Posts Tagged ‘Anat Cohen’

BDJ Festival, days 8-10: the wrap

June 16, 2009
And on the seventh day, the sousaphone rested.

And on the seventh day... (the sousaphone rested.)

Well maybe it says enough about the last three days of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival that I didn’t have time to jump in here and share an update until now, two days after it has ended.

Every day was filled with tents and stages, artists and good friends, and dancing to the sounds of the area’s best street performers and school-aged bands and ensembles.

Each night rang with music from the festival’s headliners and the wide variety of acts in neighborhood clubs, cafés and streetside patios.

Reggae, gypsy swing, close harmony, experimental, big band, little band, funk, African drumming, a Fela Kuti tribute, and gospel singing…we didn’t miss anything.

Impossible to pick out the best of the lot from the last three days: was it the Branford Marsalis concert last Friday evening, where we were

Corey Harris

Corey Harris

introduced to his brilliant new 18-year old (!) drummer? The after-party at the Thai restaurant with the area’s hottest Afro-Cuban jam band? Maybe it was the inspiring City Park sidewalk drawing contest, and deep reggae groove at the Waterfront Tent on Saturday night. Or Anat Cohen’s off-the-charts performance on opening night. Or, the gospel singers on the Marketplace Sunday afternoon, followed by the sweet swing of Django stylings at the local coffee house.

Really impossible.

I can tell you I didn’t see and hear everything I wanted to during the Festival’s 10 days: on Saturday night I made the call to stay in the Tent and ride out the rain with   Pato Banton’s positive jah vibes, instead of walking up the hill to hear Pink Martini singing at the Flynn

Lettuce @ the Waterfront Tent

Lettuce @ the Waterfront Tent

Theatre. That meant I also missed Martini’s hot opening act, the innovative, quirky, and unconventionally ingenious Sneakin’ Out. Great fun! Or so I heard. They played typewriters. Apparently really well. I do regret missing that.

It was a strong Festival with a lot of high points: planned, many unplanned, and several that weren’t even directly related to the Festival. (The banjo happening at the Firehouse Gallery – unbelievable.)

The only act that didn’t quite measure up artistically was still entertaining. Saxophonist/vocalist/songwriter Grace Kelly lit up the FlynnSpace last Tuesday night with her charm and natural stage presence, even if her music didn’t reach that same level of accomplishment. It’s a tough one to criticize. She’s 17, and the fact that she’s leading her own group at festivals around the world is a notable achievement in itself. But a little less time touring and more time practicing, developing a unique voice, and becoming a stronger player and singer will ultimately be the key to making sure that Grace makes the transition from teen phenom to adult contender in the next crucial couple of years. She can do it, she has everything and more it takes to be great. Even time is on her side, and how many artists can say that?

Yesterday downtown I saw the Festival banners coming down, posters being scraped off the inside of shop windows, and the energy on the Marketplace had already been transformed from the creative crackle of the past week to the usual hum of more typical touristy summer activity.

That just means it’s time to start planning for Discover Jazz Festival 2010!

(Congratulations to the Festival staff, sponsors, partners, the volunteer crew, and ALL of the musicians and artists who made this year’s Festival such a rich experience.)

BDJ Festival, day 1: the double header

June 6, 2009


Esperanza Spalding and Anat Cohen. Esperanza AND Anat.

I remember thinking that at the Discover Jazz Festival back in April, when the full lineup was rolled out for this year’s event. Really? Both of them, in the same show? Yes. At least, sort of. It was actually two very different but complementary shows last night on the Flynn Main Stage as the festival got off to a big bang start.

Anat first: strong, versatile, and commanding on both of her chosen instruments, clarinet and tenor sax. I always wait to hear what the very first notes of the festival will sound like, thinking of them as the defining moment in setting the tone for the whole event. Anat delivered the opening salvo with a fast downbeat and an immediate launch into her own lilting, grooving arrangement of Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” (found on her recent collection, Notes from the Village).


Anat Cohen (photo by the Discover Jazz Festival)

So what does it say about this year’s festival that it began with the clarinet, a surprisingly rare instrument in jazz today? And not only that, but the clarinet in the hands of the first woman reeds player to ever headline at the hallowed Village Vanguard, playing her own fresh, hip new version of such a jazz classic? Everything, I think. This festival is about translating the best elements of the jazz tradition into the language and sensibilities of today. (Esperanza’s performance furthered that thought – more on that in a minute.)

Cohen’s quartet is equally solid, with Jason Lindner at the piano (you may have seen him here last year with his own trio), basisst Vicente Archer, and the very fine percussionist Daniel Freedman. I’m tempted to add ‘percussion’ to Lindner’s name here too because of his tendency to reach inside the piano, holding down the strings, while playing the keys with his left hand. The effect is pecussive,  sounding something like a marimba or tuned drum. Great texture, and used well especially at start of the set-closing “Washington Park Square”, the colorful tune Cohen wrote about her neighborhood in New York and the cultural diversity of people the Park attracts.

