Posts Tagged ‘Church Street’

throw a stone, you can’t miss

October 12, 2009
On Church Street

Last week on Burlington's Church Street

The thing about music in Vermont is that it’s everywhere.

Same with poetry, visual and performance art, and literary and learning events of one kind or another.

On a recent September Monday I reviewed the evening’s options and realized within an hour’s drive I could participate in an equinox stargazing party at a local library, see an internationally-recorgnized author speaking on worldwide food production, hear a piano trio performing Beethoven, or attend a reading of Robert Frost’s autumnal poetry.

Many days are like that.

Autumn’s already shaping up to be rich with offerings,  a few upcoming suggestions are below. You’ll notice most of these take place in Central/Northern Vermont. It’s because that’s where I live, and these are the ones I have the best chance of actually experiencing.

There are an equal number of  events and performances taking place in other areas of the state, so by all means look to your local arts/cultural scene and don’t just stop here!

Oct. 13, 8-10pm @ the Bluebird Tavern, Burlington: guitarist Jim Stout  and the Queen City Hot Club in an evening of gypsy jazz and gourmet cuisine. A fabulous combination.

Oct. 20 @ the Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College: Indian classical musicians, Ravi and Anoushka Shankar

Oct. 23 @ the UVM recital hall (part of the Lane Series): German keyboardist Andraes Staier, whose Bach will make you wonder how you ever listened to that music before Staier came along.

Oct. 23-Nov. 1 @ Palace Nine Theatre, South Burlington: the Vermont International Film Festival

through Oct. 25 @ the Shelburne Museum: Nature by Design, an exhibit highlighting Louis Comfort Tiffany’s Art Nouveau creations

through Oct. 25 @ the FlynnSpace in Burlington: Opus – a play about what happens as a string quartet prepares for their highest profile performance ever, as the group’s personal dynamics create as much tension as there is on any violin’s bridge.

Oct. 25 @ Langdon Street Cafe in Montpelier: local blues man Dave Keller hosts a tribute to blues legend Koko Taylor

through Oct. 29 @ Club Metronome, Burlington: New Orleans’ own trombone funk band, Bonerama as the artists-in residence Thursday evenings through October

Oct. 30 @ the Hopkins Center, Dartmouth College: the Ying Quartet in the final concert of their weeklong residency

all month (October) long @ the Black Door, Montpelier: pick a night, any night

Nov. 1 on the Flynn Main Stage: the extraordinary jazz/blues singer Dee Dee Bridgewater in a tribute program to Billie Holiday

Oct. 13-Nov. 25 @ the Fleming Museum: (exhibit) Cuban Artists’ Books and Prints, 1985-2008

the whole season at Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph: especially noting pianist Simone Dinnerstein’s Vermont return with an all-Bach program on January 23

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!

the week, past and future

May 30, 2009
Rupa Marya (of 'Rupa & The Aprilfishes')

Rupa Marya (of 'Rupa & The Aprilfishes')

I’m listening to New Orleans trumpeter Kermit Ruffins right now sharing his favorite BBQ recipes, on The Splendid Table. His band’s called The BBQ Swingers, and he’s known for setting up a grill near the stage to encourage spontaneous acts of audience participation in charred food. No bottles and cans allowed in the park, but what about ribs & slaw? Sounds great to me!

Seems like there’s been a lot of music in the news recently:

  • This morning NPR recognized Benny Goodman’s 100th birthday anniversary – including some discussion with Anat Cohen, who’s transcribing many of Benny’s solos AND appearing at this year’s Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, later this week. (More on that in a minute).
  • NPR arts reporter and producer Felix Contreras shared an overview of today’s new Latin music scene, by way of three new releases: Luz del Ritmo, from Argentina’s Los Fabulosos Cadillacs; Coba Coba, from the Afro-Peruvian groovemasters Novalima; and the lead singer from Yerba Buena, CuCu Diamantes’ debut solo effort CuCu Land , singing in a Dominican-flavored vernacular she calls “urban tropical”
  • About a week ago Fresh Air reprised an interview with Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, engineers of the distinct ‘Philly sound’ with classics like If You Don’t Know Me By Now
  • On The Story, Dick Gordon talked to Rupa Marya about the music that lives at the intersection of her two professions: as a singer/songwriter, and medical doctor
  • …and a couple of days ago I when woke up to BBC World Update I heard a really interesting story about a cellist and his ventures into experimental music. I wasn’t able to find more info about it at the BBC site. Too bad, I wanted to share the link here. Maybe you’ll have better luck – look for it in the BBC World Update on Thursday (5/28) morning.

