Newton County's not known for its vibrant night life, but next Friday, residents will have the opportunity to enjoy a picnic dinner by candlelight on the banks of the Yellow River while listening to the soothing sounds of jazz music.
The Washington Street Community Center, a local nonprofit group, is hosting its annual Jazz by the River concert fundraiser from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, June 8, at the Porterdale Mill Lofts. The doors open at 6 p.m.
Tickets for the concert are $25 and can be purchased online at washingtonstreetcommunitycenter.org or at the center, 4138 School St. in Covington, but the rest of the evening is in the hands of each individual attendee.
Event-goers are encouraged to bring their own chair, table, tablecloths and candles, said Vendor Maddox, the center's board of director's vice president.
Attendees will also have the option of bringing their own picnic basket or purchasing picnic baskets ranging from $15 to $20 from the center. The baskets must be ordered ahead of time and can be purchased by calling the center at (770) 786-4002.
Water will be provided, but attendees are also invited to bring their own beer or wine.
The entertainment will be provided by the band Neo4, which was formed in part by local resident Chand Bennett, a saxophone player and disciple of longtime music director T.K. Adams.
The four-piece band, which includes saxophone, drums, keyboard and bass guitar, was formed around five years ago and was influenced by jazz band Spyro Gyra, Bennett said. The group performed regularly in the past at the Sambuca Jazz Café in Buckhead and several other venues around Atlanta.
"We play all genres of music. Our primary genre is, of course, jazz, contemporary and fusion, but we definitely do not limit ourselves to a genre," Bennett said. "We've pretty much played every kind of genre, from gospel to rock to hip hop.
"I do believe in my heart all music is jazz. What I mean by that is if you listen to Phil Collins, the Huey Brothers or Jay-Z, it's really jazz. The core of the music is how it makes people move or feel or gives them a memory. There's a lot of improvisation in music."
Neo4 will be performing more traditional jazz at its Porterdale event, but in addition to the four core musicians, there will also be special guest musicians from the Atlanta area, including vocalist AjaRay Embry, trumpet player Anthony Bailey and even 13-year-old bass guitarist Malik Compton from Conyers. Bennett promised Compton's mother the child could play along with Neo4, and Bennett said the young man is pretty talented for his age.
Bennett said the reason he's performing at the benefit concert is because of his mentor T.K. Adams, whose wife Louise was and is an instrumental part of the center.
"I can't stress enough that they touched almost every single person's life in Newton County. Mr. Adams gave me something that I can never pay him back for: the love of music. He really exemplifies a person committed to people and that's displayed in what he's done in my life personally, not just as a teacher, but as a role model." Bennett said. "I really owe him a huge debt when it comes to music, being a man and loving my community."
Washington Street is a nonprofit organization located in the heart of Covington's black community and is best known for its after-school tutoring and enrichment programs, which it has provided for decades.
The center is hoping to raise even more money than last year, because it recently lost $40,000 in funding after losing the annual 21st Century grant from the Newton County School System.
The three-year program was aimed at helping students on the brink of failing, but the grant was not continued. However, Maddox said the center hopes to continue the program with its own funds if it can raise the money.
Maddox said the center hopes to raise $10,000 at the event, which along with the annual Casino Night event are the center's two main events.
For more information about Bennett visit his website, AtlantaSaxMan.com or Neo4's website at facebook.com/Neo4band.