said. "Once a group like this learns their common language, they come together and speak it."

Jazz is in Bob Marshall's blood.

"Of course I like jazz. I grew up in Chicago," said Marshall, 67, of Mont Alto, Pa.

A half-dozen patrons sat in chairs and on blankets with dogs at their sides.

Susie Murphy of Fairfield, Pa., sat on a blanket with her friend and fellow schoolteacher, Maggie Evans of Waynesboro.

Not sitting at their side, but chewing everything he could get his mouth around was Abe, a fidgety 8-week-old English setter pup.

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