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Monday, February 06, 2023

Live jazz band brings people to their feet at Celebration Pointe

A local band Gosia and Ali performed on Saturday

Gainesville resident Vaughn Littrup, 69, and his wife, Jan Wade-Littrup, 63, take every opportunity to swing dance whenever they hear jazz music. 

At Saturday’s Jazz on the Green event, the Littrups were first to twirl on the lawn. They were among the over 100 people who danced, snapped and grooved on the lawn to the band’s jazzy beats at Celebration Pointe.

The couple, who have been married for 44 years, search for jazz events around town.

“You give me good music, we dance. Danceable tunes get danced to,” Jan said.

Celebration Pointe hosts its Jazz on the Green event every two weeks, inviting different jazz musicians to perform in front of a live audience. 

The audience snapped to the rhythm of “Memphis Underground” by Herbie Mann and sang along to “Dance Me To the End of Love” by Leonard Cohen.

The band experimented with unique jazz renditions of classics from around the world like “Mas Que Nada” by Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes and “Ces Bottes Sont Fait Pour Marcher” by ‘60s French pop singer Eileen.This week’s performers were the band Gosia and Ali. Gosia and Ali played a unique mix of swing jazz, ‘70s funk, latin jazz as well as jazz versions of rock or pop songs. They started the event with a jazz interpretation of “La Belle Dame Sans Regrets” by rock musician Sting.

Like the Littrups, several others from the audience were enticed by the music and started dancing on the lawn in front of the stage.

Tomi Greentree, a 75-year-old Gainesville resident, also enjoyed dancing to the music. Greentree is a member of the Florida Swing Dancing Club, a local organization for Swing dance enthusiasts.

“If you just come and you feel the music and you dance to it, that’s all it takes. You don’t have to even have lessons,” said Greentree.

Jessica Bell, 35, travelled from Jacksonville to visit for the weekend. As a longtime jazz fan, she found this event a fun way to spend the evening with her friends.

Cloudia Kowalski, 32, said she isn’t an avid fan of jazz in particular but loves the performances put on by Gosia and Ali. Kowalski says she appreciates the Jazz on the Green event because it’s a safe way to enjoy live entertainment.

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“During this time of COVID it's really great to be able to celebrate something outside. I’ll come and support any kind of live talent at any time,” Kowalski said.

Gosia Sobala, 58, and her husband, Ali Che’Ree, 58, started their band in 1995. On Saturday, they performed in a quintet with Lawrence Buckner on base, Tim Murray on drums and Ekendra Das on percussion.

The band played in local and international venues, Sobala said. Recently, they played in Merida, Mexico.

Sobala graduated from UF in 1992 with a degree in music performance. She initially was a classical musician and came to the U.S. from Poland to study classical music. After meeting Che’Ree, she fell in love with jazz.

“It was very difficult, very challenging because I never ever studied jazz before,” she said.

She admires how free a musician is when performing jazz, as opposed to following a strict composition.

“You start creating your own sound to the structure,” Sobala said. “So, you have freedom. You get free from thinking in strict chord progression.”

Sobala and Che’Ree performed as a duo regularly for Francesca’s Trattoria, a Gainesville restaurant. Unfortunately, Francesca’s closed down in August 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We felt like we lost our home,” she said.

During the pandemic, Sobala and Che’Ree transitioned to livestream performances on Facebook from their home studio with thousands of people from all over the world. They continue to occasionally livestream to raise money to help their friend, Shel McClure, a former manager of Francesca’s, start her own food truck.

Sobala and Che’Ree have been contracted by The Keys Grill & Piano bar in August 2020, a restaurant at Celebration Pointe. The duo performs every Sunday as a part of the rotation of live entertainment The Keys host.

Assistant general manager Dale Schroff wanted to have Sobala and Che’Ree because of their positive reputation around Gainesville.

“They’re one of our first regular entertainers that we got once we started getting back from the pandemic,” Schroff said.

Contact Erina at Follow her on Twitter @ErinaAnwar_ .

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Erina Anwar

Erina is a second-year journalism student and reports on East Gainesville for The Alligator. Originally from Dhaka, Bangladesh, Erina grew up in Fort Lauderdale and is excited to discover new stories in Gainesville. When she’s not writing, she enjoys exploring local restaurants and watching Korean dramas.

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