burlington discover jazz festival

Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss

As surely as one foot follows another into Burlington’s Amy Tarrant Flynn Gallery on a sunny spring afternoon, as reliably as Ella + Louis = pure magic every single time, the city’s annual Discover Jazz Festival press conference confirms that summer is on the way for sure.

We all came together in the Gallery today to get the lowdown on this year’s lineup, and as always there were a few surprises. Great to hear the Easy Star All-Stars are going to be included in the waterfront world music tent this year, their Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Dub Band was a real highlight from last year. The young keyboard wizard Gerald Clayton (a festival favorite of past years) will be joining the fun again this time around on June 8th, and much to the delight of today’s audience, Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss announced that the dedication of Big Joe Burrell‘s permanent memorial sculpture on Church Street would happen on the opening evening of the Fest – June 4th, 4:30pm. It’s been five years in coming, since Burrell’s death early in 2005. Really good news that he’d be getting the deserved recognition.

An initial glance reveals the lineup to be fairly light in representation by women artists, with singers Luciana Souza and Sharon Jones being the sum total of female performers occupying any kind of featured or headlining role. There are a lot of challenges in scheduling the many moving parts of a festival like this, and there were undoubtedly many preliminary versions before the final schedule came together, which may have included a broader diversity of musicians. It must say a lot about the quality of last year’s festival that I’m still thinking back to it now and recalling the blistering opening night salvo with Anat Cohen jamming hard on the Jitterbug Waltz, and Jen Hartswick closing things down a little over a week later with every bit equal class, energy, and skill. So when I really think about that it comes down to musicianship, not especially the fact that those artists were women. On that level this year’s bill looks as strong.

In particular I’m looking forward to clarinetist Don Byron’s appearance with Allen Toussaint on June 5th. Two nights later the Flynn Space will host Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and his Quintet in what will undoubtedly be an adventurous outing. On June 10th, local tenor sax man Michael Zsoldos will be joined by Miro Sprague (piano), Martin Wind (bass) and veteran drummer Matt Wilson. THAT’S going to be something else. The next night it’s legendary guitarist Jim Hall and another outstanding ensemble (Greg Osby, sax; Scott Colley, bass; Joey Baron, drums) and then on the night of June 12th ‘saxophone Colossus’ himself Sonny Rollins rolls in for a living history lesson on the Main Stage.

How about that.

And there’s more, just wait until all of the smaller venues start to fill out their schedules. Any wonder why Vermont is heaven for music lovers?

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