Alive After Five Celebrates 20 Years of Jazz and R&B at KMA

This year's anniversary bash for the Knoxville Museum of Art's Alive After Five concert series will be twice as big as the anniversary concerts normally are—not only is this the series' 20th anniversary, but the series will also be going on hiatus until at least January.

The museum will close later this month for extensive interior renovations in preparation for the unveiling in 2014 of a new featured work by glass artist Richard Jolley.

KMA launched the series, which now features dozens of concerts a year, in 1993, highlighting local jazz and R&B groups. It has grown into a cultural institution in town.

"Before, we didn't have any particular consideration for dance space," series coordinator Michael Gill says. "People just found whatever available spot there might be. But now we do clear out an area for them."

Over the years, Gill has invited portrait painters and masseurs, and even a tarot card reader, to attend Alive After Five to keep things interesting. Halloween costume parties became the norm, and Cajun bands celebrate Fat Fridays the weekend before Mardi Gras. In its heyday, Gill says, the event drew an average of 240 people; post-recession averages have hovered around 180 to 190 people. But, Gill says, Alive After Five draws one of the more diverse crowds he sees in town.

"I get out there and see quite a few shows myself outside the museum," he says. "And without a doubt, our audience is the most diverse in Knoxville—ethnically and age-wise. A lot of these shows that advertise themselves as all-ages—it seems like all the ages are from 16 to 26."

Though about half the audience is usually over 50, Gill says, there are usually a several kids, a handful of teenagers, and several college students.

Gill says the 20th anniversary show will harken back to the good old days of the early 2000s. The lineup will feature the 17-member Streamliners Swing Orchestra, who will play two full sets, meaning the party won't end till 10 p.m. (The show usually wraps up at 8:30 p.m.) Admission is $12, or free for museum members.


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