Sweltering heat or sprinkling rain isn’t enough to keep the faithful from attending the Riverwalk Candlelight Jazz Series every week.
“We’ve been coming the last three or four years,” said Pamela Wynn, who, along with her friend Debra McCord, arrives early to find the best spot under the shade to enjoy a picnic and listen to the jazz. “It’s always crowded, and the entertainment is always excellent.”
At 8 p.m. each Sunday from May through August, jazz musicians take the Riverwalk stage near Eighth Street with the Savannah River as its backdrop.
A “Pop-up Jazz Club” rounds out the season on Labor Day weekend.
“This is really something nice for Augusta,” said Gloria Watts, another regular concertgoer.
Wayne Hoey, a saxophonist who was the leader of a band called All That Jazz, started the concert series in 1991 when the Shoppes at Port Royal opened on Riverwalk.
“All That Jazz was one of the performing acts hired to play throughout the two-story mall. We started outdoor performances on a weekly basis on the patio area facing the river,” Hoey, now a middle school band director in Colorado Springs, Colo., wrote in an e-mail.
After the Shoppes closed, Hoey established a June Jazz concert series on the Riverwalk. Later, he extended it to include offerings in July as well. After he moved to Colorado, Karen Gordon took over in 2003 and expanded the series to four months. It includes 17 or 18 shows, depending on how the Sundays fall on the calendar.
Gordon brings in an array of performers who display different jazz styles over the course of the series.
“We have funk jazz, Latin jazz, straight ahead classic jazz, the ever-traditional New Orleans jazz and smooth jazz,” said Gordon, who added that smooth jazz is a favorite.
She also likes to highlight young musicians and tries to incorporate students when she can.
“People don’t know how good the area students are until they hear them play,” she said.
On June 23, the lineup featured three musicians, Don Macey, Edna Stewart Morgan and Tom Rogers, each performing a 30-minute set.
Rogers has performed since he was a teen and was once part of Brenda Lee’s band, but Sunday represented a first for him.
“I’ve never done this before,” he said of Candlelight Jazz.
While Wynn and McCord have favorite performers, the lineup isn’t what’s important to them.
“We came once. The first time it was so nice. The atmosphere was wonderful,” said Wynn, who has been hooked ever since.
The only regret Gordon said she has with the series is that there isn’t a rain location. So if there’s a downpour, the concert will be canceled.
Upcoming concerts include the Patrick Arthur Trio on June 30; Funk You, July 7; Buzz Clifford, July 14; and the Edwin Hamilton Trio, July 21.
For more information, visit the Garden City Jazz Web site, gardencityjazz.com.