Jazz in the Garden: A Summertime Delight in Brooklyn

Good morning. It’s Monday. Today we will fill you in on a delightful summertime treat in Brooklyn. And we’ll bring you an update on the deadly cargo ship fire in Newark.

A lantern fly settled on the microphone as Daisy Castro, a violinist, played with her band before several hundred people gathered on picnic blankets in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for the launch of the Jazz in July series.

During a break between songs, Castro picked up the insect and blew it away. Such was to be expected, given the venue. Birds circled above, and the branches of two nearby pagoda trees swayed as the musicians played. Ms. Castro said that the band mostly plays pieces by Django Reinhardt, a jazz guitarist active in the 1930s, or music inspired by his compositions.

“It does not feel like we’re in a city right now,” Castro, who lives in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, said before she performed last Thursday. “I just like being surrounded by plants because it makes me feel like I’m also playing for the trees, which is kind of my goal.”

New York is full of summertime rituals and delights, including outdoor concerts in parks and gardens across the city. While the “Jazz in July” series is new this season, the garden began hosting music events two years ago, said Katie Pidgeon, the director of public programs.

She said the staff was spurred by the coronavirus pandemic to create the outdoor programming. “Indoor performance spaces had a lot of restrictions that may not have felt as safe for folks,” Pidgeon said. Many musicians, she said, no longer had a space in which to perform.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden is working with local organizations to provide a different jazz event each Thursday in July. For the first performance, the garden worked with Barbès, a bar and performance space, in Park Slope. Other partners include the Haiti Cultural Exchange, a community center for Haitian art and music; I Am Caribeing, based in Flatbush; and Brownstone Jazz, based in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

“We can see each sort of neighborhood or organization’s different type of interpretation of jazz,” Pidgeon said. “It’s a really low-key event in order to enjoy music and the garden at the same time while the sun is setting.”

The concert drew longtime members and newcomers alike.

Sally Smith, 79, and Bob Weiss, 76, have been attending events at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for more than 25 years, at first with their children and now with their grandchildren, too.

When Weiss was 20 years old, he said, he lived right across the street and walked through the garden early in the morning to go to the subway. He said there are more events now than in the past.

Their only quibble: the price. The jazz shows come with admission to the garden, $18 for adults, $12 for seniors, and free for children. (The concerts are free for members of the garden, who pay an annual fee of $75, or $115 for two people. A portion of each day’s tickets, known as Community Tickets, are also available free of charge, a spokesman for the garden said.)

“It’d be nice to be open to everybody because not everyone can afford memberships,” Weiss said.

Weiss said he was a big jazz fan and had seen John Coltrane at the Apollo Theater. He hadn’t heard of Castro before the show, but was eager to learn about new artists.

“It’s almost a little bit more of an attentive audience than if you go to a club where everyone’s sitting and eating and talking and drinking, and it always drives me crazy — no one’s listening to the music,” Weiss said. “But here, the kids might be running around in the back, but it’s great.”

“It’s the perfect setting,” Smith said.

Savannah O’Leary, a 30-year-old film director who lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, sat on a picnic blanket reading a book before the show. She said she visits the garden at least twice a month.

“The Botanic Garden is my favorite place on earth, and outdoor music is my favorite activity on earth, so it felt like a good combo,” O’Leary said.

O’Leary said that the event was “uniquely peaceful” compared with other outdoor activities. “Everybody here probably is local, so there’s a feeling of neighborhood community,” she said.

Kathy Ann Tempro lives near the park in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. She said her 7-year-old daughter, Jamie Downer, had a lot of questions about jazz.

“It’s actually great because it’s like our backyard and so it’s easily accessible,” Tempro said of the jazz night and other events in the garden. “It just introduces her to different aspects of culture.”

Tempro and Jamie went on a tour in the garden before spreading out their blanket to listen to the music. Jamie said her favorite parts were seeing the “Trees of the Little Caribbean” exhibit and the weeping hemlock outside.

“I could probably climb that tree,” she said with a giggle.


Expect showers and temps in the low 80s during the day, with a chance of thunderstorms. Showers may continue into the evening, with temps dropping to the low 70s.


In effect until Aug. 15 (Feast of the Assumption).

Funeral services for Augusto Acabou and Wayne Brooks Jr., the two Newark firefighters killed during the cargo ship fire at Port Newark, N.J., will be held this week at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.

The men died last Wednesday after being called to help battle a fire that had erupted on the 10th deck of a cargo ship carrying used and new cars, vans and trucks. The blaze spread quickly to two upper decks and burned at extreme temperatures: Other firefighters said their feet were scalded by water that reached its boiling point soon after being sprayed at the flames.

In addition to the two fatalities, several Newark firefighters were injured in the blaze. All have now been released from the hospital, Fritz Fragé, the Newark public safety director said in a statement on Saturday.

Mr. Acabou’s funeral Mass will be offered at Thursday at 10 a.m.; Mr. Brooks’s funeral Mass will be said on Friday at 10 a.m.


Dear Diary:

I was walking home from an early-morning workout when I saw a man stop at a red light, put his car in park, hop out and do 10 perfect pull-ups on a scaffolding.

As I got to the crosswalk, I watched him hurry back to his car before the light changed.

When I crossed the street, we made eye contact with him and I gave him a thumbs up. He flashed a big smile and drove away.

— Brad Rothschild

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. Christopher Maag will be here tomorrow. — L.F.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Geordon Wollner and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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