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Blues star puts soul in summer concert series
Francine Reed and Java Monkey take stage in The Arts Council's MusicFest
Francine Reed and Java Monkey will perform Friday in The Arts Council's MusicFest summer concert series.

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Francine Reed with Java Monkey

The Arts Council Summer MusicFest

When: Gates open at 6 p.m. Friday; concert begins at 8 p.m.

Where: Smithgall Arts Center, 331 Spring St. SW, Gainesville

How much: $25 plus tax per person; $240 plus tax for a reserved table for eight

Contact: 770-534-2787

Summer in Gainesville is off to a soulful start with The Arts Council's Summer MusicFest.

The annual series of concerts begins Friday with a performance by Francine Reed with Java Monkey.

"This is the first time she has performed for The Arts Council," said Gladys Wyant, executive director of the council.

"We have been wanting to bring her here for three years now, but she tours with Lyle Lovett and her schedule has been pretty demanding."

Reed is a gospel, R&B, jazz and blues vocalist. She has shared a stage with Miles Davis, Etta James and Smokey Robinson.

Although Reed is an Atlanta-based artist, Steve McRay, a member of the band performing with her, has local ties. According to Wyant, the vocalist, keyboardist and bass player is a 1968 graduate of Gainesville High School.

The other members of Java Monkey are John Holder, Michael Bastedo and Marvin Taylor. The group plays original pieces, as well as classic R&B, funk, blues, rock and soul tunes.

"We try to listen to our audience's requests when we select performers. We even listen to the people who may not come out. We want to know why they're not attending," Wyant said.

"That's the reason why we brought two bands this year (to MusicFest) that people can dance to. That was one of the requests we received. People wanted to be able to dance."

In addition to this week's dance-friendly performance, the August concert featuring A1A: The Official Tribute Band to Jimmy Buffet also should have attendees dancing in the aisles.

Next month's performance will feature the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

"This is our 36th year bringing them back," Wyant said. "In addition to the people who wanted to dance, we have another group that loves orchestral music. We always ask the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to give us some classical pieces with a little pop mixed in there, just to make sure it's a well-rounded program."
Though this week's 8 p.m. concert has been moved inside the Smithgall Arts Center, the subsequent shows will be on the center's lawn, barring inclement weather.

"The only thing that has changed for this show is that it has been moved indoors," Wyant said.

"You can still bring your picnic and beverage of choice. We will have a place inside where (attendees) can eat, before coming inside the banquet hall for the concert and dancing."

Tickets for this show are $25 plus tax, per person or $240 plus tax, for a table of eight.