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Music returns to the West Side of Asbury Park on Monday, June 27 with a concert by Gedeon Luke and the People at the new Springwood Avenue Park.
Chris Jordan

Music returned to the West Side of Asbury Park on Monday, June 27.

“Tonight we’re going to celebrate,” said Gedeon Luke of the funk combo Gedeon Luke and the People at the new Springwood Avenue Park. “Tonight is your time to tell the world how you’re feeling.”

More than 200 attended the show at the park, located on the block that was once home to Cuba’s Night Club. Kids played on swings at the side of the stage and adults sat on beach chairs in front of the stage — when they weren’t dancing to Luke and the People. At one point a conga line developed.

MORE: The legacy of the West Side of Asbury Park

“The funk is in Asbury Park,” Luke said.

Springwood Avenue was formerly a vibrant center of music in Asbury Park where greats like Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Lenny Welch, the Broadways, Bobby Thomas, Clarence Clemons and more were either inspired by or played the avenue’s club circuit.  The music scene, a major component of the Sound of Asbury Park,  came to an abrupt halt during the summer of 1970 when riots tore apart Asbury Park and specifically Springwood Avenue.

Since that time, the area has been passed over for bigger redevelopment projects until now.

“I’ve  been waiting a long time for this,” said Alfred Mitchell Sr., 68 of Asbury Park, whose family home was formerly on the block, behind Cuba’s, where the park is now.  “When city first took over this property, they were going to build housing and it never happened.  I went into the service and came back right after the riots and the house was still there. All the houses used to be big and grand and they tore them down. Now, 40 years later, we get a park.”

“I’m just hoping the younger generation appreciates what’s here, takes care of it and doesn’t do anything stupid.”

The concerts, called the Levitt AMP Asbury Park Music Series, begin 6 p.m. on Mondays through Aug. 29 . A Levitt AMP (Your City) Grant Award of $25,000, won partly by a popular vote, has helped stage the series and the Asbury Park Music Foundation helped secure the grant..  The Asbury Park Press is a sponsor and Asbury Audio is doing the sound.

The cost of the park was more than $1 million, which came partly from Monmouth County Freeholders grants and the city, said Asbury Park Mayor John Moor.

MORE: A West Side of Asbury Park story

Signs of renewal in the area include the recent approval of Interfaith Neighbor’s Turf Club redevelopment project of 40  affordable housing units and the proposed 64-unit Michaels Organization’s Renaissance Village is moving forward, Moor said.

“This is going to be great,” Moor said. “This is the first time there’s been music on Springwood Avenue in more than 40 years.”

The public is invited to bring their own picnics, blankets and lawn chairs to the concerts, which have an open patio and lawn setting. There will also be food available for purchase at the shows from multiple food vendors.Visit the AMP web site at  concerts.levittamp.org/asbury_park for more info.

“This park means a lot to me,” Mitchell said.

Levitt AMP Asbury Park Music Series
(Concerts start at 6 p.m.)

July 4 — WimBash (featuring members of Living Color) and the Lakehouse Jr. Pros

July 11 — The Mayor’s Players (aka the Kevin Sanders Band) with the Dorian Parreott Ensemble

July 18 — JT Bowen and the Mighty Kings of Soul

July 25 — Quincy Mumford and the Reason Why and the Asbury Park High School Band

Aug. 1 — Dr. Cheeko and the Island Sound with Random Test

Aug. 8 — MonteRosa Band with Karen Lee & Sympathetic Resonance

Aug. 15 — The F.L.O.W

Aug. 22 — Gary U.S. Bonds

Aug. 29 — Ty Higginsen’s Harlem Teens Choir

Chris Jordan: cjordan@app.com