Archive for June, 2010

discover jazz – day 9

June 13, 2010

Easy Star All-Stars

I heard the band before I saw them, as I was was walking up the long path from the parking lot to the waterfront tent last night. The heavy 1-3 offset reggae beat on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was the giveaway: Easy Star All-Stars were in the house. (Tent, actually. But still.)

The anticpipated follwup to their hugely popular Dub Side of the Moon and Radiohead albums came out last fall. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band is a unique dub/reggae takeoff on the Fab Four’s 1967 classic. I’d been listening to the recording all day as a warmup, and when the time came for Lucy, Eleanor Rigby, and When I’m Sixty-Four (three of my faves) I was happy to hear the group sounded even better in person than on the release. “They could have been the headliner!” – was a statement I heard repeatedly.

Easy Star was the main attraction for me, though the two following groups were sure to be great as well. I would have left happy if it had only been them.

From there the evening moved on to the Itals and the Wailing Souls, as the tent and waterfront filled up. I didn’t hear much of either group, unfortunately. By the time Easy Star left the stage it was time to walk up the hill and get to the Flynn for the Sonny Rollins concert.

Day 9, part two coming shortly…

have wingtips, will tap.

June 12, 2010

Gypsy jazz guitarist Jim Stout

The Queen City Hot Club made its debut during last year’s Discover Jazz Festival. A year later, they have two Leunig’s appearances this weekend as the Festival wraps up: today, from 2-5pm and tomorrow from 1-4pm.

Keep an eye here for an interview with Jim Stout (leader of the Hot Club), coming soon. More pics too. We talked recently, and Jim shared a lot of interesting insights about his history playing Django-stlye jazz.

Leaving now to get back to the waterfront tent for the 5pm show with the Easy Star All-Stars and the Wailing Souls. And then Sonny Rollins tonight at the Flynn Center.

I’m on ‘great music’ overload this weekend!

discover jazz – day 8

June 12, 2010

OK, so, Friday. It has been a week now since the Discover Jazz Festival kicked off with Arturo Sandoval’s brassy, sassy, blazing opening salvo. In the last seven days the waterfront has buzzed with soul, funk, and folks clad in more raingear than sunglasses. We’ve Met the Artists, stayed up much too late (every night), and experienced the creation of art in real time with the lively JazzLab sessions.

What’s left? Well, concerts with two jazz legends, Jim Hall and Sonny Rollins (concerts which also include future legends like Joey Baron, Russell Malone, Scott Colley, and Greg Osby); a concert with a rock legend, Levon Helm; and an evening of reggae with the Easy Star All-Stars and the Wailing Souls. And all of the stuff happening in restaurants and other venues on Church Street and elsewhere. And don’t forget the Other Music Festival has its final show tonight too. Not bad.

Friday afternoon was the final Meet the Artist session, with Sonny Rollins and resident critic Bob Blumenthal. It would get to music and Rollins’ history soon, but the first question was more personal. Rollins: “What’s a day like? It’s easier to say what I don’t do. I don’t have any hobbies. I don’t cook – I do my little vegetables or whatever…and I practice. That’s about it.”

Rollins also confessed to still being addicted to “noise in the background” ( a really funny statement for a jazz front man) so he keeps sports radio on for company each day.

I knew that Rollins was from New York City, but I found it interesting that the first music he listened to was Fats Waller, on records and on the radio. Fats Waller:  the ace protégé of James P. Johnson, the “father of the stride piano” whose own history is so closely tied to New York City and the blossoming Harlem jazz scene of the 1920s and 1930s. Interesting.

And it turns out that Louis Jordan was the reason the seven year-old Rollins implored his parents to get him his first sax. (An alto.)

On his young life in Harlem, Rollins said: “The Apollo Theater was my cathedral – and my university, when I got old enough.” He went there every week to catch everything from movies to live music and other theatrical performances. He attributes his lifelong love of melody to those early movie experiences.

