The group that closed out last year’s Concerts in the Park kick off this year’s series Thursday.
John Roberts y Pan Blanco, a Latin jazz group that has performed in the band shell for four straight years, will be returning once again.
Concerts are every Thursday in City Park, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and run until the end of August. An ice cream social will accompany the final performance on Aug. 29.
Roberts, who is originally from Montana, has toured nationally and internationally. He is currently on staff at Montana State University Billings, where he is an assistant professor of low brass with the band. He personally plays trombone, piano and electric bass.
Joining him in the band shell will be Trevor Krieger on violin, Sam White on saxophone, Merle Roberts on bass, Raphael Lopez on guitar, and Matt Devitt and Bill Honaker on percussion.
“The name Pan Blanco (white bread) was actually one of my nicknames when I was playing out in L.A.,” Roberts said. “I’d often be the only white guy on stage.”
Roberts has performed on four continents over the span of his career. He said audience connection is an important reason he chose to perfect the style he plays.
“I played with a lot of salsa bands,” he said. “I would see people get lost who didn’t know how to dance like that, I wanted to blend styles that were friendly to all audiences.”
What resulted was a mix of salsa, funk, and African rhythms that has a simple goal; being “danceable.” Roberts enjoys bringing his group to Cody.
“It’s a great town and a great audience,” he said.
Throughout the Concerts in the Park season, an eclectic mix of styles will be represented.
“We have a committee that sends out information to groups, but sometimes we fit well into a band’s schedule and they approach us,” said recreation and public facilities superintendent Mike Fink. “It’ a little bit of both.”
The weekly concerts are free and open to the public. Yellowstone Beer Fest will again be hosting a beer garden to accompany each performance, with proceeds benefiting local charities.