Warm summer nights. A sky filled with stars. Consistent opportunities to listen to live jazz throughout the city of Syracuse. Central New Yorkers may be deprived of the first two elements this year, but Larry Luttinger and his annual Jazz in the City series will ensure that the music will still be heard.
“Cities have to have a rep as hip and fun, or people don’t move here or they don’t stay here,” said Luttinger, who is executive director of CNY Jazz Central. “We’re glad to be doing our part with five Jazz in the City concerts.”
The free concert series takes place every Thursday in August in different parts of the city. The 2017 series begins on Thursday, Aug. 3, at Dunk & Bright, 2648 S. Salina St., featuring The Blacklites and Will Holton. The Elk Pride Step Dancers will kick things off at 6:30 p.m. The following shows this year will begin at 7 p.m. Other performances in the upcoming weeks include Will Donato and JJ Sansaverino, Marion Meadows, Funky Jazz Band, Ronnie Leigh, King Solomon Hicks, the Bells of Harmony and Screaming Headless Torsos.
“The Elk Pride Step Dancers is a very unique group that works out of the Elks Club on the South Side,” said Luttinger. “It consists of a drum line and dance corps, and they’re great.” The participating youth are part of the educational programming that CNY Jazz Central offers to the city and surrounding areas.
“We try to embed an educational component into our programming as best as we can, whenever possible,” said Luttinger. “Of course, we have the summer jazz workshop and residency at the New York State Fair. We have a total of 11 different programs offered to schools statewide as our arts and education service. The public doesn’t see that, because it’s marketed directly to schools.”
Another component the public can’t see is the process of putting the series together. Luttinger and his team essentially start from scratch each year. They don’t receive funding from the city. Although CNY Jazz Central applied for a $25,000 grant, they didn’t see it.
Instead, Luttinger is elated that area businesses stepped up to the funding plate. “Working with locally owned business is much more rewarding than trying to develop a relationship with a headquarters in another city or state,” he said. “The logos you see attached to our program are locally or regionally owned businesses that care about community. They want to give back to their constituencies.”
The concerts will again be presented at the respective locations of sponsors. Aside from Dunk & Bright, performances will be held at the Byrne Dairy Ice Cream Center, Attilio’s at the North Side’s Little Italy section, Strada Mia on the West Side and Le Moyne Plaza. Years ago when the series had a larger budget to work with, the city parks were the go-to spots for concerts. Holding the shows at or near a sponsoring business is a thank you. Because of the local dairy company’s interest, Luttinger and his team were able to add a fifth installment.
“We’re looking forward to celebrating our great neighborhood and underscoring our commitment to community,” stated Byrne Dairy CEO and president Fred Sadegh in a press release. “Our ice cream center will be transformed into a mini-festival venue for our concert, and all will be welcome.”
“Byrne Dairy approached us to give back to their immediate surroundings on the near South Side, as I call it, near the old Sears Building on Cortland Avenue. It’s their ice cream center. I’m amazed at the amount of urban renewal that’s going on around there,” said Luttinger. “Byrne Dairy employees live in this neighborhood. They want to show it off. They want to tell people what they’re doing, and they want to give back to their surroundings.”
Luttinger hopes that adding another venue to visit will give people another reason to look at Syracuse through a different, positive lens. “We have a challenge with Jazz in the City. It’s overcoming the fear barriers that prevent people from driving into city neighborhoods to see an event in the evening.”
It’s easy to say that music brings people of different backgrounds together. It’s a time to celebrate, especially in a city with surrounding neighborhoods and suburbs where there are so many hardworking families, Luttinger noted. “Where there is less fear, there is more trust. Our city becomes a better place.”
Jazz in the City Schedule
- Aug. 3, 6:30 p.m.: The Blacklites & Will Holton, plus Elk Pride Step Dancers
- Dunk & Bright, 2648 S. Salina St.
- Aug. 10, 7 p.m.: Will Donado & JJ Sansaverino
- Strada Mia, 313 Geddes St.
- Aug. 17, 7 p.m.: Marion Meadows, plus Funky Jazz Band and Ronnie Leigh to follow (inside, post-show)
- Attilio’s, 700 N. Salina St.
- Aug. 24, 7 p.m.: King Solomon Hicks, plus Bells of Harmony
- Byrne Dairy Ice Cream Center, 275 Cortland Ave.
- Aug. 31, 7 p.m.: Screaming Headless Torsos
- Le Moyne Plaza, 1135 Salt Springs Road