By Levi Wright
Today and for the next three Thursdays in August, Jazz 88.3 KCCK will put on the 30th anniversary of Jazz Under the Stars at Noelridge Park, Cedar Rapids, bringing different artists each week to showcase a different subgenre of jazz.
“When you have a series that has run that long and is dedicated specifically to jazz that in itself even around the country is a fairly rare thing,” said Damani Phillips, the saxophonist for the Damani Phillips Trio. “More times than not, you’ll have a concert series that happens over one summer or for a couple of years. The fact it’s stayed around and is a vibrant part of the summer programming in the Cedar Rapids area is pretty special.”
The band playing today to kick off the series is Iowa band Goose Town, which provides a funkier version of jazz for audience members.
“All of us are from Iowa and around the Cedar Rapids area,” said Blake Shaw, the Goose Town bassist. “Four of us are from Cedar Rapids, so we’ve grown up watching these shows for quite a while. Out of all the shows we play — we’ve played some pretty big festivals and stuff like that as well — this is just really close to home and a big honor for us because it’s part of our growing up.”
Goose Town originally started in the University of Northern Iowa area a little more than two years ago. Each of the musicians has a music degree, with Shaw being the only one from the University of Iowa.
“We’re super honored especially this year, because the people playing after us are our teachers …” Shaw said. “That to me is great to be up on their level, being able to do the same gig as they are.”
Some of the musicians playing in Jazz Under the Stars attended the same event as children. Legacy has become a key part of what makes Jazz Under the Stars unique by offering programs for elementary, middle-school, and high-school students.
“We’re thrilled to have this long-standing community event that is offered to introduce people to jazz as well as celebrate the wonderful talent of the region,” said Lisa Baum, the KCCK development director. “Our lineup is usually people from Iowa, either people who are playing here regularly or are returning from a place to come back to Iowa to showcase their craft. Since its beginning in 1987, the jazz series has continued to maintain its attendance in part by revitalizing the event. This year, there will be food trucks for attendees to grab a snack. Dairy Queen will also be on hand, providing a treat to cool down families.
“It was popular in the beginning because it was new,” Baum said. “I think it stays on the radar because it celebrates the end of summer. People love coming out; it may be their last chance to be with their family, just a calm evening of visiting, just being together, and having this wonderful music.”