Other random Rollins thoughts:

  • “I was destined to be a leader and do my own thing. My music is so singular I don’t think I can fit in with a lot of people.”
  • “I still practice today because I have the same feeling (of wanting to learn). Practice doesn’t stop just because you put out a few records.”
  • On composing: “There are melodies going around in my head all the time. Like today. It all came about in a very natural, organic way.”
  • “I always felt I was destined to be a musician.  I turned out to be right.”
  • On transcribing other musicians’ solos to learn from them: (and this is an UNDERstatement!) “I never was really good with duplication.”
  • “I’m a pretty self-deprecating person. I know I have a lot to learn.”
  • “Transition is part of everyone’s life.”
  • On Coltrane: “I knew I would get the Coltrane question! He was like a minister, a great musician. As a person he was a beautiful person. We visited each other, spent time together. I would say we were very good friends.”
  • And, finally, on Bob’s question “What was it about your playing that drove you to taking a sabbatical?” – Rollins: “You can not listen to what people say if you know differently.”

Rollins & Blumenthal

Near the end of the generous session, when the discussion was opened for audience comments, Rollins was starting to answer a question when he unexpectedly smiled and said, “You know I hope I’m not boring you. I’m beginning to bore myself with this conversation.”

Like the best of jazz players, Bob Blumenthal jumped in without missing a beat. Laughing, he said “So much for “that’s a good question”!” Really funny moment, as a veteran interviewer speaking with a veteran interviewee.

One of the nicest moments of the evening happened at the end of the talk. Bob, seated, was wrapping up the session with a few announcements including the fact that this year’s appearance at Discover Jazz was his 10th anniversary in the role. Sonny Rollins and the rest of the house were already on their feet since the session was concluding, and the Saxophone Colossus joined the enthusiastic, grateful crowd in clapping at Bob’s quiet announcement.

Right on cue with his hallmark quick wit once again, Bob popped off with: “I never thought I’d see the day I’d be getting a standing ovation from Sonny Rollins!”

Kudos, Bob, and a big thanks for ten years of sharing your humor, curiosity, and your deep experience to encourage everyone to enjoy jazz like you do. It wouldn’t be Discover Jazz without you.

From there it was on to the Jim Hall/Scott Colley/Joey Baron/Greg Osby concert at 8. Understated, with beautiful flashes of color. In particular, Hall’s hilarious arrangement of Benny Golson’s ballad Whisper Not (punctuated raucously by the occasional rhythmic group “HEY!” – really fun), his tribute to Sonny Rollins with Rollins’ own composition Sonnymoon for Two; Chelsea Bridge (featuring Osby in a hauntingly subdued, gorgeous solo) and the finale, another Rollins classic St. Thomas. Sweet.

Can’t wait to hear Jim Hall sitting in with Sonny tonight to revisit some of the great moments from their iconic 1962 recording together, The Bridge.

discover jazz – day 7

June 12, 2010

In the Waterfront Tent

After the State House awards ceremony on Thursday afternoon (see previous post) it was time to get back to Burlington and enjoy a night of music on the waterfront. The horizontal thunderstorm I encountered on the drive north was concerning me a little – what if it was like that at the Waterfront Tent, too? I had no reason to worry. The closer to Burlington I got, the more clear the sky became.

By the time I arrived the setting sun was streaming through tufty clouds and everything was glowing. Bearaquarium was in full funky swing, and the evening was warming up to be a memorable one. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings stepped up next, making a seamless musical transition from the funk of the opening set to the soulful, bluesy of their own trademark sound.

They looked good, with Sharon in a patterned retro shift (the pattern suggested the black rings of 45 singles, on a white background – very cool) and the Kings looking every bit of “dap” in sharp suits and skinny ties – and they sounded good, keeping  the raingear-clad crowd dancing through favorites like Mama Don’t Like My Man, and Money, the searing hit from the new recording I Learned The Hard Way. Not jazz, but definitely music growing from the same fertile soil of blues, spirituals, gospels, and the depth of human expression that birthed jazz. And, it’s a lot of fun. There’s something great about being on the waterfront at sunset with a big white tent energized by the kind of dancing Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings inspire.

Around 9pm I left the tent and ventured up the hill to catch the Jason Kao Hwang and the Edge ensemble (Hwang, violin; Taylor Ho Bynum, cornet/flugelhorn; Andrew Drury, percussion; Ken Filiano, bass) at the Flynn Space. This is the performance I was probably most anticipating at this year’s Festival. They delivered. OH did they deliver – with everything from a bowed dustpan (yes, that would be a violin bow drawn slowly across the edge of a common household dustpan)  to a pocket cornet, great charts (original), and profusely musical moments offered by Jason and Ken. Holy smokes.

