In their midsummer’s Sunday best on Friday night, a hip slew of characters gathered on the roof of Artpace, with the San Antonio skyline as the backdrop, for the second installment of the 2016 Rooftop Jazz Concert Series, a collaboration between Artpace and 91.7 KRTU that has set a high bar for the consumption of jazz music.

The sound of the evening’s performer, The Jeff Lofton/Kory Cook Experience, was the sound of a funky groove-turned-space odyssey and then gravity-down to the roots, encompassing what was billed as “Further Explorations in Free Jazz.” The ensemble also included video jockey Chris Jackson from Austin laying the backdrop with videos ranging from wild-westerns to a blissful Gene Kelly, all in time with the band, as attendees enjoyed libations from Alamo Beer, Pedernales Cellars, and Jazz, TX.

KRTU Music Director Kory Cook took a step back from the booth and a step onto the stage for the second installment of this collaboration on the rooftop, a much anticipated follow up on last year’s exploration.

“(It was a bit) unexpected that we didn’t go more into the outer reaches (musically),” Cook said after the gig. “That’s cool though, people dug the tunes.”

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Cook said the setlist was varied and spontaneous, from Lofton calling out a groove to laying down some of Lofton’s originals. Sometimes, Cook said, he just fell in line with the bass.

“If I had to boil it down from my end, it was really (bassist) Jimmy Blazer,” Cook said. “He’d set it up and I’d just go with it.”

Unaware of the world outside, he closes his eyes but really is opening them to the men on the stage, the wild groove of freedom taking over. The crowd they wonder and wander and sip and smile, reflections of neon lights in their eyes. They sit sprawled in amazement or stand in socialite sway politely. But this music wasn’t made, played for polite. No, allow yourself to melt into the bent wave of his whisper, take a ride and keep your balance but don’t think too much, you never know what horizon you’ll arrive on. 

Leader of the Jazz Poets of San Antonio and winker of rhetorical whimsy Eduardo Garza captured his feeling of the night in Kerouacian cadence as the band packed up and the overhead lights turned to stars.

“To smell the city from the rooftop, watch the people groove to some hot bluesy jazz, trumpet smooth and easy,” Garza said. “The groove (was) on…up.”

You can find out more about the upcoming Rooftop Jazz collaborations here. The next show will feature The Powerhouse Big Band and the music of jazz legend Woody Herman on Aug. 26.

Proof of KRTU or Artpace membership is all that it takes to attend.

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Top Image: Austin-based trumpeter Jeff Lofton laughs as he shares a story with the audience.  Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone.

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Adam Tutor

Adam Tutor is a Trinity University graduate, a saxophonist who performs with local bands Soulzzafying, Odie & the Digs, and Volcan, and a freelance music contributor to the Rivard Report.