Originally created 05/31/97

June Jazz

If you want to go through the summer without hearing the music of All That Jazz, the best plan might be to get out of town.

The jazz group doesn't like to tour, but it loves to play, and it will - but rarely far from Augusta.

Beginning at 9 Sunday night and each Sunday in June, it will play its annual June Jazz Candlelight Concerts at the Riverwalk. On Fridays and Saturdays through the summer it will run jazz marathons, playing from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Augusta Mall and from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Partridge Inn.

In its eight-year existence, the group has gone on tour only once.

About two years ago, band members had been bugging saxophonist and group leader Wayne Hoey to venture out on the road, to play in Atlanta, or maybe Hilton Head. Mr. Hoey responded by setting up a 10-day visit to Japan, which included nine shows in seven nights.

If he was going on the road, he said, he wanted to do more than load up the van and drive a couple of hours for an overnight stay in a hotel.

Otherwise, he'd rather stay in Augusta.

"I truly think there's a lot of things of worth to do in the community," Mr. Hoey said. "Why travel to do something somewhere else?"

The candlelight concerts by the Riverwalk are among the band's most popular offerings, and that's why Mr. Hoey elected to continue it, even though the city pulled its support.

Money for Riverwalk events dropped sharply when the city went broke before consolidation with county government two years ago. Funding dropped by more than half - from $186,821 in 1994 to $73,677 in 1995. Some of that money has come back, with Riverwalk's 1997 budget set at $108,298. But that's still a drop of almost $80,000 from two years ago.

The candlelight-concert situation is similar to many other events, said Riverwalk coordinator Rommie Thompson. Riverwalk gave All That Jazz the money to get started, but now that the event is doing well it has to support itself.

All That Jazz will pay for police protection, cleanup, lights and use of the space. It will charge $3 per show, or $2 in advance. Last year, the city charged $1 admission. In past years, the shows have drawn about 1,000 people.

The Eighth Street Bulkhead, where the shows take place, is the perfect setting, Mr. Hoey said. It's almost a natural amphitheater. The band sets up with the river behind it, and the levee helps hold in the sound.

The only problem is the young trees on the lawn. They obscure some views of the band.

"I would like to take a chain saw to those trees - they were little when we started - but I can't do that," Mr. Hoey said.

Mr. Hoey borrowed the idea for candlelight concerts from a longstanding performance series at Chastain Park in Atlanta. Many in the audience bring candles, along with tables or blankets, and picnics, to set up for an evening by the water. When All That Jazz arrives at 4 p.m. to set up, some people have already staked out the prime spots.

In past years Mr. Hoey has built the shows around a theme or featured guest musicians, but this year All That Jazz will push more of its own music. The group includes Mr. Hoey on saxophone, drummer David L'Heureux, guitarist Chris Payton and bassist John Lamb. It has a tuneful compact disc of original music, recorded in early May at Studio South in Augusta, that is coming out this month.

The direction of the shows is largely improvised, depending on the mood of the crowd.

"I truly believe it doesn't matter what I play - it can be St. Thomas, a calypso song, or Georgia, a ballad, or Take the A Train, a swing tune," Mr. Hoey said. "It doesn't matter if it's delivered well."


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