STAMFORD -- Though acts such as Neil Sedaka and Bowser helped provide a steady draw for the former "Pops in the Park" downtown music series, Downtown Special Services District President Sandy Goldstein said there was a need to shake up the program.
"We had about a thousand people who were zealots," Goldstein said. "They loved the concerts and we loved them back." But attendance had become "flat," she said.
So the series was revived last summer as "Jazz Up July" with a lineup that included Roberta Flack and John Tesh. On Monday, the DSSD revealed its new lineup -- John Pizzarelli, Spyro Gyra, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Al Jarreau --which officials say they expect to draw even bigger crowds than before.
The four Wednesday concerts in Columbus Park will begin at 6:30 p.m. All are free, except for the final Aug. 1 concert starring Jarreau, which will cost $10 (children 12 and under are free). The opener for Jarreau is Tizer, featuring keyboardist and recording artist Lao Tizer and his quartet.
DSSD Director of Events and Marketing Annette Einhorn forecast "really great attendance that night," with many turning out for Jarreau, who, alongside Michael Jackson, is the only artist to win Grammy Awards in the jazz, pop and R&B categories. He is known for pop hits such as "We're in this Love Together" and the theme to television's "Moonlighting."
Guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli, whose latest album "Double Exposure" was released May 15, will kick off the series July 11 with students from the 2012 Young Artists Summer Jazz Workshop of Stamford. In addition to his own recordings, Pizzarelli has played with acts such as James Taylor, Paul McCartney and Rosemary Clooney.
Another performer who hails from Stamford is Richard "Cookie" Thomas, who will open for prolific jazz fusion band Spyro Gyra July 25.
"We like to showcase our local artists here when possible," Einhorn said. "Lynne Colatrella (DSSD vice president of events and marketing) reached out to the local community to get some great openers for this series."
Also performing in the series will be 12-piece Brooklyn, N.Y., based Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra, which will open for New Orleans jazz group The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, another seasoned act of more than 50 years.
Goldstein said she believes the lineup will draw audiences to downtown Stamford that are "lower-keyed" that many who attend the event's companion series, "Alive@Five."
"There are so many jazz aficionados in the area that we were pleasantly surprised last year," Goldstein said. "(The jazz series) was successful. It wasn't flat, there was a definite uptick in attendance. I hope the same thing will be true this year."
For more information about "Jazz up July," visit www.stamford-downtown.com.