No matter what future festivals may hold, this will go down as one of my favorite festival performances ever.

Esperanza’s set started spunky (no surprise), with her scatting introduction of the band, along with a scatting disclaimer about why the scatting the audience was about to hear in her performance wasn’t the traditional “shoo-be-doo-be-ska-be-bop” kind. That’s a fact. Not much about her style is expected.

If you saw her here in 2007 (in the downstairs Flynn Space), you may remember that her show generated some serious buzz: everything from impressed excitement to some doubt that she could sustain that level of energy as she matured. There was criticism about her light, airy, singing style, her less-than-substantial music choices, and some expressed desire that she’d pick up a bow and take some time to explore that important side of the upright bass tradition.

Esperanza Spalding (photo by the Discover Jazz Festival)

Esperanza Spalding (photo by the Discover Jazz Festival)

Well, she has. Developed her singing style, expanded her musical range, and found a whole new dimension of expression with the bowed bass, which she employed to beautiful effect on Nina Simone’s “Wild is the Wind”. It was the standout moment in her show, starting with the dark, stirring bowing and evolving slowly like a love affair into the nearly out-of-control passionate love song it is. Powerful. Spalding’s energy and natural charm flow out from some bottomless inner wellspring, it’s not an act that will burn out. It’s who she is. To critics: next?

The ensemble included drummer Otis Brown; pianist Leo Genovese (he was here last time with her, too) and guitarist Ricardo Vogt. Each had some solo time to shine, and each did. A couple of thoughts on the overall experience: a lovely Brazilian duet could have used better mic balance, as Vogt’s delicate vocals were a bit overwhelmed by everything else. (At least, from where I was sitting about six rows back orchestra left.) Esperanza’s vocals were also indistinct at times but that’s less a mechanical issue than an effect of the fast, breathless singing style she’s creating. That same approach, with a little more control in shaping the individual words and the phrasing, could be the single nuance that would transform this from a high-beam performance into one with laser focus and effect.

Today: an outdoor organ recital at 3:30 (not related to the festival); jazz on the marketplace; an evening dance recital; and then live music somewhere around town tonight.

I’ll have a few more pictures to share today than I did from yesterday’s adventures (it was dark, I was tired.) Stay tuned for more about the music around town!

playlist #73 (6/1/2009)-Festival previews, jazz poetry, new world music

June 2, 2009
World of Music
Pgm #73 – 6/1/09 – Previews of the Discover Jazz and Waterfront Festivals; classic jazz poetry, and new world music.
Listen online Mondays 3-5pm EDT at The Radiator
Nas with Youssou N’Dour & Neneh Cherry: Wake Up (It’s Africa Calling) / Open Remix / / (download) – (USA / SENEGAL)
Jack Kerouac: History of Bop / Readings on the Beat Generation / WordBeat 90044 – (USA)
Will Bernard w/Andy Hess, John Medeski & Stanton Moore: Gonzo / Blue Plate Special / Palmetto 2008 – (USA) * At the Discover Jazz Festival on Tue. 6/9, 10pm: * … ernard.php *
The Funkees: Akula Owu Onyeara (Don’t Beat the Madman) / Nigeria Special: Modern Highlife, Afro-Sounds & Nigerian Blues, 1970-1976 / Sound Way 9 – (NIGERIA)
Utia: Danza Ritual / Eterno Navegar / World Village 498024 – (BRAZIL)
Kronos Quartet: Tanburi Cemil Bey / Floodplain / Nonesuch 518349 – (SAN FRANCISCO/TURKEY) *NEW*
Buddy Guy featuring Eric Clapton: Every Time I Sing The Blues / Skindeep / Silvertone 734316 – (USA) * At the Burlington Waterfront Festival w/Bettye Lavette on Thu. 7/9: *
Langston Hughes: The Story of the Blues / The Voice of Langston Hughes / Smithsonian Folkways 47001 – (USA)
Tiris: El Leil, El Leil (The night, the night) / Sandtracks / Sandblast 1 – (MALI)
Anat Cohen & The Anzic Orchestra: Cry Me A River / Noir / Anzic 1201 – (USA/ISRAEL) * Opening the Discover Jazz Festival this Friday night w/Esperanza Spalding: … alding.php *
Esperanza Spalding: Ponta de Areia / Esperanza / Heads Up Int’l 3140 – (USA/BRAZIL)
Blue Asia: La Yeu Cua Tung Yeu-Samba de Janeiro / Hotel Vietnam / King Record Co. 961 – (JAPAN)
Sarazino: Ecos de Radio Iguana / Ya Foy! / Cumbancha Discovery / (N/A) – (ALGERIA/MONTREAL) * NEW – preview: to be released in August *
The Baileys: Rocky Road to Dublin / A Song For Ireland / Toucan Cove 1105 – (IRELAND) *NEW*
Alicia Villareal: Insensible A Ti / Orgullo de Mujer / Universal B0006605 – (MEXICO)
Oreka Tx with Mongolian musicians: Lauhazka / Nomadak Tx / World Village 469085 – (SPAIN/MONGOLIA/MOROCCO) *NEW*
Pato Banton & The Mystic Roots Band: Stay Positive / Positive Vibrations / PB 2007 – (UK/JAMAICA) * At the Discover Jazz Festival World Music Tent on Sat. June 13th @ 5: … ulture.php *
Anat Cohen: J Blues / Notes From the Village / Anzic 1302 – (USA/ISRAEL) / * Opening the Discover Jazz Festival this Friday night w/Esperanza Spalding: … alding.php *
Hayden Carruth: “Sure” Said Benny Goodman / Hayden Carruth, A Listener’s Guide / Copper Canyon Press 3 – (USA)
The Russ Spiegel Orchestra: Number One / Transplants / Ruzztone Music 1001 – (USA) *NEW*
Johnny Mercer: Strip Polka / Those Were Our Songs / Capitol 535774 – (USA)
Sandra Sandia: La Marisol / Sandra Sandia / 2008 – (USA)
Kimi Djabaté: Fatu / Karam / Cumbancha Discovery – (GUINEA-BISSAU) * NEW – preview: to be released in July *
Constance Amiot: L’étourderie / Fairytale / Tôt Ou Tard 2007 – (FRANCE)
Al Young: Lester Leaps In / In Their Own Voices / WordBeat 72408 – (USA)
Grace Kelly: I’ll Remember April / Mood Changes / PAZZ 16 – (USA) * At the Discover Jazz Festival on Tue. 6/9, at 8:30pm: … ekelly.php *