Taking a look ahead, it’s going to be a really busy week with all of the music coming up around town. Monday promises my first experience on the Green at Shelburne Museum, with

Byrne's tour poster

Byrne's tour poster

David Byrne. The program description says “songs of David Byrne and Brian Eno”, and that probably means a generous dose of music from their new collaboration, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Is it too much to hope that we might also get the rare treat of hearing some things (“the Jezebel Spirit” – please? Please!?) from some of their earlier work together, like the landmark electro-adventure, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts?

On Thursday evening, after the opening reception for the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, I’ll be hurrying over to UVM to catch the debut concert with trumpeter Ray Vega and his new Jazz Ensemble.

And Friday, well, that’s the start of the blur of sounds and experiences that typically characterize the time during the annual Discover Jazz Festival. As much as I usually know what I’ll be seeing and doing during the Festival, there’s often just as much that happens unexpectedly. Some of the most memorable encounters in past festivals have been the ones that weren’t planned. Like last year’s spontaneous jam session on Church Street, which started with a couple of players and picked up momentum with more and more folks stopping by, onlookers stepping aside to make way for the multiplying empty cases and trunks that accumulated in a cluttered ring around the jam. They made some noise that day!

The planned parts this week include the double-bill with Esperanza Spalding and Anat Cohen on Friday night, lots of live music and bands on Church Street and in City Park; Big Joe Burrell Day; and Belizbeha & the Country Horns next Saturday.

Stay tuned, updates coming here through the week. And by all means leave a comment here if you’re inspired to mention your own experiences or thoughts about live music this summer.

We’re just getting started, you know.

day for a parade

March 1, 2009


pre-parade drum circle on Church St.

pre-parade drum circle on Church St.

Bright, clear, and very, very ‘crisp’ (that’s typically circumspect New England-ese shorthand for ‘marrow-freezing cold‘) – yesterday was a remarkable difference of about 35 degrees from Friday’s highs in the 40s. But with full sunshine and little wind, it was also the best weather I’ve experienced so far in my four Burlington Mardi Gras celebrations. That must have helped to encourage the huge crowd that packed Church Street for the parade. Biggest crowd I’ve seen yet.  After a hot (both picante AND caliente), delicious, oversized bowl of Tom Yum at the Asian Noodle House, we took our place streetside and had a great time taking in the parade and the street scene. Caught some beads!

But the whole time I was watching the parade my imagination was still churning on the drum circle that got the party underway, playing for about a half hour on the street near the Firehouse Gallery. And then they picked up and went mobile, leading the procession up Church Street in an infectious cadence once the parade started.

I love drum circles. Yesterday’s group brought back the memory of being in NYC last year, mid-April. Still mud season here, so I was enchanted to arrive in the city and find magnolia trees blooming in the NYU Law School courtyard, and Washington Square’s cherry trees in full-on pink blossom. I had gone there for a one-day conference at the beautiful new WNYC facilities. Around 4pm, conference over, I left the station and the walk to Broadway to catch a cab took me by Wash Square Park.

I came around a corner to find overturned plastic paint buckets, hubcaps, glass bottle mallets thumping on stretched skins, along with the usual assortment of more traditional djembe, congas, and timbales, all working with – and against – each other in a complicated network of joyous rhythms that filled the whole Park and the Village. The players were as diverse as the percussion array – black, white, Asian, old and very young. With a little time to spare before catching my flight, I sat on a sunny stone step and soaked it all in.

Yesterday’s experience in Burlington may have been missing the cherry blossoms and some of the instrumental ingenuity of the NYC drum circle (and, around 60 balmy degrees of mercury…), but the same unmistakable driving spirit was very much there. And, you know? – it’s ALWAYS there, no matter the particulars of the place or instruments involved – where there are people, there is music. It’s as natural a means of expression to us as talking, and touching. We make music because we can’t help it. I’m glad we don’t try.                 

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