Friday, August 2, 2013

Jazz in the Garden

Jazz in the Garden with friends. Kelly Broadway sings (bottom right). 
I've heard about it since I returned to the Toledo area a few years ago: Jazz in the Garden at Crosby Gardens, now called the Toledo Botanical Garden.

My friend Sandy reminded me of it again when we had coffee at Chandler's last week.  She was going, and asked if I would like to meet her there.  Yes, absolutely. Sometimes it takes a little coaxing. And so we met, Sandy, Dan, David, Edward and I. We relaxed in colorful lawn chairs or sat on a blanket; had a picnic dinner with a glass of wine; and enjoyed an outdoor concert on a beautiful balmy night.  The park was aglow and crowded with some 500 enthusiasts. It had the feel of Renoir's "The Luncheon of the Boating Party" or Georges Seurat's "Sunday in the Park," which inspired Steven Sonheim's musical. The lanquid ambience and the light.

The artist was Kelly Broadway. She has a great voice,  robust, sexy, full of nuance and emotion.  She sang some of the old favorites.  "Girl  from Ipenema" was a standout.  Her voice carried  us back to the heyday of Jazz  in Toledo with Rusty's Cafe and Murphy's Place, and pianist Claude Black, bassist Clifford Murphy, Joan Russell, who kept it all going, and singer Glenda McFarlin, among many others.  I had lost track, after leaving Toledo in 1985, and was sad to learn about closings and passings, but Kelly Broadway brought back the music and the glory days.

We sat next to some wonderful people, a couple from Grand Rapids, another who loaned us a blanket, and a Sylvania couple hosting a young girl from Russia through the FORO program (Friends of Russian Orphans), a nonprofit Christian mission to assist orphanages and provide exchanges. I had a little chat with the lovely young girl, remembering a few words in Russian.  I was glad to learn of FORO. That's always the good thing about being out and about--meeting people, feeling connected, learning something new.

The setting sun cast a rosy haze on all of us.  The goddess of jazz was here, I thought, maybe Joan Russell herself, dear old friend, telling us "This is the place to be, with kindred spirits absorbing the great tradition of jazz in Toledo and all over the world."

Toledo Botanical Gardens:    http://www.toledogarden.org/?page_id=19
Friends of Russian Orphans  :http://fororphans.org/
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