Jazz finds a home in Fenwick Island

Floating on the gentle breeze, jazz notes emanating from the Jazz Pioneers’ instruments put smiles on the faces of audience members at the Fenwick Island’s community park on Saturday, July 22. Four of the band’s seven members played at the free jazz concert, from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m.

Coastal Point • RUSLANA LAMBERT: The Jazz Pioneers filled the evening with music in Fenwick Island on Saturday, July 22.Coastal Point • RUSLANA LAMBERT
The Jazz Pioneers filled the evening with music in Fenwick Island on Saturday, July 22.
Decked out in Hawaiian shirts or other casual attire, the four jazz players were Don Sharp (trombone, cornet, tuba), Tom Stevenson (drums), Herb Crowe (tenor banjo), and Paul Widitz (trombone). As well as introducing the songs, Sharp was the lead vocalist for a number of them.

The musicians play mostly in Sussex County, and all live in Delaware, except Stevenson, who lives in Salisbury, Md. Each band member has been playing for at least 50 years.

Last week was the first time that live jazz music had been played at the nicely landscaped town park in Fenwick Island, which established two years ago. Sitting on swing sets, beach chairs, picnic tables, park benches and towels, at least 30 people attended the event. As they listened, many swayed, tapped their feet, snapped their fingers or hummed to the tunes.

“This place is an oasis,” said Sharp of the town park. “This patch of green shows a lot of thought, and a lot of caring.”

The band played what Stevenson referred to as “old standards,” from composers ranging from Hoagy Carmichael to Steven Foster. The songs played by the band included “When You’re Smiling,” “Home on the Range,” “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter,” “Back Home Again in Indiana,” “If I Had You,” “Oh, Susannah!,” “I Want to Be Happy,” “Camptown Races,” “In the Good Old Summertime,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “Show Me the Way to Go Home.”

Describing what he likes about playing jazz, Sharp said, “I like the sounds, and I also like to see people smiling and singing along. It reminds me of the days when I played with my father, uncle and brothers.”

“I thought the jazz concert was very nice, because the musicians were so talented,” said jazz listener and spectator Janet Hess, a Fenwick Island resident.

Fenwick Island Park Commissioner Mary Pat Kyle planned the jazz festival, and Harry Haon, vice president of the Fenwick Island Town Council, introduced the band members. The band itself proved adept at getting the audience involved in the show. Each audience member was encouraged to sing along with the band during their performance of several tunes, including “Home on the Range.”