Most summer Friday nights, the sliver of park between 49th and 50th on Baltimore Avenue fills with people. The attendees are of mixed age and race, and comfortably seated, because most bring folding chairs and blankets to hear jazz in the neighborhood.
There has been jazz in West Philadelphia's Cedar Park for more than 10 years. It's a tradition that so reliably draws a crowd that a crop of vendors sprouts up along the outskirts, selling barbecue, hot dogs, water ice, and other seasonal favorites.
Cedar Park is a unique neighborhood, a liminal space between the Penn and Drexel-dominated University City proper and the neighborhoods to the west, most of which are majority black.
Cedar Park is buoyed by the growth of the enormous institutions to its west, and by the attraction its gingerbread Victorian homes hold to members of the professional class who are choosing the city over the suburbs. Houses and businesses are being spruced up, and the white population is increasing for the first time in decades.
Some of these new arrivals make it to Friday night jazz, but the scene also feels contiguous with the neighborhood's recent history. That's partly because it's largely the preserve of families and the elderly. There isn't much of a student foothold.
"I would say it's a diversified crowd, although not a lot of young people because jazz doesn't often agree with them," says Renee McBride Williams, a board member of Cedar Park Neighbors, a half-century-old community group devoted to maintaining racial integration in the neighborhood.
"It's mostly people 30 and older, with some seniors in the community who come out on a weekly basis," she says. "And the children seem to be in awe of the music and the instruments."
This Friday, catch the Clef Club Youth Ensemble from 6 to 8 p.m. The series ends July 29 with a tribute to the recently deceased musician and teacher Donald "Chappy" Washington. Performances are free, with donations going to the musicians.