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August Heats Up With ‘Jazz At The Crocker’

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Who says summer has to end in August? Well, the organizers of the Crocker Art Museum’s “Jazz At The Crocker” summer music series agree.


In fact, the museum is prolonging the spirit of summer with its “Jazz At The Crocker” every third Thursday of the month beginning at 5:30 p.m. and going to 8 p.m. in the E. Kendall Davis Courtyard. This month, the Crocker featured the renowned Roger Smith jazz band.


The band consists of bandleader and keyboardist Roger Smith, drummer Brian Collier, bassist Curtis Ohlson, guitarist Jeff Tamelier, saxophonist Jon Skinner, saxophonist Tom E. Politzer and vocalist Carol J. Toca.


“The Crocker has been doing this for 15-20 years—it’s a popular series,” said Kathleen Richards, marketing and communications coordinator for the museum. “It was a year-round program, but with the construction, it became a summer series.”


“Jazz at the Crocker” is not the only music series the museum offers – for several years the museum held the Classical Music Series as well. However, with the preparation for the new building and ongoing construction of the new museum, the Crocker had to scale back its programs.


“We’ll be broadening the focus of the series after we move into the new building,” Richards said.


“We’re going to capitalize on the downtown cultural music scene after the museum finishes its move,” said Christian Adame, manager of Lifelong Learning for the Crocker. “In the next summer series, we will include Blues, Reggae and Indie Rock.”


“We generally have a list of performers that the museum keeps up with,” he said. “Most of our artists are local Northern California talent.”


“Roger Smith has been performing for a number of years here. He’s one of the popular artists in the series and has quite a following,” Richards said.


As the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding. The crowd did indeed turn out in support of “Jazz At The Crocker,” with an attendance of 600 people.


“I just like Jazz, and I like Roger Smith in particular,” said fan Virginia Craig. “I’ve been following his music for five years.”


The crowd stood clapping to the rhythmic soulful sounds of Roger Smith and danced the evening away. The crowd was having a “feel-good” time. It was the perfect kick-off to celebrate the closing of a week and a great excuse to unwind.


The energetic bandleader called out to the crowd, “It’s off the hook! Don’t sit down, Let’s keep it going!”


The front of the stage became an impromptu dance floor, where attendees began to dance, two-step, and sway to the undulating bass guitar and the saxophone piercing the air.

There were couples dancing in the aisles and singles two-stepping. However, if you’re still not convinced that going to “Jazz at the Crocker” isn’t a big party, one true sign of people having a great time is line dancing. So, it was clearly recognizable that everyone was enjoying the evening when a group began doing the Electric Slide.


“We’re members of the Crocker and it’s the third Free Thursday” said member and longtime jazz supporter Don Nicholson. “We like music, and our wives wanted to come out,” he added jokingly.


“We’ve been fans of jazz music for over 30 years,” said Nicholson’s friend, attendee Henry Jeter. “We’ve been in Pittsburg, New York and Chicago jazz scenes,” he added.


“In fact there ought to be more jazz,” Nicholson said.


Every song was a crowd hit, and with so many people in attendance, it was an extraordinary party. The band brought out a diverse crowd of many ages and ethnicities. It was proof that good music and pure entertainment knows no bounds.


The highlight of the evening came with the final performance. The band covered the Sly and The Family Stone classic “If You Want Me To Stay.”

The unmistakable bass line struck up and started getting the crowd into a familiar groove. The evening culminated in one big jam session. Listening to that song conjured a feeling similar to putting on your favorite pair of slippers—it was absolutely wonderful.


The crowd lingered after the final song. It seemed the audience still craved more and refused to end the party. Perhaps it was because many still had to face going to work Friday and wished it truly were the weekend.


“I like all the bands, and I attend all the shows in the series,” said Crocker member Kat Bell.


“I’m glad I came out—any excuse to listen to jazz is a perfect time,” said Bell’s friend, Frannie Martinez.

The entire event can be summed up in one word: excellent, as described by attendee Laszlo Mohacsi.

“It’s an excellent example of contemporary jazz,” Mohacsi said. “This was an excellent and relaxing venue for great price. It’s a more personal venue—unlike other jazz festivals.”

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