Camellias, cocktails and jazz

About 600 people filled the main lawn at Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge Thursday for the first night of its inaugural eight-week summer jazz series.

Children danced in the grass, adults sipped wine and the band, Louie Cruz Beltran, entertained as twilight descended

"I'm excited to be here after 5 p.m.," said Glendale resident Darcy Wiatroski, while keeping one eye on her toddler. "It is a beautiful time to be in the garden."

The music series, titled "The Evolution of American Jazz," was conceived as a replacement for the Pasadena Pops program, which announced last year that it would relocate after 15 years at Descanso Gardens. It will cover all the major veins of the jazz genre, including Latin jazz, New Orleans jazz and East Coast jazz.

"Jazz is such a broad genre of music," said Lisa Kurstin, manager of education programs at Descanso Gardens. "There is a lot that can happen creatively under jazz."

Concert goers said they are looking forward to filling their summer evenings with trips to the garden.

"We are really disappointed they are not going to have the Pops concerts, but I think they have done a nice job of planning something else," La Crescenta resident Liz Isenman said.

The start of the summer jazz series coincided with the opening of the Camellia Lounge, a low-key cocktail bar nestled in Japanese Full Moon Tea House. Open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 8 p.m. throughout the summer, it features signature, garden-inspired drinks and appetizers.

The lounge is another way to expose people to the possibility of enjoyment in a garden, Executive Director David Brown said.

"It's an opportunity to gather and talk," Brown said. "There are very few places in the city where you can do that."

Between the jazz music and the Camellia Lounge, Descanso Gardens is the perfect place to spend a warm evening, Kurstin said.

"This is a great date night," Lisa Kurtsin said. "You have the lounge, you have the cocktails, you go strolling. It is a jewel."

The summer jazz series and the Camellia Lounge are free with the price of admission to Descanso Gardens. Admission fees are $8 for adults and $6. The jazz series will run every Thursday at 6 p.m. through August 12. The Camellia Lounge is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 3 to 8 p.m. through September 9.

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