As I sat beneath the shade of a tent in Saunder’s Park last Saturday, slowly wilting from the midday heat, I couldn’t help but wonder one thing: why aren’t there more festivals in April? Despite the oppressive temperature (mid-90s and humid for much of the day), people were beginning to trickle in for the 7th Annual Lancaster Avenue Jazz & Arts Festival, a free concert that seeks to coax jazz out from its ivory tower and allow it to mingle with the community for an afternoon.
Last Saturday, I stood on the balcony of Johnny Brenda’s, watching a pretty unusual setup—a couple dozen old men, adorned in sequin-covered outfits and strange hats, setting up chairs, music stands, and sheet music on the cramped stage. As they continued to stick chairs in an increasingly claustrophobic-looking formation, musicians actually began setting up beside the stage, lining the floor with percussionists, the keyboard player, and a dancer. Yeah, it was pretty bizarre. However, it was also a fitting tribute to Sun Ra, the namesake and deceased former leader of the Sun Ra Arkestra.