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June 28, 2012
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Jazz in July: a grand tradition

By Chad Taylor

Jazz in July kicks off on Tuesday, July 3, with the Turner Center Jazz Orchestra and the Des Moines Symphony’s Yankee Doodle Pops at the Iowa State Capitol. The event runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The event is all-ages and free to attend. Special to Cityview

For three decades, the Metro Arts Alliance has been doing its part to keep the Jazz tradition alive and well in central Iowa through Jazz in July. Just as importantly, they’re doing so in a unique and important way: Rather than staging the entire series at a single venue like the Civic Center or the State Fairgrounds, the Jazz in July series is held in communities and neighborhoods throughout central Iowa. Each show is a chance for a community to get together and have fun with old friends and new visitors. Each one is a special experience.

“For example, I enjoy the shows in Waukee’s triangle,” said Metro Arts Alliance Executive Director Kim Poam Logan. “The ice cream shop has a Jazz in July special and they close off the streets so there will be kids chalking the sidewalk. It’s a great time for families.”

Fostering that sense of community and accessibility for all ages is important to Poam Logan and to the Alliance’s mission with the series.

“I have children, so it’s nice to have a place to go that’s fun for them, too,” she said. “The main goal is to bring people together. You can come as a family, you can come as a group; it’s a good environment for everyone.”

For Poam Logan, the process of putting together the series is one that doesn’t really have a beginning or an end.

“It’s pretty much year-round,” she said. “We have an application process, both for the communities that wish to host a show and for the bands that would like to play. But it’s something that doesn’t really stop.”

While the series receives applications from performers nationwide, Jazz in July’s focus has always been on Iowa jazz and the tradition of local community.

“We’ll sometimes book a national act, but we usually will ask, ‘What’s your tie to Iowa?’ We like to connect it back to the state, if we can,” she said.

The Iowa ties remain strong. The 30th anniversary season of the series features 22 shows in 22 different venues, kicking off downtown on July 3. Other locations range from Terrace Hill to Living History Farms and from Jordan Creek Amphitheater to the 6th Avenue corridor.

That diversity is carried over in the faces of the performers. Acts both old and new will take the stage throughout the month, with performers running the gamut from full-time students, to professional musicians, to president of Adventureland John Krantz and Iowa Diamond owner Chuck Kuba. They’ve all found themselves united by a love of both their local communities and for a truly great American form of expression.

In addition to making sure that each current year runs smoothly, Poam Logan considers herself a steward for the future of the series.

“I want to ensure that (Jazz in July) remains viable for the next 30 years and beyond,” she said. “We do that by fostering the younger generation of jazz musicians.”

To that end, two of the groups performing — the Witness Matlou Trio on July 9 and the Uplift Quartet on July 21 — are products of Iowa colleges, and several of the shows will feature opening acts consisting of high school or college students.

“We feel that by encouraging younger jazz musicians,” Poam Logan said, “we’re ensuring the continued success of jazz in Iowa.” CV

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