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Arts and Entertainment

Outdoor jazz series aims in-person return with summer showcase
Jazz Arts Charlotte takes step toward normalcy
Published Thursday, May 27, 2021 3:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Jazz Arts Charlotte launched an outdoor music series at Victoria Yards in Uptown as preparation for in-person events that were put on hold last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

JazzArts Charlotte has launched an outdoor summer series to transition to in-person performances.

Like many arts organizations, JazzArts Charlotte took a virtual turn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Easing restrictions and a rise in vaccinations allowed for the presentation of a new series in Uptown at Victoria Yards (408 N. Tryon St.), a space operated by Charlotte Center City Partners.

Recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control said people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not need to wear a mask or keep 6 feet apart unless required by law or local business and workplace mandate. Gov. Roy Cooper has lifted all mandatory capacity and gathering limits, physical distancing requirements and mask requirements, with some exceptions.

“We have been eager to get out and to present live programing ever since the start of the pandemic, but of course we always wanted to make sure that it was a safe environment and that our audiences felt safe and comfortable to come out and support live music,” JazzArts Charlotte president, CEO and co-founder Lonnie Davis said. “As the restrictions began to lift, we saw the perfect opportunity to kick off a summer series for live jazz at Victoria Yards with Center City Partners.”

JazzArts Charlotte’s return to in-person performance started with a free concert on International Jazz Day, April 30. Then there was a ticketed event on May 14, featuring Mac Arnold & Plate Full o’ Blues with Max Hightower; Dizzy Dizzy and Austin Brashier; Manastree with Jesse Lamar Williams, Jeremy Maher, Zach Wheeler and Stefan Kallander, as well as the Jazz Arts Youth All-Stars including Gustavo Cruz, Samuel David, Holland Majors and Olivia Ratliff. Jazz at Victoria Yards will have monthly performances through August, with the next set for June 11 from 6-9:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door.

The John Dillard Group will headline the evening.

Dillard is a two-time Grammy Award-winning bassist, with a flair for spirit-moving musical expression. June’s lineup also includes traditional jazz from the Ron Brendle Quartet. Jazz at Victoria Yards continues on July 9 and Aug. 20 with local and regional artists. Both performances are scheduled for 6-9:30 p.m. and ticket prices remain the same.

“We hope that everyone will want to come out and get some fresh air, get some sunlight and learn to enjoy live music again,” Davis said.

The last 14 months have been a time of reflection and introspection for JazzArts Charlotte.

“It has been a great time for us to reevaluate the work that we are doing and consider what is most important to our supporters, to the community that we serve and considering ways we can reemerge after this pandemic is behind us,” Davis said. “It has been a challenging time, a time that has been unsure in many ways. It has been a time when our supporters have stepped up and shown their support to help us get through the challenging time we are emerging from.”

Live performance and education programs typically generate half of JazzArts Charlotte’s revenue. The future looked unclear without them in their traditional form, which forced the organization to take a week-by-week and month by month approach. They transitioned to livestreaming and provided opportunities for artists and students in need. The organization also received $250,000 from the Knight Foundation last fall to aid with the digital shift.

“We have been trying to plan ahead and get ahead of what was in front of us, but during the pandemic it has been really tough to plan anything,” Davis said.

Over a year later, they will return to the Jazz Room in September, with dates to be announced.

“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about that,” Davis said. “We get lots of questions, ‘when is Jazz Room returning.’ We are finally able to give them a more definitive date as far as when we will plan to be back. We are working on curating the season right now, and we look forward to announcing our season in the near future.”


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