Knoxville announces return of jazz, plus new concert series downtown

In an April 13, 2006, photograph, Little Feat performs during Sundown in the City at Market Square.  (Jeff Adkins/News Sentinel)

Photo by Jeff Adkins

In an April 13, 2006, photograph, Little Feat performs during Sundown in the City at Market Square. (Jeff Adkins/News Sentinel)

For those pining to see live music return to Market Square in lieu of the discontinued "Sundown in the City" concerts, the wait's less than two weeks away.

Knoxville officials have announced an upcoming concert series that will take place on select Thursday evenings this spring and summer in addition to the continuation of the Tuesday night series "Jazz on the Square."

Beginning May 1, local jazz musicians will play at the pavilion in Market Square every Tuesday from 7-9 p.m.

The new series, sponsored by the city, WDVX and Stellar Visions and Sound, will feature local and regional artists in acoustic-driven genres like Americana, blues and bluegrass.

The series will kick off April 26 with a performance by the Grassroots Gringos, a local band that describes its sound as "Old-time Island Mountain Music."

Roger Harb, marketing director at WDVX, said that Knoxville is the "crown jewel" of Southern Appalachian culture and that the bands selected to play will make the event a community celebration of that tradition.

"We think it's a great opportunity to showcase the great amount of American roots music talent that we have in the region," Harb said.

While the series is free and open to the public, coordinators are looking to create a more welcoming atmosphere for Knoxville families to visit downtown and plan on offering children's concerts in June and July, according to Judith Foltz, the city's director of special events.

No alcohol or food will be offered except for what is available at the square's restaurants, but people are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets to sit and enjoy the music.

"It's taking it down a notch (from 'Sundown in the City') to give it that ambience that is more family-friendly — maybe even with a more mature audience," said Foltz.

According to Foltz, this series will provide a more enjoyable and manageable experience for visitors who will be able to enjoy dinner on restaurant patios without being overwhelmed by crowds and noise.

John Craig, president of the Market Square District Association, agrees that whereas "Sundown in the City," in its early days, had helped bring people to the downtown area, it had outgrown the space.

He said the new series will be a better fit.

"It's not going to displace the organic activity that has built up in the square over the past few years, it will complement it," Craig said.

The introduction of "Jazz on the Square" last year acted as a sort of test run for this year's expansion of the series.

"It worked so beautifully and the reaction from the public was very, very positive," said Foltz. "We thought, 'OK, we are on to something here.'"

According to Craig, this concert series will go hand-in-hand with other popular Market Square events like "Shakespeare on the Square" and "Movies on Market Square" that offer free performance theater and family-friendly film screenings.

"That's the kind of thing that we want people to be able to experience," said Craig, adding that everyone from music lovers to local businesses will feel the positive effect of the series.

"It's win, win, win — for the merchants, the square and the city," Craig said.

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Comments » 2

YoYo writes:

Nice ! When they say 'family-friendly' I get a bit annoyed since I have a family, kids, dogs, etc and wish they'd sell the good stuff but whatever whatever.

djtnsunshine#404168 writes:

great news, to bring downtown alive and well again. yeah!

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