Glen Ellyn Park District | Established in 1919 | Glen Ellyn, Illinois

Jazz in the Parks Returns for a Three-Concert Summer Series

You know it’s summer when the Glen Ellyn Jazz Ensemble rolls into the parks with their horns, piano and drums.

Every summer, this group of jazz musicians has entertained crowds packed into Glen Ellyn Park District parks for a night of free entertainment.

This summer, the ensemble is scheduled to perform three times, at three different parks under the Jazz in the Parks banner. The band performs a variety of types of jazz, from big band sounds to more modern jazz.

Keyboard player Drew Fase said the ensemble, formed in 1995, started out playing in the parking lot by the train station and moved to the parks after a year or two. The band, which nowadays rehearses twice a month in the Main Street Recreation Center, formerly rehearsed in the village hall.

The 17-piece band includes five or six musicians who have been with the ensemble since the start, including Fase.  Several others have been with the band more than a dozen years. The newest addition is the bass player, added only about six months ago. There are four trombone players, four trumpet players, five saxophone players, a string bass player, an electric guitar player, a drummer and Fase, who plays the electronic piano/synthesizer. For the past couple of years, vocalist Mona Roy has performed with the ensemble.

Fase said the band is made up of a variety of professionals. There are real estate agents, insurance specialists, music and chemistry teachers and mechanical and software engineers. Fase is a customs broker. What they all have in common is a love for jazz.

“We all like to play. Everybody likes to play a couple times a month,” he said.

In addition to the Jazz in the Parks series, the ensemble occasionally performs at area libraries, at private parties and at Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce events.

“We just did a benefit for Anima, the Glen Ellyn Children’s Chorus,” he said.

The first concert of the 2017 Jazz in the Parks series is set for June 21 at Maryknoll Park. Concerts run from 7-9pm.

Fase said the set list will include Glen Miller’s “In the Mood” and Maynard Ferguson’s arrangement of “The Theme from Sesame Street.”

Next up, the ensemble will play Newton Park on July 26.

“We’re going to feature our guitar player in July,” Fase said, a performance that will include a rendition of Steely Dan’s “Bodhisaltva.”

The Jazz in the Parks season finale is slated for August 16 in Lake Ellyn Park.

When Jazz in the Parks first came to the parks, all the concerts were held in Lake Ellyn Park, said Jeannie Robinson, assistant superintendent of recreation services.

A few years ago, a construction project at Lake Ellyn necessitated a move to other park locations. The park district took note when residents welcomed this change with enthusiasm.

“We had some feedback from people that they liked having it at different parks,” Robinson said.

She said moving the location made it convenient for residents from a variety of sections of the village and resulted in increased attendance. The series has been a roaming aural experience ever since.

On each performance night, the park district gets the band set up with its mobile stage/band shell.  There is an effort to keep the event simple. No concessions are sold, no alcohol is permitted, and there’s no admission fee.

“We’ve been averaging over 100 people these last couple years,” said Fase. “People will bring a blanket and baskets. I’ve always described it as a mini-Ravinia.”

Robinson said inclement weather could force a concert cancellation. Cancellations will be posted on the park district website at www.gepark.org/weather and information about cancellations is available by calling the Rainout Line at (630) 984-5075.

The Glen Ellyn Jazz Ensemble is always looking for new and substitute players. For more information, please contact Drew Fase at drew@alfase.com.

For more information on Jazz in the Parks, visit www.gepark.org/jazz.