Posts Tagged ‘Discover Jazz Festival’

jazz fest opening reception

June 2, 2011

Early June, live music and lots of friends on the back patio of Halvorson’s in downtown Burlington – must be the annual opening reception for the Discover Jazz Festival! And so it was tonight.

Bassist Anthony Santor and guitarist Nick Cassarino joined trumpeter/chanteuse Jennifer Hartswick in creating some very nice sounds together on the corner stage, while media members, sponsors, jazz fest folks and I-don’t-know-who-all mingled in the fading early evening light.

After yesterday’s midsummer-worthy highs of 90°C under full-sun skies, today’s overcast and rain-speckled 60 degrees was quite a turnaround. The rain held off for the most part, only making an appearance after the first set, the announcements, and the various opening addresses. No one seemed to be too bothered by the time it started to kick in for real around an hour and a half into the reception.

The next 10 days will be filled with great bands, much fun, and musical adventures that can’t even be anticipated right now. I hope you’ll be able to get out and enjoy some of it for yourself. If you’re inspired, leave a comment here and share your experiences. And I’ll keep a running log here too with photos and video to recap some of the most memorable happenings.

‘Night … for now.

discover jazz – day 9 (part two)

June 13, 2010

“He’s like the Einstein of jazz.”

That was the comment made by my seat partner at last night’s concert with Sonny Rollins. And that was before a single note had been blown. It was an observation on the 79-year old’s appearance, but it could just as well be a comment on his musical stature.

Rollins walked onto the stage to a standing ovation, wearing his trademark sunglasses, an elegant off-white jacket, and shaking a wild head of thick gray hair. Yeah. He’s a cool jazz guy. You’d better believe it.

With a furious run of notes, we were off on a musical joyride that wouldn’t end until Rollin’s former bandmate Jim Hall, had come out to send off the evening with two heartbreakingly stunning final tunes: In A Sentimental Mood, and If Ever I Would Leave You.

Other ventures into calypso (an homage to his parents’ native Virgin Islands), blues (with Rollins singing “Low Down Dirty Shame” in a fun, winking style); and straight ahead be-bop were equally powerful. Guitarist Russell Malone’s tasteful and gorgeous lines floated through the music like delicate parasol seeds, freshly blown from the dandelion stem. When Jim Hall took Malone’s place for the last two numbers, it seemed fitting. The two share much musically. Longtime bandmate Bob Cranshaw also did his part to offer many gorgeous moments, and percussionists Sammy Figueroa (congas) and Kobie Watkins (set) grounded the group with spirited solo work and solidly artful playing throughout.

I have to mention the one detraction to the night’s otherwise outstanding musical adventure: the Flynn Center’s eternally temperamental sound system in the house was not on its best behaviour to host a night with the jazz legends. I was fortunate to have seats 8 rows back, dead center, and I strained to hear Rollins through the first several numbers when all of the other instruments were playing. Really? Really? Sonny Rollins can’t be heard? If that’s what my experience was, what was it like for folks sitting futher back, or on the balcony? He did come through loud and clear in the ballads, and by the end during his tradeoffs with Hall the mix sounded just fine. But no one should ever have to work that hard to hear Rollins. He certainly did his part.

After the first couple of tunes, the gentleman sitting next to me whispered to his partner, “He’s got a lot of WIND!” That’s a fact.

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a more musical experience at Burlington’s Discover Jazz Festival, and it certainly surpasses many I’ve had elsewhere. I’m very happy that memory will be my last from this year’s events.

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 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.

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.

the classics

June 8, 2010

Brief departure from our week together at  the Discover Jazz Festival here, to mention another notable cultural happening in our midst today.

This morning I was joined by around a hundred audience members, fellow VPR staff, and pianist Annemieke Spoelstra for a live performance/celebration at the Mahaney Center for the Arts, Middlebury College. The exciting occasion was the launch of Vermont Public Radio’s newest radio station in the growing regional classical music network.

I interviewed at VPR, coincidentally, the very day that VPR Classical went on the air – July 20th, 2004. At that time the entire classical “network” consisted of one radio station: WNCH, 88.1FM broadcasting from Norwich, Vermont (just across the Connecticut River from Dartmouth College in Hanover). Two weeks after that interview I was asked to move to Vermont and join the team. It seemed like it was meant to be.

Nearly six years later, as of today, the VPR Classical network is made up of five full-power radio stations and nine translators. The expansion of the network will continue this summer as another full-power station, WVXR (102.1FM) goes on the air to serve Randolph, Orange County, and the southern areas of Central Vermont. After that – yes, there are more hopes and plans but who knows what will actually come together?

One of the things that still makes my job rewarding every day is the talented, creative, and inspiring people I get to meet and work with in one way or another. Being surrounded by energy like that keeps me motivated to do the best job I can.

This morning as I sat on the stage, listening to pianist Annemieke Spoelstra play beautifully from a selection of Schumann and Chopin works, I glanced over at the sound board and saw friends, and then I looked out at the audience and saw even more friends and supporters of classical music. It takes a lot of hard work to put on a live performance, and this one had the added layer of being a live broadcast performance.

Big thanks to everyone who made it happen, and to all of the listeners whose support brought WOXM 90.1 to Addison County today!

discover jazz – day 4

June 7, 2010

JazzLab in the house: monitoring the live streaming thanks to the sweet setup created by Radiator engineer Brian Bittman

A working day. Unfortunately that means not getting out to experience nearly as much of the Discover Jazz Festival as I would like, along with an early bedtime for an early today tomorrow.

