When jazz renaissance man Khalil Shaheed brings his Groovemobile to Oakland parks this summer, don't expect squealing tires. Instead, beautiful sounds will pour out of his portable motor-driven stage. Now in its sixth year, Groovemobile 2002 Free Concerts in the Park revs up this Saturday at noon at Verdese Carter Park in East Oakland with the Black Dot Artists Collective, Oaktown Jazz Workshops Ensemble, John Santos, Big Belly Blues Band, and Scheherazade with Josh Jones.
"The idea for the Groovemobile," explains Shaheed, "came from attending a couple of concerts in New York City put on by the Jazzmobile. I always thought it would be a great thing to take a bunch of bands and go into local neighborhood parks, especially in areas where people don't get a lot of music."
Funded by See's Candies and the California Arts Council, the series hosts two shows this year. The second is on August 31 at West Oakland's deFremery Park with the John Handy Quartet and Ledisi headlining. The 53-year-old trumpeter Shaheed, who came to the Bay Area from Chicago in the 1980s after being influenced by Lester Bowie and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, takes the long view of jazz history.
"There's a lot of life in the Oakland jazz scene, but many young parents grew up listening to Tupac, Biggie, and hip-hop," he observes. "It's all they've really witnessed in the last couple of generations. So we can't be upset if they consider this art form old or nonexistent if they weren't exposed to it."
The Groovemobile has been instrumental in generating jazz interest in young people -- such as those who make up the Oaktown Jazz Workshops Ensemble, a jazz studies program that Shaheed takes into local schools. But there are things you can't teach in the classroom. All it takes is experiencing the Big Belly Blues Band, the all-star jazz-blues group featuring pianist Ed Kelly, to realize that. Even though a recent stroke has greatly limited the onetime Laney College instructor, he's still out there doing it, and will perform a couple of tunes this Saturday.
Unfortunately the Groovemobile only has funding for two stops this year, in comparison to its four or five shows in previous years. As Shaheed has observed, it's the most marginalized neighborhoods that have been most ignored by the powers that be. That's why he chose to make his first stop in the heart of East Oakland.
"Nothing ever happens in East Oakland. Everyone seems to be scared to go out. But a lot of us live out here and I'm not scared. Everything people do culturally, they do around downtown or by the lake. It's time to do something for the neighborhoods."
Groovemobile 2002 Free Concerts in the Park: Saturday, July 20, noon, Verdese Carter Park, 9600 Sunnyside Ave., Oakland; Scheherazade with Josh Jones, Big Belly Blues Band, John Santos & Friends, Oaktown Jazz Workshops Ensemble, Black Dot Artists Collective.
Saturday, August 31, noon, deFremery Park, 18th and Adeline streets, Oakland; John Handy Quartet, Ledisi, Big Belly Blues Band, Grass Roots Ensemble, Oaktown Jazz Workshops Ensemble, Oakland Interfaith Youth Choir. Info: 510-562-4546.
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