Elvin Malone Sr. likes to bring a tablecloth, spread it out, lay out some hors d’oeuvres and drinks for himself and friends, and get ready for a lovely evening and some jazz in the growing shade of buildings along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
Or some great jazz, as Malone put it.
“I’ve been coming to Jazz in the Courtyard in front of the Douglas (Theatre) since it started back in ’08,” he said. “I go back a long way with the Douglas and the summer jazz series is one of my favorite things now. It’s so nice to sit and listen and fraternize with friends. Don’t get me wrong, it’s for everybody and for people of all ages, but I’m what I call a super-senior-citizen now and I really love this sort of thing. Maybe eight of us sitting around a table. It’s an intimate sort of thing, something you can look forward to and be glad to be a part of.”
Tables and chairs are provided by the Douglas Theatre, but sometimes they run out, Malone said. He said it’s good to get there early and if you don’t, it may be a good idea to bring a favorite lawn chair.
And of course, the food and drink has to be brought, none is provided. Gina Ward, director of the Douglas Theatre, said she encourages people to bring a picnic to the concert to enjoy with family and friends.
“It’s a three-month series every year — May, June and July — and with the help of our sponsor, Georgia Power, it’s free,” Ward said. “Jazz outdoors is a wonderful thing and we have some of the best artists play. Many of them are local and many are national artists.”
This month, the GQ Jazz Ensemble is featured. They’re an outfit whose members are local and from across Georgia. They’re considered a special group with a special name, mostly due to the fact it was founded some 30 years ago by Jimmy Mills Jr. Mills was the long-time chorus-music teacher at Southwest High School who reportedly impacted many lives for the good.
“Here’s the thing,” said Johnny Hollingshed Jr., GQ Jazz Ensemble vocalist. “Jimmy Mills started the group and since he’s gotten ill and can’t play with us any longer, all the guys refuse to play anywhere under the original name without him. We now play under the name the Class Act Band. But when we play the Douglass, we honor him and show our respect by going back to GQ Jazz. Jimmy loved the Douglas and was an instrumental, active board member. He did so many things besides teaching chorus and had such an influence on so many people we all have an infinite love for him.”
Hollingshed, who’s been with the band for 20 years, said they play classic jazz with some contemporary thrown in along with arrangements of pop tunes they add jazz flare to.
“Our goal is to be at our best at every performance and we have outstanding musicians — really musician’s musicians,” Hollingshed said. “Add to that we want to make sure everybody gets something during the show and can go away uplifted and thoroughly entertained. At Jazz in the Courtyard, we pull out all the stops. We consider it one of the greatest events anybody can attend or anybody can play. Anywhere.”
Ward said as a reminder that parking downtown is free on Sundays and that there’s plenty of it in the parking garage adjacent to the Douglas.
Contact Michael W. Pannell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jazz in the Courtyard
Where: The Douglass Theatre, 355 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
When: 7 p.m. July 28
Information: www.douglasstheatre.org, 478-742-2000