Cool weather and no rain makes 35th Jazz’SAlive a success
The first time Audra Menconi played at Jazz’SAlive, the drummer was a teenager on the stage in the music festival’s early days.
The San Antonio native returned Saturday afternoon to the 35th edition of the event, which she said has “just grown and grown and grown.”
Police estimated that about 600 people filled Travis Park on Saturday afternoon, with many more still arriving as the headliner performances approached and skies remained clear.
Menconi joined a lineup headlined by 2018 Grammy nominee Jazzmeia Horn. The U.S. Air Force Dimensions in Blue, Grammy winner Lee Ritenour and local band 16 the Olympus also played Saturday, along with the UTSA Jazz Band and the Alamo Heights High School Jazz Band.
Menconi, playing with a new quintet, said the event is one of the best jazz festivals in Texas. “They’re able to bring in national artists. You’d have to go pay a lot of money to go see them.”
The free shows in Travis Park also introduce new music to people who “would not necessarily be interested in jazz,” Menconi said.
San Antonio jazz legend Jim Cullum, who played with the Jim Cullum Happy Jazz Band on Saturday, was another returner to the Jazz’SAlive stage.
“We played at the first Jazz’SAlive 35 years ago,” he said as he began his set. “There’s always been an undercurrent of jazz here,” he said of the city.
Longtime festival attendees mingled with newcomers in the park, where they set up lawn chairs and blankets and sat in bus shelters and at picnic tables.
James Berbiglia, Gina Acree and Becky Palmer were among the earliest to arrive.
The trio has come to the festival for many years, Berbiglia said, but decided to stay at the neighboring St. Anthony Hotel and make a weekend trip out of it for the first time. They stayed until the last act finished Friday night and were back before the first performers took the stage Saturday morning.
The “wonderful music” keeps them coming back year after year, Acree said.
Michael and Leilani Garrett said they’d Googled free things to do in San Antonio this weekend. They found themselves happily relaxing at a picnic table while their children tried out arts and crafts nearby.
Tom Olivas and Perla Escobar spent the day turning their lawn chairs back and forth between the Majestic Theatre Stage on Navarro Street and the Paper Tiger Stage on Jefferson Street, where acts played alternating shows throughout the afternoon.
“It’s very relaxing after a long week,” Olivas said. “It’s a good place to come and decompress.”
They’ve come to Jazz’SAlive for four years, and they enjoy the music, the people and the Mexican food, Escobar said.
Some of the vendors, who called out to patrons passing by to stop for tacos, gorditas, fruit cups or kebabs, have been coming for years, like the customers they serve.
Berbiglia praised the turkey legs, which Josie and Abel Falcon have been selling at the festival since 1993.
“The business is good, and we enjoy the music and the people,” Josie Falcon said.
The event was Bakery Lorraine’s first foray into festivals, co-owner Anne Ng said. A long line of customers queued up to buy homemade pop-tarts, other pastries and coffee from the bakery, many carrying yoga mats after a morning class in the park.
Ng said she was excited to “see the space activated” and to participate in the revitalization of the park.
The yoga class and “Pop Tart Brunch” were two of the new additions to this year’s festival, along with two after parties on the St. Anthony Hotel’s rooftop bar, San Antonio Parks Foundation President and CEO Mary Jane Verette said. The festival also added back the second stage, after dropping down to one last year, she said.
Verette called the weekend’s weather forecast “frightening,” and that might have kept some people away, but others were more than happy to stick it out.
At the end of Friday’s performances, a downpour threatened to stop the last act, Sammy Miller and The Congregation. Instead, Verett recounted, “he said ‘I’ll play as long as you want to stay,’” and many people pulled out umbrellas and the band continued to play to the end of their set.
LTeitz@express-news.net | @LizTeitz