Bradley Fair jazzes up summer with free Thursday night lineup

The JT Project performs June 28 as part of Bradley Fair's free summer concert series.
The JT Project performs June 28 as part of Bradley Fair's free summer concert series. Courtesy photo

It sounds like the lineup for a premium jazz festival, with a mix of saxophonists, keyboard players, a genre-busting duo and a soul-pop singer.

Instead, it’s the offerings for Thursday nights this summer, as Bradley Fair Plaza returns for its 19th year of free concerts.

“Our concert series has become a tradition for many in Wichita, as well as the surrounding area,” said Amy Liebau, spokesperson for Laham Development, creator of Bradley Fair. “We have many national jazz artists who contact us each year to find out if they can be part of the concert line-up. We believe this is a huge compliment to the Wichita community for being so supportive of the concerts over the years – that’s why they want to play here. They hear from their friends within the industry about how great the crowds were, the venue, etc., and want to experience it themselves.”

All of the concerts are from 7:30-9:30 p.m., overlooking the Bradley Fair Plaza Lake. Soft drinks and cocktails will be available to purchase from Newport Grill. Guests are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs.

“The reason that we created the Bradley Fair Plaza overlooking the lake was to create a space where we could host community events as a way of showing our appreciation to the people of Wichita for their support of our developments,” Liebau said.

This summer’s lineup:

June 7: Jessy J. The saxophonist (the “J” is for “jazz”) arrived on the charts a decade ago with “Tequila Moon,” which was named as the song of the year by both Billboard and Radio & Records magazines after reaching No. 1 for eight weeks on the charts. Her followup, “Tropical Rain,” hit No. 1 in 2009. Her performances were featured on both “American Idol” (with Neil Diamond and with Phillip Phillips) and “The Voice” (with Cee Lo Green) in 2012. She has toured and recorded with Michael Buble, Jessica Simpson, The Temptations and Michael Bolton, as well as being a cast member in the off-Broadway show “Blast!”

June 14: Taps Mugadza. Tapiwa “Taps” Kidakwashe Mugadza was raised in a children’s home in Harare, Zimbabwe, after being left on its doorstep at just 2 days old. Frightened of people, he did not find the courage to speak until he was 15 years old. When he finally mustered his courage to verbally communicate, he taught himself to play both guitar and then organ within a week’s time. Homeless, with nowhere to go at the age of 18, he volunteered to dig wells in impoverished areas of Zimbabwe with a mission organization called Rock of Africa. In 2009, with the help of a Rock of Africa volunteer, Mugadza was accepted into the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood and moved to the United States, graduating with the honor of Outstanding Artist, with the head of the program and the school president saying they had never had anyone as talented.

Liebau describes Mugadza as a soul and pop singer who performs his own music as well as cover songs including Adele’s “Hello,” while helping spread awareness about other orphaned children in Zimbabwe and throughout Africa.

June 21: Jonathan Fritzèn. Like Jessy J, Fritzèn emerged on the contemporary jazz charts in 2008. The Stockholm, Sweden native’s debut album, “Love Birds,” composed and produced by the keyboardist, who played eight other instruments on the recording. His third album, 2010’s “Diamonds” included several guest saxophonists (including Jessy J), and included the single “Dance With Me,” which topped the Billboard Smooth Jazz Chart, while its second release, “Undercover,” peaked at No. 2. Fritzén has appeared at major festivals across the U.S. and around the world, and he has worked with the likes of Dave Koz, Boney James and Gerald Albright.

June 28: The JT Project. Keyboard-bass player Jacob Webb (a Kansas City native) and saxophonist Todd Schefflin (a Philadelphian) create what they call “a new genre in music,” after independently releasing four critically acclaimed albums, incorporating New York City’s best jazz and soul musicians. They have worked with performers including Anita Baker, Aretha Franklin, Patti Labelle, Jaheim, Ashford and Simpson, Kenny Garrett, Joe and Mulgrew Miller. They were awarded the ASCAP Foundation’s Reach Out and Touch Award in honor of Nick Ashford. The duo’s fifth album, “Moments of Change,” was released in 2016 by a division of Sony.

July 5: Joseph Vincelli. Called “a Bradley Fair favorite,” the saxophonist returns to Wichita for a post-Fourth of July performance that includes fireworks at the conclusion of the performance. The New Jersey native, now based in Dallas, has recorded 14 albums and a DVD over 17 years, including 10 smooth jazz CDs and a pair of acoustic jazz albums. His newest, “The Invitation,” features many new songs as well as collaborations with pianist Joel McCray.

More information on the concerts can be found online at bradleyfair.com.