Live jazz band brings people to their feet at Celebration Pointe
Gainesville resident Vaughn Littrup, 69, and his wife, Jan Wade-Littrup, 63, take every opportunity to swing dance whenever they hear jazz music.
At Saturday’s Jazz on the Green event, the Littrups were the first to spin on the pitch. They were among more than 100 people who danced, slammed and groove on the lawn to the band’s jazzy beats at Celebration Pointe.
The couple, married for 44 years, are looking for jazz events in the city.
“You give me good music, we dance. The dancing tunes make you dance, ”said Jan.
Celebration Pointe holds its Jazz on the Green event every two weeks, inviting different jazz musicians to perform in front of a live audience.
The audience got to the beat of “Memphis Underground” by Herbie Mann and sang “Dance Me To the End of Love” by Leonard Cohen.
The group experimented with unique jazz renditions of classics from around the world such as “Mas Que Nada” by Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes and “Ces Boots Sont Fait Pour Marcher” by 60s French pop singer Eileen. This week’s artists were the group Gosia and Ali. Gosia and Ali played a unique blend of swing jazz, 70s funk, Latin jazz as well as jazz versions of rock and pop songs. They kicked off the event with a jazz interpretation of “La Belle Dame Sans Regrets” by rock musician Sting.
Like the Littrup, several other spectators were drawn to the music and began to dance on the lawn in front of the stage.
Tomi Greentree, a 75-year-old Gainesville resident, also loved to dance to the music. Greentree is a member of the Florida Swing Dancing Club, a local organization for swing dance enthusiasts.
“If you come in and smell the music and dance to it, that’s all it takes. You don’t even have to have lessons, ”Greentree said.
Jessica Bell, 35, came from Jacksonville for the weekend. A longtime jazz fan, she found the event a fun way to spend the evening with her friends.
Cloudia Kowalski, 32, said she wasn’t a big fan of jazz in particular, but loved Gosia and Ali’s performances. Kowalski says she enjoys the Jazz on the Green event because it’s a safe way to enjoy the live shows.
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“In this time of COVID, it’s really great to be able to celebrate something outside. I will come and support any kind of live talent anytime, ”Kowalski said.
Gosia Sobala, 58, and her husband, Ali Che’Ree, 58, formed their group in 1995. On Saturday they performed as a quintet with Lawrence Buckner at the base, Tim Murray on drums and Ekendra Das on percussion .
The group has performed in local and international venues, Sobala said. Recently they played in Merida, Mexico.
Sobala graduated from UF in 1992 with a degree in musical performance. She was originally a classical musician and came to the United States from Poland to study classical music. After meeting Che’Ree, she falls in love with jazz.
“It was very difficult, very difficult because I had never studied jazz before,” she said.
She admires how free a musician is when playing jazz, instead of following a strict composition.
“You start to make your own sound in the structure,” Sobala said. “So you have freedom. You free yourself from thought in strict chord progression.
Sobala and Che’Ree have performed regularly as a duo for Francesca’s Trattoria, a restaurant in Gainesville. Unfortunately, Francesca closed in August 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We felt like we had lost our home,” she said.
During the pandemic, Sobala and Che’Ree switched to live performances on Facebook from their home studios with thousands of people around the world. They continue to occasionally broadcast live to raise funds to help their friend, Shel McClure, former manager of Francesca’s, start her own food truck.
Sobala and Che’Ree were hired by The Keys Grill & Piano bar in August 2020, a restaurant in Celebration Pointe. The duo perform every Sunday as part of The Keys host’s rotation.
Deputy GM Dale Schroff wanted to have Sobala and Che’Ree because of their good reputation around Gainesville.
“They are one of our first regular performers that we had once we started to recover from the pandemic,” Schroff said.
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Erina is a second year journalism student reporting on East Gainesville for The Alligator. Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Erina grew up in Fort Lauderdale and is excited to discover new stories in Gainesville. When not writing, she enjoys exploring local restaurants and watching Korean dramas.