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.”