preview – updated!

May 30, 2009
Anat Cohen's "Noir"

Anat Cohen's "Noir"

Tel Aviv-born saxophonist, clarinetist and recording label founder Anat Cohen recommends that every performer take the opportunity to be the ‘sideman’ when possible, for the tremendous experience it offers. She’s out in front this Friday evening, as part of the double billing that opens this year’s Discover Jazz Festival.

This week on World of Music we’ll give a listen to two of her recordings: Noir, and Notes from the Village, along with previews of other Festival acts.  Also: jazz poetry featuring Jack Kerouac, Hayden Carruth, Langston Hughes, and Al Young’s poem “Lester Leaps In” – and, the usual juicy array of world music, classic and new! Listen to “World of Music” online (Mondays, 3-5pm EDT) or at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT.

news from discover jazz fest

April 15, 2009
4/15/09-Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss showing off the new Smithsonian National Jazz Month poster

Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss showing off the new Smithsonian poster for National Jazz Month

If the downbeat to summertime in Vermont is the annual Discover Jazz Festival (and, it is) then the official downbeat for spring is the annual press conference where the full Discover Jazz schedule is revealed.

That happened today in Burlington.

Geeda Searfoorce, the Festival’s Associate Director, had it just right in her introduction when she said “you can feel the music in the air”. The gallery (home of the annual conference) buzzed with many of the area’s top music media folks from radio and TV, members of the Festival advisory board and reps from the many Fest sponsors. A few steps inside the door and everyone was tearing into the press kit, leafing through page after page of artist listings for this year’s event. If not music itself (come to think of it why wasn’t there background music?) there was a lot of talk about music in the air today.

The headliners have been public for a while now (Diana Krall, Branford Marsalis, and Pink Martini, in case you’ve missed the first big splash) but the rest – and often the most interesting part of the lineup – was kept under wraps until today.

Highlights? You bet. Lots of them: starting with the opening night, this is definitely one of the ‘don’t miss’ shows of the Festival: Esperanza Spalding (bass, vocals, charm by the bucketful) and Anat Cohen (clarinet, sax + innovation like you wouldn’t believe). Mark that one down. In fact, just get your ticket now so you’re not sad when (when) it sells out.

Also very much looking forward to the Luis Perdomo Trio (6/8), the Grace Kelly Quintet (6/9), Yusef Lateef & Adam Rudolph (6/10), the Waterfront Funk Tent (6/11)-featuring one of my N’awlins favorites, Russell Batiste ….and that’s just the first week.

Check out the schedule. You’ll have your own favorites, and, best of all will be those great moments you won’t find until you get there: artists performing in local venues, all the way up and down Church street, and everywhere around town.

Make a plan, get tickets for the shows, and give yourself the time to explore and be surprised.

Guess that’s why they call it Discover Jazz.


P.S. – Just in case you think the schedule alone would be enough to get a bunch of light-deprived media folks inside on such a beautiful day (though, with this crowd it actually would be) – one of the Festival’s sponsors is Lake Champlain Chocolates. The ice cream and chocolate truffles didn’t hurt…I’m just sayin’… Thanks, Lake Champlain!

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