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RACINE — The growth of the Jean’s Jazz Series at the Racine Theatre Guild has gone way beyond what Joe Mooney could have hoped.

But it’s the best way he can honor his wife, Jean’s memory, while also providing yearly support to an organization both he and Jean long have loved.

Jean's Jazz
Since 2001, Jean’s Jazz has been bringing exceptional jazz performances to the stage at Racine Theatre Guild. The 2023 lineup is bound to please. – Graphic credit: Loren Lamoreaux

The 22nd season of Jean’s Jazz

Jean’s Jazz opens its 2023 season with the first of four performances Saturday, Jan. 7, when “Septetasaurus” takes the stage at 7 p.m. More on that concert and the three others set for the next several months can be found in a separate posting.

The idea for the series started in 2001 after Jean died from ovarian cancer, but its original idea was just for a one-time donation in her honor, Mooney said this week in an email interview.

“Both Jean and I had been involved deeply with the Harbor Music Festival for many years,” he said. “Oftentimes, we would go listen to music together, and when it came to hearing a jazz group, we would always wonder how good the group would sound in the near-perfect acoustics at the Racine Theatre Guild.”

Mooney said about $3,200 was raised in donations at Jean’s funeral, which led to an idea – either that money could go to the Guild as a one-time gift, or it could be used to start what later turned into the Jean’s Jazz Series.

And now approaching its 22nd full season, the gift continues to give back to something Jean loved deeply, he said.

Jean Mooney’s lasting legacy

“There aren’t many ways to really keep someone’s name and/or legacy going,” Mooney said. “To be honest, this is much more than we could have hoped for. Having Jean’s name tied to great jazz and the Racine Theatre Guild for this long is amazing.

“It’s a credit to all of the volunteers that have helped. All of the close volunteers are either members of the Harbor Fest family, who all knew Jean well or are members of Jean’s actual family. Doug and all of the Theatre Guild staff have been grateful for our work and have all been part of the (Jean’s Jazz Series) family.”

The connection from Joe and Jean Mooney to the Racine Theatre Guild runs deep, he said.

Joe Mooney has acted in a number of plays at RTG, and his wife was involved in the production end as well. In 1995, she traveled to Japan for the Yakumo International Theater Festival as the props chairperson, he said.

“Without her connection to the theater, this would have never been possible,” he said. “I have acted with some of our very best actors and actresses and have been directed by the best over the years. (Jean’s Jazz Series) is also our way of giving back and keeping the arts alive in Racine.

“For Jean’s Jazz Series to last this many years – in a small market – shows that Racine has a love for jazz, and they trust us to bring them great music.”

So with the latest installment of this series about to kick off, what should fans who attend expect?

Like always, there are many styles of jazz for fans to enjoy, Mooney said.

“This season, like we have done for each season, we try to emphasize to the audience that jazz comes in many shapes and forms,” he said. “It is not just Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, although I love both. We try to show the audience that the same music can be played by different artists and sound completely different. That’s jazz. This year is no exception. As always, we try to showcase local or area talent to show people what talent is here.”

And at the same time, continuing to honor his wife and her memory.

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