I wish I could have live music experiences like this every week – every day! – here. Knowing I can at Festival time (and occasionally during the rest of the year too) keeps me going. Big thanks to the Festival for its interest in adventurous programming, it respectfully recognizes the audience wants that too. Jazz standards have have an immutable place in jazz festivals, and we love them. No exception. But along side of the classics, so does experimentation, edginess and invention have a place in the “discover” of the Festival’s title. How else would the art form continue to grow and move forward in the same spirit that spawned it?

For some reason this line of thought reminds me of a comment made recently by a young (7-year old) dinner companion, when offered a taste of aged prosciutto: “Old meat doesn’t appetize my mind.”

walter cerf lifetime achievement awards

June 12, 2010

State House, Monplelier

On Thursday afternoon I headed to Montpelier in the afternoon for the annual Vermont Council on the Arts presentation of the Walter Cerf Lifetime Achievement awards. Three women were being honored this year, and over the years I’ve become friends with two of them. I couldn’t miss their big day. Jane Amrose (UVM Lane Series) and Andrea Rogers (Flynn Center) are both also retiring this year, as is the third Cerf honoree, Jean Olson (Governor’s Institutes), who I had not met until that day. During her acceptance speech, Olson remarked on the womens’ 100+ years of combined service in serving the community.

The ceremony started at 4, at the end of the Council’s annual meeting. It opened with the annual State of the Arts presentation by VAC director, Alex Aldrich. He warned that the state’s arts organizations ignore marketing and promotion at their own peril, even when declining ticket sales and donation revenue mandate reduced budgets. Aldrich also outlined the three broad initiatives the Council is focusing on now in its own effort to market, promote and grow the arts in Vermont:

  • The Breaking into Business workshops: provides tools and consultation to artists in intensive 2-day sessions to help them learn how to market their own art.
  • The Routes Initiative: starting on August 1st, makes $200 grants available to teachers and arts orgs for transportation purposes. The Council created this program in response to the increasing comments it had been receiving about how difficult and prohibitively expensive it was becoming to physically get people to the events being presented.
  • A new marketing and outreach campaign to promote Vermont’s arts and culture sectors in state, and beyond.

Then the awards presentation began, including an artist showcase of dancing (Tiffany Rhynard’s Disposable Goods: What Is/Who Is?) and a preview of Upper Valley Arts forthcoming film, Freedom and Unity: The Vermont Movie.

As for the award recipients themselves, Ambrose, Rogers and Olson all shared a bit of their personal history, thanks to their co-workers and partners, and, words of insight. Jane Ambrose summed it up when she talked about how she was able to fulfill her vision for adventurous programming over the years: “It’s a Vermont thing. You have to trust people and when people trust you, you can do anything.”

The house chamber at the State House held many familiar faces that afternoon, as reps from arts organizations all over the state turned out for the same reason I did. The afternoon was a luminous collage of memories, friends, inspiration, laughs and a few tears.

Things are changing with the retirement of these three influential, strong arts leaders.

I’m looking forward to finding out – and being part of – wherever we go next.

discover jazz – day 6

June 12, 2010

Wednesday was a mellow music day for me. Worked, then headed downtown later in the afternoon for a stop at the Firehouse Gallery for Seven Days’ second “Cooler” event. It featured the Villanelles, which had been part of JazzLab earlier in the day. Really nice vibe with that group.

A longer stroll up Church Street proved to be its own Burlington-style “Strolling of the Heifers” event, a tradition at this time of the year (though, usually in Brattleboro.) What’s up with all the colorful cows over the marketplace?

They’re hanging out in their fiberglass glory for the Cows Come Home To Burlington public art project. In a couple of months the beautiful bovines will be auctioned with partial proceeds benefiting the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger.

I’m OK with cows. In fact there’s even a relevant Jazz Festival connection to be made here, with Sonny “I’m an Old Cowhand” Rollins in town for tomorrow night’s concert at the Flynn.

It kind of all comes together at this time of the year, as most of the students clear out for the season and downtown is overrun by an eclectic population of a few students with visiting boaters, tourists, and the natives. This year’s walking mall experience simply includes a few more of the four-legged, uddered variety.

Here are a few pics, enjoy! And get out to see them in person if at all possible, they are so artful.

npr music

June 9, 2010

Interesting article from the Washington Post, about NPR’s music website. Worth a read.

