Jazz fans and curious visitors alike were downtown listening to the tunes playing at Travis Park on Friday and Saturday during the 34th annual Jazz’SALive music festival. Five groups of jazz artists performed for hundreds of visitors situated in the park to hear the concert.

The two-day festival featured food, drink, and shopping booths and engaging community events along with live music that played well into the night. Organized by the San Antonio Parks Foundation and the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, the event is the city’s official jazz music festival.

Famous jazz musicians have been featured at the festival for years. Some former headliners include Dave Brubeck, Dianne Reeves, and Wayne Shorter, to name a few.

Kevin Eubanks headlined the festival this year and played songs from his newly released album East West Time Line. The release follows an 18-year long career with the Tonight Show Band.

“He’s really made a name for himself as a guitarist at The Tonight Show,” said KRTU General Manager JJ Lopez. KRTU is San Antonio’s local jazz station and one of the festival’s media sponsors. The radio station broadcast the performances live to 91.7 listeners tuning into the concert around the city.

“He’s a very respectable jazz musician, even before The Tonight Show,” Lopez continued. “When [the new album] arrived everybody was thrilled because it was really exciting, adventurous, a little gritty, and that’s what we like at KRTU.”

Kevin Eubanks performs as the headliner at Jazz’SALive 2017.
Kevin Eubanks performs as the headliner at Jazz’SALive 2017.

Aaron Prado Sextet, Adrian Ruiz Quintet, Jose Amador and NATIAO, and the U.S. Air Force Band of the West Dimensions in Blue with Wayne Bergeron also played the main stage Saturday. Groups of people clustered on folding chairs and picnic blankets laid out near shady trees.

Visitors walking through the newly renovated Travis Park, now displaying bright plant life and colorful flowers in the center mound, enjoyed food and drinks from booths temporarily lining the square. Beer stands stood next to vendors selling mini tacos, gorditas, kabobs, paella, and turkey legs. Funnel cakes weren’t far away either.

An instrument petting zoo, organized by the Youth Orchestra of San Antonio (YOSA), was a highlight with the festival’s youngest visitors. Punctuating the jazz tracks carrying through the park were brief notes coming from violins, violas, and cellos that orchestra members had brought and community members experimented with.

“Instrument petting zoos are actually a really great way for young musicians, and older musicians as well, to kind of just try out a variety of different instruments,” said Tyler Benware, operations manager for YOSA. “It’s a nice chance for us to get out in the community and just let people who wouldn’t normally play an instrument have that experience.”

After more than three decades of performances, the festival has become a staple for some of the city’s most enthusiastic jazz fans.

“It has its subtle changes, it adapts to new demographics, or it may experiment with doing a few things,” Lopez said. “But overall I think it’s a great success.”

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Jeffrey Sullivan

Jeffrey Sullivan is a Rivard Report reporter. He graduated from Trinity University with a degree in Political Science.