Memorial Day weekend could not have been more mellow than late Saturday afternoon at Santana Row’s outdoor Park Valencia stage and plaza, in front of Maggiano’s Little Italy.
Alexandra Beltran, dressed in her signature red, sang a sultry “Fly Me to the Moon” as the Retro Notes backed her up. Bendik Kleveland played the sax.
“It’s our longest marathon concert to date,” said Kleveland, the driving force of the Santa Clara-based jazz band.
It was a four-hour gig.
People visiting the Row relaxed in chairs at tables around the plaza perimeter. Others listened to the Retro Notes as they lounged on the artificial grass, eating carry-out and ice cream cones, chatting quietly, chasing after toddlers. And dancing.
Freelance dance instructor Linnell (Linn) Gardner, a Morgan Hill resident and friend of the Retro Notes, gave swing and Latin dance instruction.
“It’s great to be at Santana Row. The Retro Notes exude great vibes,” said Gardner. “Dance instruction adds to the atmosphere.”
Gardner wasn’t always a dance instructor. There was a time when he didn’t even know how to dance. Then he and a friend took lessons at the Starlite Ballroom in Sunnyvale (now in San Jose).
“We got hooked. The rest is history!” said Gardner, who can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. “Now I dance for good health and exercise. I’m retired, so I have the time.
“It’s wonderful to be here with one of my favorite bands, and quite a few of my dance partners showed up. It just made my day. I could do this all night!” continued Gardner.
The Retro Notes began playing “Summer Samba.” Gardner took the hand of a partner, leading her to the dance area in front of the stage, where they sambaed in perfect sync. The breeze picked up, carrying the music into the deepening dusk.
It was something to remember.
Santana Row opened over two decades ago in 2002. The 42-acre San Jose residential and commercial district (two acres larger than Ulistac Natural Area in Santa Clara) is named after Frank M. Santana, a San Jose planning commissioner in the 1950s.
A summer music series plays at the Row 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays in July and August, plus unadvertised weekend performances. If you’re lucky, the Retro Notes and Linn Gardner will return.