Jazz and Classics reverberates

Posted: Sunday, June 13, 2004

Robert Hale is publisher of the Juneau Empire.

A few random thoughts for a summer Sunday morning: Two weeks after the final show for this year's Juneau Jazz and Classics (the 19th season) I'm still in awe of the quality of musicians and performances I saw over the course of nine days and nights.

Each of the JJ&C shows was top-tier, no doubt, but what made the whole event so much more enjoyable was that so many of us in Juneau got to mingle with most, if not all, of the artists who came to town for all or part of the week.

On the first weekend of the show, May 21 and 22, blues guitarist Tommy Castro rocked the Alaska Native Brotherhood hall in downtown and did the very same thing the following night for an intimate crowd of 88 or so aboard a catamaran cruise along the Gastineau Channel.

The intimacy of many of the Jazz and Classics shows is what impressed me the most about the event that I was experiencing for the first time this year. Whether at the Chapel by the Lake near the grounds of the University of Alaska Southeast, at Aldersgate United Methodist Church or at any of the informal brown-bag lunch performances, JJ&C performances (and performers) are about being up close and personal.

The finale JJ&C performances, held May 28 and 29 at Juneau-Douglas High School and featuring the Cyrus Chestnut jazz trio and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, respectively, rounded out the nine days of classical, jazz and blues music very nicely. To see so many people dancing in the aisles of the JDHS auditorium on the final night was the perfect way to close out the week.

Jazz and Classics, along with the annual Alaska Folk Festival, are showcase events that cities much larger than ours would love to be able to produce. You'd be hard- pressed to find another community where events like these could or would work any better.

And, now that the tourist season has been in full swing for more than a month, I've come to enjoy the downtown experience wholeheartedly. That is to say that I really do love the "buzz" in and around downtown with so many more people on the streets and with so many more of the downtown businesses being open.

The pedestrian traffic along Franklin Street, along with the daily swell of the population, creates for me the feeling of a much larger city and one that has so much going on in and around it every day. I know I'll miss that at the end of the season.

A final note: The focus group working on a compromise plan for a second high school seems to have made tangible progress, and that's encouraging. This has been a divisive issue of epic proportions, but there does appear to be hope that proponents and opponents of a second high school can find enough agreement to get what each wants. Let's hope so.

• Bob Hale is publisher of the Juneau Empire. He can be reached at robert.hale@juneauempire.com.

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