A little (little) background info: NPR’s off-and-on-again commitment to producing arts and cultural programming has been cyclical through their 40-year evolution in defining what they “want to be when they grow up”. It’s an inevitable part of the process, of course, as establishing core values and mapping a related course are necessary for any organization’s success.

At one time NPR produced programs like World of Opera and Performance Today, and now most of that kind of programming has either been discontinued or handed off to other distributors like American Public Media, and Public Radio International. In recent years NPR has been focusing resources on developing their news and information programming, meaning it’s been another “off” period for their production of arts and cultural programming. And this time it may be for good. That’s where NPR Music comes in.

NPR Music launched in November, 2007 and offers everything from live concert webcasts to reviews, “best of” music lists, industry news, and interviews produced by both NPR itself and by contributing partner public radio stations across the country. NPR Music acts as both a content generator and content aggregator, with material (like “All Songs Considered”) coming in to the site from NPR flagship programs such as All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Likewise, occasionally material offered at NPR Music makes its way onto the air in one of these programs. It’s nothing if not an almighty feedback loop. It is a production model in itself.

What do you think about NPR being viewed as a “tastemaker” for music in our world? Have you visited the NPR Music site? How’s it work for you? Leave a comment, curious to hear your thoughts on this.

discover jazz – day 5

June 8, 2010

Headlines only for now, it’s late – more coming later. For now:

- Tonight, 6:30pm at the Firehouse Gallery: Saxophone Colossos, a 1986 documentary (dir. by Robert Mugge). Many insights in here, including the thoughts that Rollins is a structured, non-self-indulgent, “Aristotelian” kind of player, and that his playing is “visual”. I’ll go deeper with this in the next update. Good stuff.

- Later, 8:30pm at the FlynnSpace: The Gerald Clayton Trio (Gerald Clayton, piano; Joe Sanders, bass; Justin Brown, drums). How to go from atmpospherically delicate to hard swingin’ and hard core and back again in the matter of a few bars. The balance of instruments was really good, and – those drums!

That’s it from Festival Overload central, g’night and we’ll talk again tomorrow.

the other festival

June 8, 2010

There’s the Jazz Festival, and then there’s the … “Other” Festival, a nightly showcase featuring some of the area’s top avant-garde artists. Here’s the schedule, more to come later in the week when I’ve had a chance to attend some of their sessions:

ALL SHOWS START AT 8pm

North End Studio
294 North Winooski Ave.
Burlington VT 05401
(802) 863-6713

Tuesday, June 8th
The Le Duo
Deadwood
Ryan Power
Derek Beckvold/Bob Jordan/Anthony Coleman
Paper Castles
Ethan Snyder/Aaron Burnette/Casimir Liberski

Wednesday, June 9th
Mohanty/Mallon Duet
Toilet Phone
Chambers w/ Anthony Coleman
Steve Goldberg/R. Bill Gangon
Dr. Thing: Bass: Santor/Kovac/Hanes vs. Sax: Allen/Beckvold/Mohanty
Jazz Rehab (Reunion!)

Thursday, June 10th
Jonny T and the Raccoonists
Elbow Room
Anthony Coleman/Ashly Paul
Michael Gardiner/Derek Beckvold/Peter Negroponte
Xander Naylor/Ian Kovac
Zach Cooper/Chris Madden/Vic Dimotsis

Friday, June 11th
OPEN IMPROV SESSION
Katarina Miljkovic
Stencil/Magic
Greg Davis
ASTER: Eli Keszler/Ashley Paul
Ensemble V
A Snake In The Garden
Toby Aronson
Lawrence Welks & Our Bear To Cross

Saturday, June 12th
Buzz Jar
Xander Naylor Trio
Full Tang
The Feverbreakers

discover jazz – press release

June 8, 2010

Late afternoon press release from the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival: this week’s Meet the Artist Sessions with Jim Hall and Sonny Rollins have changed times and dates!

————-
Jim Hall’s Meet the Artist session is on Thursday, June 10 at 5:30pm in FlynnSpace. Please note that Mr. Hall’s Meet the Artist session is on Thursday, June 10, even though his performance is on Friday, June 11.

————-
Sonny Rollins’ Meet the Artist Session is Friday, June 11 at 5:30 pm in FlynnSpace. Please Note that Mr. Rollins’ Meet the Artist session is on Friday, June 11, even though his performance is on Saturday, June 12.


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