Jazz on Super Bowl Sunday

IMG_3987editedBy Tonya Jackson

For many Super Bowl Sunday is strictly a day for football, for Michael and Melinda Riley it’s another opportunity to bring great jazz music to Pensacola. And judging from the 320 tickets they sold, they’re not the only two with jazz on their minds. On Sunday, February 7th, their Pre-Valentine’s Day Jazz and Flow Concert at New World Landing featured saxophonist Antoine Knight, violinist Michael Ward, and flutist Althea Rene. Some questioned why the Riley’s and their team, Lighten-Up Entertainment, would go up against football. According to Riley, “we set our schedule for our followers. It’s simple we have a great team and we are giving people an alternative that they want.”  In other words, the Super Bowl had no impact on the concert.

The Riley’s concerts are smaller intimate affairs that allow for impromptu dancing to spring up all over the venue. Everyone was encouraged to let the music and their preferences dictate if they stay seated or get on their feet. At one point during the evening, Althea Rene let the music take her through the venue and play in the middle of the crowd.

The concert was energetic and exciting. One attendee confessed that he came there begrudgingly only to have his mood turned around once the concert started. Listening to Antoine sustain a note for nearly five minutes was literally breathtaking for all and brought the crowd to their feet. Michael kept the energy going with his special brew of jazz, funk, and r&b. learning later that he was sick while performing reiterated what a professional he is. When Althea took the stage in a fringed red dress she commanded all attention. Her performance was electric and caused many couples to get on their feet and dance with her. The concert ended with Antoine joining Althea on stage and announcing that she is on his upcoming album.

As you would expect, Pensacola native Antoine Knight has a passionately loyal following here. In speaking with him, he shared, “it feels like I have home court advantage. The energy of the crowd. They knew me before I was Antoine Knight. They watched me grow from a child to a man, to a national recording artist. It’s a great, wonderful feeling when I play here. I’m always pumped, I’m always amped. I want to give them the best, I want to give them my all.” When asked about the movement to intensify the musical heritage of this area for tourism he replied, “Politics and money dictate how this will be handled. If I don’t have the influence to get in that arena, even though I know I’m worthy to be on those stages, it won’t happen. Artists like myself will always be overlooked despite our talent. People are looking for a big name. Mike (Michael Riley) was really one of the first to get me exposure in Atlanta and I credit a lot to what he has done for me and the things that I’ve accomplished.” Antoine also shared that his third cd, “A Knight 2 Remember”, will be released in Atlanta on Friday, February 12th. The national release is scheduled for March or April.

Mark your calendars now, the next Lighten-Up Entertainment jazz concert is scheduled for Sunday, May 15th.

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