The 2017 Iowa City Jazz Festival was held over the weekend of June 30-July 2, 2017, and I enjoyed one of the Sunday afternoon concerts on the Main Stage which was set up in front of the old capitol building in downtown Iowa City. Three other stages scattered around the blocked-off streets offered different musical choices, including a Local Stage spotlighting local area bands.
Iowa City is fortunate to offer several parking garages right in the downtown area, so I parked in the Clinton Street garage and walked the short blocks to the Festival area, which was lined with food vendors and artists’ and community groups’ booths. The smells and sounds were tempting, but I kept going until I reached the Main Stage, which boasted a big screen for those sitting far back from the stage.
The July sun was shining and the grass was green and soft, with plenty of people sitting or lying right on the grass or on blankets or chairs on the lawn in front of the stage, which was flanked by elegant stone University of Iowa buildings. John Raymond & Real Feels consists of leader and flugelhorn player John Raymond, electric guitarist Gilad Hekselman, and drummer Colin Stranahan. Raymond said that he grew up in Minnesota and was glad to be back in the Midwest, and he invited the audience to join his mailing list to stay atop of his tour schedule and other news.
Raymond’s first album, Foreign Territory, came out in 2015 to critical acclaim, and his latest album, Real Feels, also received positive reviews. In addition to performing, he also teaches at the United Nations International School in New York City.
During this 90 minute long concert, Raymond played familiar songs with his own interpretation, such as Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” and melodies from his upbringing such as”Amazing Grace”. The arrangements had a free-flowing, lyrical quality which was quite relaxing.
The group also played a couple of Simon & Garfunklel hits, including “Scarborough Fair”.
The flugelhorn added a more mellow feel to these arrangments than a trumpet might have.
The group closed out their performance with a loose arrangement of Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a’ Changing”. I enjoyed this performance despite some of the interruptions natural in the outdoor concert setting (people standing or walking in front of the stage, noise from nearby generators, the bugs!). The three musicians provided an integrated and technically flawless performance, and spokesman John Raymond had an easy relaxed manner of interacting with the audience and seemed genuinely happy to be playing before this crowd.
For more information on this group, visit John Raymond’s website.
To learn about more summer arts activities in Iowa City, visit the Iowa City Summer of the Arts website.