There’s something about live music performances in a downtown that truly makes the town feel alive. Walking in downtown Knoxville and hearing great music flowing from Market Square is one of the treats of the summer.
For the past few years, on Tuesday nights in the summer, The Marble City 5 have made jazz a part of the city’s architecture.
With Vance Thompson on trumpet, Keith Brown on keyboards, Greg Tardy on saxophone, Kenneth Brown on drums and Clint Mullican on bass, the group brought jazz fans to the Market Square and made fans of people who didn’t know they were jazz fans.
“It’s really great to be able to play out and play what we want to play,” says group leader Thompson, who also founded the Knoxville Jazz Orchestra. “Things have been a little sad at the end of August and you say ‘We have to wait another year to do this?’”
This year Jazz on the Square will simply move indoors after the final outdoor performance at 8 p.m. Aug. 27. The last outdoor event will include the entire Knoxville Jazz Orchestra.
The following Tuesday the music will resume inside the Square Room on Market Square. The first Tuesday will be a concert by pianist Donald Brown and trumpeter Tom Harrell (tickets are $24.50). After that, the Marble City Five will perform weekly.
The show won’t be entirely free; however, the $5 entry fee is also a voucher for $5 worth of food or drink while you’re inside the veune.
“The Square Room is a great space for listening to music and they’ve been willing to do this for a long time, but I didn’t see how it would work. But, with the momentum from Jazz on the Square it just might.
“The Square Room seems as much about creating a community as it is about the bottom line. This music comes with its own community and builds a community.”
Thompson says the Market Square gig was great because so much of jazz music’s potential audience don’t go out to late shows and also because it snagged people who weren’t already plugged into the jazz community.
So much of jazz in restaurants and bars is about creating atmosphere and letting the music become background. Jazz on the Square, though, was about musicians really kicking in and playing what they want. Check out the band covering Wayne Shorter’s song “Footprints” on YouTube and you get an idea of how much it isn’t meant to be background music.
Thompson also hosts a jam session on First Fridays at the Emporium Building and is considering a Sunday jam session in which more working jazz musicians would be able to stop by. He says having seasoned players interacting with young players in a performance environment is one of the keys to keeping great musicians in town.
Another part is putting the music where people can be introduced to it. Thompson says that even if the indoor gig is a huge success, the group will still return outdoors in the spring.
“Part of the attraction is that it’s just really nice to sit out there in the evening.”
© 2013, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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