Jekyll & Hyde
Photo | Courtesy of Playhouse in the Park
Azalea City jazz fans look to have their “mojo workin’” at full capacity again, fingers crossed. There are no legendary magic charms involved, just the acronym for the Mystic Order of the Jazz Obsessed (MOJO). The award-winning arts organization just celebrated its 20th birthday after 18 months of on again-off again pandemic workarounds.
COVID-19 numbers are currently on a steady decline over the last four weeks. Live jazz has resurged in Pensacola and neighboring locales. Inspired by these indicators, MOJO leadership feels it is time to return to their traditional home at the corner of State and Warren, across from Dunbar Magnet School. Club 601 at the Elks (601 State St.) — known as the “Elks on State Street” for the last 100 years — cultivated MOJO’s success for nearly two decades until needed renovations and the pandemic interrupted their partnership.
With the building spruced up and the Delta surge fading, MOJO is ready to reoccupy what’s been described as “Mobile’s last real speakeasy.” Their hope-filled homecoming takes place Oct. 25, 6:30 p.m., when trombonist and University of South Alabama professor Arie VandeWaa leads a small ensemble — keyboardist Jack Cassidy, saxophonist Mike Lyle, drummer David White and bassist Dave Webb — in highlighting ’bone players from jazz history.
Appropriately, one of the most lauded trombonists of jazz’s 20th-century heyday was Mobile native Urbie Green. He appeared on more than 250 recordings, including more than two dozen of his own featured albums, and played with luminaries like Gene Krupa, Count Basie, Tony Bennett, Quincy Jones, Woody Herman, Kenny Burrell, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and numerous others. Green died in 2018.
Featured performer VandeWaa boasts his own heady resume. In addition to numerous jazz and second line gigs, he’s played with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra, Mobile Opera, Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra, Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra, Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra, Mobile Big Band Society, Druid City Big Band, Pensacola Jazz Society and Southeast Chamber Orchestra.
Entrance is $15, $10 for MOJO members. Food service, including MOJO’s signature jambalaya, and a cash bar will be available. Masks are not required but certainly welcome. Lighted parking and outside security will be on hand.
MOJO aims to keep activities focused on the traditional venue while introducing local audiences to fresh talent from throughout the central Gulf Coast region.
For more information, go to mojojazz.org.
Speaking of MOJO, they will supply the musical component for one of Mobile’s most notable blends of philanthropy and artistry: Art Soup. Since 2003, the event has raised funds around Homeless Awareness Week each November.
Organized by Loaves and Fish Community Ministries and Central Presbyterian Church, this year’s version will be Nov. 12, 6-9 p.m., and held outdoors on Joachim Street, in front of the Saenger Theatre and the Mobile Arts Council’s gallery during the November LoDa ArtWalk.
The “art” end of things is courtesy of local artists who design and donate handcrafted bowls that participants take with them after the event’s centerpiece meal. Tickets include a handmade bowl, refreshments, live music and more. A raffle will also be held, with prizes like Mobile Opera tickets and more.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created a dramatic upswing in food bank services and that growing need has been obvious at the Food Bank at Central. The charitable effort will be the primary recipient of this year’s Art Soup.
Tickets are available for $30 per person. Online tickets will gain you early access to choose your bowl. On the day of the event, tickets can be purchased at the door by check, cash or credit card for $35 per person.
For more information or ticket purchases, go to Eventbrite or Art Soup Mobile’s Facebook page. You can also email [email protected]
Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” a haunting exploration of humanity’s darkest impulses, comes to the Playhouse in the Park (4851 Museum Drive) Oct. 22-31. While the disturbing tale of split identities has inspired numerous stage and screen productions, this version written just for the Playhouse hews most closely to Stevenson’s original story.
Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for students. It is recommended for ages 12 and up only. School show performances are Oct. 27 and 28 at 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. Call 251-422-5424 to book a field trip or buy tickets at playhouseinthepark.org.
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