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Popular jazz series returns Thursday

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Wayne James on trumpet with Connected during a Third Thursday Jazz concert. The group will kick off this year's concert series on Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

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By Cindy Beamon
Albemarle Life Editor

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Third Thursday Jazz returns this week for its third season with popular songs by greats like Duke Ellington, Etta James and Stevie Wonder.

The concert series kicks off with Connected at 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Maguire Theatre inside Arts of the Albemarle, 516 E. Main St.

The group plans to perform a variety of songs, including "Take the A Train," a swing tune made famous by Duke Ellington; "At Last," a jazz ballad sung by the late Etta James; "Don't You Worry About A Thing" by Stevie Wonder with a jazz twist; and "Song for my Father," a popular Latin Jazz tune.

Connected is one of the repeat performers in the jazz series.

Trumpet player Wayne James said Third Thursday Jazz has gained momentum from its start three years ago. At first, the concerts were performed in AoA's gallery, but crowds quickly outgrew the space. Now groups perform on stage to standing-room-only crowds at times.

"It's definitely been money well spent because we have had a really great response from people in the community," said James, noting that the free concerts are underwritten by the Elizabeth City Foundation.

James said the turnout shows how many people from the community like listening to jazz. The concerts have also helped audiences develop an appreciation for the music with roots in American history, said James, who is also band director at Northeastern High School.

James said authentic jazz -- like the songs performed by Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald --- are becoming a lost art. Many groups today are playing "watered down" versions of the jazz standards, he said.

Keeping those jazz standards alive, Connected performs a mix of songs across a variety of genres, from the Big Band sounds of swing to the laid-back feel of cool jazz, from the fast tempo of bebop to the musical mix of jazz fusion with influences from Latin music, Rhythm and Blues, or rock.

Besides James, musicians with Connected include vocalist Alana Houston, Dennis Figgs on keyboard, Ellard Forrester on drums, Quinn Rawls on bass and Will Lane on lead guitar.

James said he's hoping that local business owners and restaurants will take notice of the jazz series' success and start inviting groups to perform at more venues.

"People often ask us, 'where can we go to listen to jazz in town?'" he said.

The jazz series concerts feature performances on the third Thursday of each month through June.

The schedule also includes:

Feb. 15 — Riddle

March 15 — The Thomas Taylor Group

April 19 — To be announced

May 17 — Jae Sinnett Trio

June 21 — Chris Bittner

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