Being a working MONday, however, today also included the weekly afternoon stopover at The Radiator, and right now that means being dropped into the thick of JazzLab! (World of Music is on hiatus for one more week – we’ll be back next Monday 3-5pm with the usual blend of jazz, blues, roots and grooves.)

For the last few years The Radiator, 105.9FM has partnered with the Jazz Fest to live stream and broadcast the JazzLab action at the Firehouse Gallery: whatever that may be, at the given time. Over the years that’s meant everything from DJs broadcasting live with passersby on Church Street, to experimental music/dance collaborations on the second floor of the gallery and many spontaneous moments of sheer inspiration and creativity. The point is, you never know until it’s done exactly what it will be.

The idea behind JazzLab is to create an informal community gathering place to channel some of the creative vibe that permeates the town during the Jazz Fest. What happens after that is a happy cocktail of one part planning and vision to three parts blind chance.

This year the JazzLab plan was to do a call-out to local bands to participate in one of three live professional recording sessions to take place during the first full week of the Festival. (That’s today, tomorrow, and Wednesday.) The three bands that made it to the finals are the yoUSAy Placate piano trio, Manual Moon, and the Villanelles. Starting today, the bands began making live multi-track recordings with Ben Colette and Rob O’Dea from The Tank Studios.

For my part, I worked with Firehouse staff and the Radiator’s ace volunteer engineer Brian Bittman to monitor the radio station’s studio connection, make sure it was solid and stayed up and running for the duration of the session. I jumped in to the broadcast stream every so often when there was a pause in the music to ID the station, talk about JazzLab, and do a little station business.

The sounds I heard feeding back from the Firehouse were atmospheric, a moody mix of piano and bass and percussion. It’s not a “concert”, exactly, it’s more a “process” as the retakes happen in real time and blend with spontaneous comments from the live audience, the engineers, and the band themselves. Very interesting listening. I can’t wait to hear what the final mixdown sounds like. The Radiator will get a copy of the master soon, as a matter of fact. and you’ll be able to hear it yourself.

JazzLab streams at and broadcasts live on the Radiator, 105.9FM in Burlington for the next two days, starting at 2pm each day. If you like your music on the raw, organic, REAL end of the spectrum, this is a great way to experience an alternative side to the Jazz Fest. Listen in, or better yet stop by and be part of the action at the Firehouse.

Even if your bedtime is an early one like mine, the 2-6pm timeslot should work out for you.

See you there!

memorial day

May 31, 2010

World of Music is taking a little spring break this week, spending the afternoon reflecting on Memorial Day and enjoying the great weather.

Next week at the usual time (Monday, 3-5pm) I hope you’ll tune in to The Radiator and check out the live stream of JazzLab, it’s the station’s third year broadcasting live from the Firehouse Gallery on Church Street during Burlington’s Discover Jazz Festival.

This year the premise is a little different. Rather than featuring DJs on hand doing their thing live with visiting musicians, as has been the scenario in previous years, this time around three bands who competed to win the privilege of receiving a live recording session will be broadcast live over the air as the recording process is underway.  Parker Shper, James Harvey, and the Villanelles will all be featured with their groups on consecutive days; Monday June 7th, Tuesday the 8th, and Wednesday the 9th.

Keep an eye out here for more updates about all things Discover Jazz Fest, 2010 – we’re just days away now!

it ain’t over

August 24, 2009
Violinist/Artistic Director Soovin Kim

Violinist/Artistic Director Soovin Kim

Summers here are all the sweeter for the outdoor music. Right? It starts with the big bang of the Discover Jazz Festival just after Memorial Day. From there on out every restaurant, park and tent-able space erupts in sound, happily for weeks on end.

Did I mention the berry patches? Those too. One of my favorite places to kick off the shoes and enjoy some live tunes is the Owl’s Head Blueberry Farm in Richmond. Tuesdays and Thursdays through July and August offer live musical accompaniment to pick a few quarts. It’s great. And hey – it’s almost over. This is the last week, check out the schedule and by all means get there if you can. July’s rain has made for some of the biggest, fattest, sweetest berries in years. The 8 brimming quarts in the freezer can back that one up. I’m hoping to go for 16 before the week’s over. It’s a long time before next summer.

This year we even had the extra bonus of the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial events to keep things exciting through the end of June and start of July, before the “real” festival season fired up later in the month with the annual Vermont Mozart Festival, Marlboro, the Killington, Manchester, and Central Vermont’s Chamber Music Festivals, and … on.

So we come to late August and it feels a little empty. Like the day after Christmas, or that odd quietness in the house the morning after hosting a really great party.

Enter the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival. I first heard about the plans around a year ago when Soovin Kim visited us at Vermont Public Radio. He came that day to play violin, and he mentioned his role as Artistic Director in getting the first plans for this summer’s LCCMF off the ground. It all seemed so far away then. Now it’s here: a new music festival starting in late August just as so many others are wrapping up.

The events began today as artist-in-residence David Ludwig led the first of the week-long “Listening Club” sessions (today’s subject: Shostakovich’s Op. 127 songs on poems by Alexander Blok). Schubert’s lovely song cycle Liederkreis is tomorrow’s discussion subject, and then you can hear soprano Hyunah Yu singing the Blok song cycle in the first of the Festival concerts on Weds. night, at 7:30. Two more concerts follow on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.

Summer’s not over yet. It’s just rounding third now, fueled by the afterburn of an already very fine live music season.

Festival details (all concerts at the Elley-Long Music Center on the St. Michael’s campus):

the complete schedule, with the Listening Club workshop information

schedule information for concerts only


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