LIVE MUSIC. ANYWHERE!
AYA SMOOTH JAZZ BAND @ THE CROSSROADS
How to create a good day in the midst of a chaotic society.
Simply combine a hot summer day; a historic park with a nineteenth century farmhouse; a smooth jazz band with a soulful vocalist; and an appreciative, eager audience who knows even though picnic benches are available, its customary to bring your very own concert park chair. You know some of those live music aficionados keep the chair in the trunk of the car all summer, just in case an outdoor concert pops-off, and they were unaware until the last minute.
Live Music! Anywhere!
It’s the middle of August, on a Sunday afternoon with temperatures hovering around eighty-five degrees but it felt a few degrees warmer because the slight breeze was not enough. You definitely needed your sunglasses, a bottle of water, and perhaps your favorite summer sun hat. Or you could have just taken a seat, a little to the side, but in the shade on a picnic bench. In a nutshell, it was the perfect summer day for live music outdoors, in open space, and the vibe was free. It was the type of experience where the summer heat was part of the production.
The scenic grounds of Dr. James Still Historic Office Site and Education Center which is located Medford, NJ was the setting. The historic site honors and preserves the legacy of Dr. James Still. It is the New Jersey State Park Service’s first African American Historic Site. Dr. Still was born in 1812 to parents who had formerly been enslaved. Dr. Still became a doctor, an herbalist, in the 1800’s, let me say that a little louder, a black doctor in the 1800’s in NJ. He was known as “The Black Doctor of the Pines.” This location is rich in history and offers knowledge that helps the culture. It is an awesome site and worth the visit.
On this summer day, this beautiful site was a perfect setting for AYA Jazz band to entertain us with the magic of their sweet music. AYA Smooth Jazz band is indeed a smooth band, with a uniquely identifiable sound and classy soulful vibe. This Jazz and R&B group covers some of our favorites but perform their own original music as well. Instrumentally, the band is amazing. AYA consists of band leader Keith Worthington on guitar and vocals, Ward Durham on bass guitar, Jose Claudio on percussion, Alvin Banks on keyboards, and Trev Rivers on drums. Additionally, the group features an amazing vocalist, Kym Still, that after hearing, you won’t soon forget. Keith, Ward and Kym have written original songs that the band performs.
The instrumentals are crazy good. Kym’s voice is her own and incomparable. It is hard to say who she reminds you of. She just reminds you of Kym Still, herself. Each member of the band has perfected their instruments and their sound is like time traveling to when music was authentic and real. The music speaks to the soul. The songs are about love, feelings, and the joy of music. AYA performs live at major outdoor festivals, as well as at music venues previously having played as the house band for one of South Jersey’s most popular venues. AYA has a robust and dedicated following that shows up everywhere they perform.
Now the audience that day was a potpourri of people who love live music, people who understand the therapy of live music (particularly outdoors in the summertime), and people who reminisce on the grove. One member of the crowd was overheard saying that that day reminded her of the sixties. I cannot disagree with the point of view, late 60’s or 70’s would be about right. Regardless of the decade that is one’s timeframe of reference; the experience of a shared live music event on a hot summer day still fosters a connection, a togetherness among the people, even if only for one summer Sunday afternoon on historic grounds.
Live music. Anywhere.
Dr. James Still Historic Office and Education Center (drjamesstillcenter.org)
Sandra K Coleman a CPA, a live music fanatic, founder of Black Swan Blues and a novice blogger.
(Article initially written in August 2021)