by Shawn Nowlin
“A lot of talented musicians on stage putting on a great show as people danced and had a good time,” is how George Fintel describes the first Jazz in July event he attended. “It was 2002 and I was a high school sophomore. I vividly remember how much fun people had.”
Last Saturday George, now married with three children, took his entire family for the first time to Longwood Park to also experience Jazz in July.
Now in its 20th year, this year’s popular Salem mid-summer music event, held July 15, was sponsored by Salem Parks and Recreation and MedExpress.
“This event is different from others. On top of being able to experience great jazz music on the lawn, people also get to relax and drink their favorite beverage,” said Kathy Murphy, special event manager, Salem Parks and Rec.
A talented lineup of Vosbein-Magee Big Band, Jane Powel with Lenny Marcus & Friends, Robert Jospe and The Express Quartet and Florida’s “Ari and The Alibis” left it all on the stage. “My job is to get all of the groups organized,” Lenny Marcus said. “I was extremely satisfied with how the event turned out.”
Jane Powell has performed at Jazz in July many times before. She also once sang for the Queen of England. “I’m so happy to be here with my friends today. We really appreciate all of you for coming out,” said the Salem native after performing her set.
David Gassman of Salem and Casey Cartwright of Roanoke County are serious jazz fans that said they knew most of the songs performed on stage by heart. “I appreciate all music genres but my favorite type of music is jazz by far,” Gassman said as Casey nodded in agreement. “Had they played until 3 a.m., we still would have been present.”
Brian Sneed considers Jazz in July one of the better events that Salem has to offer. “I’ve been coming here for many years and I’ve yet to leave disappointed,” he said.
Aside from the music, Kevin Wright comes to the jazz show for one reason: to catch up with friends. “Most of my friends absolutely love jazz music so this event gives us an opportunity to catch up every year,” he said.
Above everything else, Jazz in July is an outdoor event created to expose people to some of the area’s best jazz musicians. “This event started as an idea 1996. Prior to Longwood Park, it took place at Lake Spring Duck Pond,” Lenny Marcus said. “Every year it seems to get bigger and bigger.”