The faces may change, but the mission stays the same.
“What we try to do is provide a family-friendly opportunity to hear excellent jazz music and jazz-related music in a variety of configurations,” says Dennis Green, 51, of Cedar Rapids. He’s general manager of radio station KCCK, which presents the annual Jazz Under the Stars concert series.
Now in its 24th year, the event lands in Noelridge Park in northeast Cedar Rapids every Thursday night in August.
“We strive for mainstream jazz, a larger group and a blues or funk band,” Green says. “We try to show people what the full range of jazz is all about. You may not like everything you hear onstage, but we hope that across the series or years, you’ll hear something you enjoy.
“We provide the opportunity for young people to hear jazz, as well,” he says. “If jazz happens in a club or late at night or the ticket price is high, they can’t get in. (With this series) they can hear jazz outside in a friendly, non-threatening atmosphere.”
When the weather cooperates, between 2,500 and 3,000 people flock to the free events. In case of rain, the concerts move indoors to Parlor City Pub, 1125 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids.
This year’s lineup features newcomer Ariel Pocock (see related story) and some of the most familiar faces on the Jazz Under the Stars stage — as well as a first-time appearance by Bob Dorr and The Blue Band.
“Al Naylor in The Blue Band has the most appearances with 13, this will be his 14th. Dennis McPartland has 12, this will be his 13th; Denny Ketelsen from FunkDaddies has 10 before this year; Billy Davis in FunkDaddies is at 12, with 13 this year,” Green says. “It’s The Blue Band’s 30th anniversary, so it was about time. Bob and I were both really thrilled to make their Jazz Under the Stars debut part of their 30th anniversary tour.”
— Diana Nollen
- What: Jazz Under the Stars
- When: 7 p.m. Thursdays in August
- Where: Noelridge Park, 4900 Council St. NE, Cedar Rapids; Rain site: Parlor City Pub, 1125 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
- Lineup: Aug. 4: Ariel Pocock; Aug. 11: FunkDaddies; Aug. 18: Dennis McPartland and The Jazz Underground, with KCCK’s annual CD and record sale; Aug. 25: Bob Dorr and The Blue Band
- Details: Free; food and non-alcoholic beverages available; bring lawn chairs, blankets, kids, dogs, picnics
- Information: www.kcck.org/news/#JUTS11
- Related event: Free jazz workshop with Ariel Pocock, 2 p.m. Wednesday (8/3), West Music, 1398 Twixt Town Rd., Marion; register with Peter Cacioppo or Jennie Crim at (319) 377-9100 or 1-(800) 373-9101; includes improv basics, how to read charts; www.westmusic.com/articles/ariel-pocock-jazz-workshop.htm