A time to sing: Salsa, Jazz Under the Stars return to ABQ Museum

Tracey Whitney performs at a past Jazz Under the Stars event. (Courtesy of New Mexico Jazz Workshop)

The sounds of summer are back on weekends at the Albuquerque Museum.

New Mexico Jazz Workshop’s Music Under the Stars Summer Concert Series will feature Salsa Under the Stars on Fridays and Jazz Under the Stars on Saturdays from July 23 through Aug. 14.

Calle 66 opens the series Friday, July 23, followed by Women’s Voices with Diane Richardson on Saturday, July 24. The shows continue with Nosotros on July 30, Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra on July 31, Ivon Ulibarri and Cafe Mocha on Aug. 6, Entourage on Aug. 7, Son Como Son on Aug. 13 and Ladies Sing the Blues with Joan Cere on Aug. 14. All shows begin at 7 p.m. and will be held at the museum located at 2000 Mountain Road NW. Tickets can be purchased at holdmyticket.com, and more information on the concert series can be found at nmjazz.org.

Music Under the Stars was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. Performers are happy to be part of the 2021 series and perform live again.

“One of the musicians called me to express just how grateful she was to be able to get back on the stage again and have that experience,” said Bruce Adams, executive director of the New Mexico Jazz Workshop. “… I understand where these musicians are coming from, because I see it for myself personally. But yeah, they’re just so excited.”

The pandemic has affected musicians across the board, including Adams, who last year had to give up his regular jazz gig in Santa Fe. He recently returned to performing live.

“It was obviously a difficult year for musicians,” Adams said. “And yes, they were put out of work, that was one very negative side of it, and lost an income stream. But it also disenfranchised music performers from getting to perform. You know, as a musician myself, my greatest joy is performing. … As I’ve talked to the musicians, that’s what they’re most excited about, you know, they want to perform, they want to get back out there and do their thing. The musicians couldn’t have been more excited to go forward with the season.”

The salsa community is also welcoming the return of the music series.

“The salsa people here in Albuquerque have really been disenfranchised, because as you may or may not know, the Cooperage was where they all went every Friday night, you know, and the Cooperage is gone,” Adams said. “And so there’s just not a lot of other places for the salsa people to go. So, they are especially happy. And one of the things that I did very early in this process was connect with the salsa people and let them know of our commitment to bringing back salsa.”

The New Mexico Jazz Workshop has other shows lined up once the Music Under the Stars series concludes this summer. One of the shows features an honor band made up of high school musicians playing on stage with the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra on Sept. 4.

“That’s going to be a very special concert, and part of that concert is also to recruit new players, new high school kids for the future,” Adams said. “… We do this honor band, and we do it in conjunction with the Albuquerque Jazz Orchestra. Usually, it’s in the spring. It was supposed to be in March of last year, and as we all know, March of last year was when the world changed. And so they never got to do that concert. A lot of those kids have graduated and gone on and you know, won’t be around, but we found a few of them. We owed them a concert, and by God, we wanted to come through with it.”

The profits from class concerts as well as grants assist the New Mexico Jazz Workshop to continue music education for children in the Albuquerque area. Many of the children who participate are at-risk or incarcerated or attend schools where they would not otherwise have an opportunity for music education.

“What makes my heart sing is the fact that I’m helping introduce music to children and that will serve them their entire life in such a positive way,” Adams said. “That’s something that just makes my heart sing to know that I can be part of that. Some of (the children) started as little ones, you know, 5, 6, 7 years old, and then all the way up to the high school kids. And, you know, that music is going to be in their hearts for the rest of this century.”

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