At last year’s Seabreeze Jazz Festival in Panama City, Ed Lemox ran into a few other Pensacola residents who made the drive over for a few evenings of relaxing music in a beautiful atmosphere. It was out of this chance meeting that the Pensacola Cultural Jazz Series was born. Lemox recognized a musical niche that was not being filled in Pensacola and decided to do something about it.
Along with his desire to experience inspiring music in his beloved hometown, Lemox decided it would be even more fulfilling and worthwhile to engage the community by setting aside seats at each concert for student-musicians from local schools and using a portion of the series’ profits to help provide musical instruments for struggling musicians and music programs. This translates to creating the capacity for over 100 students to be exposed to a new style of music and a high
level of professional craftsmanship. Lemox sees this as “saving seats for future musicians.” Along the same vein, each concert will feature local opening acts to support the headlining main acts.
The Pensacola Cultural Jazz Series will take place across five different evenings in two venues: the WSRE Jean and Paul Amos Theater and the Saenger Theatre downtown, beginning April 29. The events highlight musicians and bands of the type usually labeled as “smooth jazz” or “contemporary jazz.” Listeners familiar with Lite Mix 99.9’s “Sunday Jazz Brunch” are probably already fans.
Lemox explains that it’s also the lifestyle accompanying the appreciation of contemporary jazz music that appeals to him, “relaxing with friends and enjoying fine dining or drinking good wine. Often live jazz is experienced in a beautiful place, so it is the whole package that is appealing. It’s just soothing.”
Because coastal residents definitely know how to be laid back and relax, smooth jazz is a natural fit for a certain Pensacola audience. Lemox admits it might not be for everyone, but he encourages those who relegate contemporary jazz to the Weather Channel only to give it another try. “Just like all sorts of music, this isn’t for everybody, but some people will really enjoy it—it’s family oriented, and anyone can enjoy it. I’ve had people buying tickets excited to expose their kids to this kind of music, the community response has been great.” Lemox shared that one woman who came to purchase tickets insisted on hugging him, “for those who are already fans of this type of music—they are ecstatic to see this come to Pensacola.”
Who is Lemox most excited to see? “Acoustic Alchemy—I would have organized all of this just to see them in my hometown.”
While the series opens April 29 with the American-based The Rippingtons, UK band Acoustic Alchemy will be performing as the second summer act on June 14. To follow in the fall are saxophonist Mindi Abair from St. Petersburg, Fla., with guitarist Nils. Next will be saxophonist Jessy J., keyboardist Jonathan Fritzen and guitarist Nate Najar on Nov. 10. In December expect Dave Koz, potentially with a special Christmas show.
The vision for the Cultural Jazz Series is to create an evening of entertainment that highlights the best Pensacola has to offer. The ethos is to be able to have dinner and a show out and still be in your own bed at the end of the night.
When asked how he would be spending the evening, Lemox laughed. “I will be making sure everything gets put together!” he exclaimed, before adding, “I would love to go to Global Grill or somewhere else downtown and then take in the
music.” Lemox will actually be with VIP patrons mingling and munching at Distinctive Kitchens before the show begins. He’s excited about the development of the downtown corridor and getting to be a part of it. In the future the jazz series could take on a festival nature and move to the beach or the Maritime Park.
For a sample of the kind of music you can expect during the evening, check out The Rippingtons’ “Riviera Jam,” “Bandol,” and “Cote d’Azur” on iTunes; from Acoustic Alchemy, listen to “Say Yeah” and “Jubilation.” Pour a glass of wine, settle in, and look forward to a series of evenings just as smooth.
THE RIPPINGTONS FEATURING RUSS FREEMAN
WHAT: The Rippingtons with special guest saxophonist Paul Taylor, and Roman Street from Mobile, Ala.
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 29
WHERE: The Saenger Theatre, 118 S. Palafox
COST: $52.50, $42.50, $28.50 (balcony). VIP Tickets $75, includes hors d’oeuvres and meet and greet with the band