After years of hiatus, the jazz festival is returning to Memorial Hall this Sunday, Sept. 30, with concerts at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., featuring well-known names such as singer Rebecca Parris and pianist and bandleader Paul Broadnax.

The Melrose Jazz Festival is back. And it’s called JazzFest 2007.

After years of hiatus, the jazz festival is returning to Memorial Hall this Sunday, Sept. 30, with concerts at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., featuring well-known names such as singer Rebecca Parris and pianist and bandleader Paul Broadnax.

Nancy Kukura, the event coordinator, said the first show, at 2 p.m., will feature the “Melrose Jazz Collective,” with a trio of Melrosians: Bruce Gertz on bass, Ken Cervenka on trumpet and Joe Mulholland on piano. That trio — all of whom also served as musical advisors for the festival — will be joined by Bill Reynolds on drums and singer Rebecca Parris, “who is considered one of the premier vocalists in all of New England,” according to Kukura.

The second show, Jazz for Kids,” scheduled for approximately 4 p.m., features fellow Melrosians Jeff Galindo on trumpet and Ricardo Monzon on percussion, along with multi-instrumentalist Stan Strickland, who will join Gertz and Mulholland on stage.

Even though it’s “Jazz for Kids,” Kukura said, “we are convinced that adults who attend it will enjoy it just as much as the kids … They’re going to introduce kids to different forms of jazz and have a little bit of interactive stuff going on with kids, maybe some rhythm instruments, and show them things like calypso, blues, New Orleans-type jazz.”

The last show of the festival, slated for approximately 6 p.m., will feature the Paul Broadnax Quartet, featuring Broadnax on piano and vocals, Fred Haas on saxophone, Les Harris, Jr. on drums and Peter Kontrimas on bass.

“Paul has been playing in the Boston area since the 50s. He’s a very accomplished musician,” Kukura said. “They’re a group that people frequently dance to. Paul wrote to me, ‘We’ll swing.’ It’s that kind of music.”

Getting back in the swing

Kukura said the return of the Melrose Arts Festival in 2006 gave her the motivation to see if the JazzFest could be revived, too.

“I’ll tell you, I was really inspired to do this by the Arts Festival people, when they revived the Arts Festival,” she said. “Both the Jazz Festival and the original Arts Festival took place in the early 90s when Dick Lyons was mayor … these two events were kind of linked in my mind, so when Debbie Corbett announced that she was reviving the Arts Festival, I got this idea in my head that just kept pounding, saying ‘What about the Jazz Festival?’”

Kukura, a congregant at Temple Beth Shalom, knew other congregants at the temple who were jazz musicians and regularly performed at the temple’s biannual fundraising jazz concerts.

“I thought, ‘If I can tap into that talent, we could make this a citywide event, not on behalf of any organization but just something for the city,’” she said.

For the city, and, as it turns out, beyond.

Kukura said she recently received a phone call from a woman in Watertown — “a total stranger to me” — who asked if there would be dancing at the JazzFest.

“And on the spot, [I decided] we’re going to have dancing,” she said with a laugh. “Why not? I checked with all the musical advisors and they said, ‘Sure, we can do that, that’s not a problem.’”

The main floor of Memorial Hall will be table-free to accommodate dancing, with tables set up in G.A.R. Hall, where Tex’s BBQ Express of Boston will be cooking and serving barbeque.

With over 100 tickets sold so far, Kukura said she’s uncertain as to how many people to expect, since most ticket sales happen at the door.

“If it’s a beautiful day, maybe they won’t come, maybe they will come,” she said.

“It is the last Red Sox game of the season, which now we see may be important,” she said with a nervous laugh. “But I’ve given up on the Red Sox. I can’t take it anymore. I have too much stress as it is. We promise that if the game matters we will have announcements [at the festival].”

Raising funds

In the early 90s, the Melrose Arts Lottery Council, as it was then called, sponsored the Jazz Festival Kukura said.

The Arts Lottery Council used revenue generated by state lottery tickets sales to support the arts in local communities. Today, each community has their own Cultural Council that falls under the state Cultural Council, with funds still coming from the state lottery system, although they don’t get nearly as much funding as before, Kukura said.

“I knew that it couldn’t work the way it did back then, [with] the entire festival [being] supported by the council,” she said.” “I knew that I had to do some fundraising.”

Kukura spoke with Mayor Rob Dolan, who suggested that Verizon could sponsor the JazzFest, much in the same way Comcast sponsors the Arts Festival.

Verizon agreed, and donated $5,000, and the Melrose Cultural Council is chipping in $1,200 — the maximum grant allowed. Other contributions range from $20 to $500 from local businesses and private individuals, who Kukura said have “very handsomely” supported the festival.

“We came very close to meeting the budgetary goals that we had — not quite, but close. Close enough to be able to pretty much fund it before ticket sales,” she said, adding that additional revenue raised through tickets sales will go back into the event, which Kukura hopes will return as an annual happening in the city.

The JazzFest also joined with the Melrose Community Coalition, which gave it access to non-profit status, making any contributions to the festival tax deductible.

Working with Kukura in planning JazzFest have been Demi Dubois, Chair of the Melrose Cultural Council; Paula Emelock, treasurer; Davis Remingnanti, graphic designer; Kathy Radley, tickets and t-shirt sales; Rhonda Postrel, volunteer coordinator and catering consultant; and Shelly Draper, legal counsel.

- Melrose (Mass.)  Free Press