May 31, 2007
June can be a cruel time for certain festival goers, and I mean those who are hopelessly jazz addicted. And, sad to say, I mean myself. If you even suspect that you might be a candidate for this group, and I speak from experience, there are several symptoms to be on the lookout for.
First there's unrestrained nostalgia for past festivals. Surely nothing on this years schedule can begin to compare with the great programs of the past. I think back on David Murray's appearances, the trombone quartet Slide Ride, Max Roach, Kenny Burrell, Sonny Fortune and Rashied Ali, and on and on. Remembering those who have passed on--Joe Henderson, Raphe Malik, others--brings me close to tears. This is all horribly sentimental, and in the end a waste of time.
Then there's the lure (threat) of new CDs. All these players may come bearing new and old recorded material impossible to resist. I look at every inch of my house, trying to guess how many CDs will fit into every uncrowded or empty space, and it gets harder every year. The number of discs I buy annually has dropped significantly, but I run a jazz label and the music keeps coming in. Maybe those Canadians will bring new product that's not to be easily found here. Of course Anderson/Helias/Hemingway will have a new CD and I can't leave empty handed, can I?
Finally, I catch myself looking forward to next year's DJF before this one has even begun. Maybe we'll finally get Cecil Taylor, and jazz fans who are overwhelmed (read intimidated) by his power can have a chance to discover how great his lyrical gifts are in the rich segments of repose that arrive in every performance. Or maybe Abdullah Ibrahim will be back, offering another long flowing set that becomes uncommonly absorbing as it progresses. Maybe he'll play Ellington again! Or let's bring Billy Harper, not known to all, but a vigorous Texas tenor with a great band that's evolved out of hard bop over time. So what then, we have to sit through all of this year's stuff before we can get to the goodies?
For anyone who wonders whether I'm a half-empty or half-full sort of geezer, there are hints above. As day one of DJF approaches, with no organized twelve-step JA group in sight, I'm getting nervous and wondering if Bob Blumenthal might be able to talk me through it.
I agree with George's assessment of Bob Blumenthal and his work. George introduced him to me the first year that he started this critic in residence for the BDJF and Bob consented to let me interview him on a cable television show that I host on Channel 15. I found him to be an easy person to talk with. He was a practicing lawyer at one time and that experience has come into good stead, not only as the interviewer, but also as an interviewee.
And if you don't think he has an ear for music, I'll relate this story to you. One year, Bob "dragged" me up to Halvorsons's to hear a local Boston band (Dead Cat Bounce) which he thought highly of. The name turned me off, but I bent to his expertise anyway. The band had a regular rhythm section with a least three multi reed players up front. They played all original free form compositions. I thought that I had died and gone to heaven.
Unfortunately, the concert was taking place during a "cock tales" party and Bob and I were in the middle of it (two table rows from the band). You have to be pretty loud to almost drown out a seven piece free form jazz ensemble which is typical of the local club scene. After a few tunes, I turned to Bob, arched my eyebrow and by a silent mutual consent, we both arose from the table and left. As we worked our way down Church Street, I started muttering some obscenities and Bob, ever the lawyer, chose to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment.
I'm planing to see his talks with Miguel Zenon (6/04/07) and BassDrumBone (6/07/07) which will be presented at 5:30pm on each of those noted dates. Before the BDJF is over, I am hopeful that Bob will "drag" me to another musical event, so I can relate another "war" story.
May 30, 2007
Lectures You'll Love
Bob Blumenthal is one of the great joys of The Burlington Jazz Festival. Here's a guy who's won two Grammys for his liner notes on Miles Davis box sets who is as down-to-earth as anyone you know, but get a good discussion going and he can go deep with the facts and the insights. Musicians, critics, DJs all show up for his interviews and discussions.
This year he'll be talking with the artists in the FlynnSpace at 5:30pm (for FREE!):
Eddie Palmieri - Fri June 1
Migel Zenon - Mon June 4
Montreal Double Bill - Tue June 5
BassDrumBone - Thu June 7
His Sunday listening session takes place in the Amy Terrant Gallery at the Flynn Center with the focus on Duke Ellington with the listening at 2pm and then a lecture/discussion following at 3pm. Not matter how much or how little you know about the Duke, be ready to come away with new insight.
May 24, 2007
Burlington Discover Jazz Festival
I buy tickets to the BDJF and Flynn Center for the Performing Arts for two reasons. One, I'm on a fixed income and this is the only way I can support the local performing arts scene. Two, I feel free to praise or criticize any performance on my radio program. It's very much like being a food critic. I am not obligated to grovel to the folks who give out free comp passes.
The following listed are concerts that I've purchased tickets for and the reason why:
6/01/07 - Eddie Palmieri Afro-Caribbean Jazz Septet - I don't believe that there are any local DJs that play more Latin Jazz than me. I've played three hour programs of Latin Jazz at WRUV without repeating any artist. I think this program will be great start to the festival.
6/02/07 - Kenny Garrett - I like what Kenny does musically, but the REAL reason that I'm going to this concert is Pharoah Sanders. The last time I saw him play was either at the Five Spot
or the Half Note (when it was on the corner of Spring & Hudson) and that was in 1965 or 1966.
Here I go again, talking about ancient history. These clubs have been out of business for decades.
6/03/07 - Mamavig & Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey - WRUV has several CDs of JFJO recordings and there is not a bad one in the bunch. Don't know much about Mamavig as an ensemble, but the individual musicians are first class.
6/04/07 - Miguel Zenon - Miguel was born in Puerto Rico and has incorporated some of the traditional music of the island into his latest album, but it doesn't have that pronounced "Latin" feel to it. That CD may land in my personal top ten list of 2007. I think this performance will be the "sleeper" of the festival.
6/05/07 - Christine Jensen Quartet & Bourassa/Tanguay/Derome - Finally, some musicians from the Montreal area. The BDJF should have done this years ago. I've played music from CDs of both of these ensembles that were donated to WRUV by the BDJF and think highly of them.
6/06/07 - Esperanza Spalding Trio - She has been on my radar screen for some time, because I read the Boston Globe daily and I started seeing her name being mentioned even while she was a student at Berklee.
6/07/07 - BassDrumBone -The 30th Anniversary Tour - I have seen several performances in each decade this group has been together. Free form music in nature, but easily accessible and boy do they have fun on stage which draws the audience in.
6/10/07 - Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Project - Glad to see more women players being invited to BDJF. I'm looking forward to this event, because I have thoroughly enjoyed every concert that the BDJF Big Band has been involved in and I'm not a huge big band fan. I'm sure there are some ringers on the band stand, but I recognize a lot of familiar faces there too.
I will be posting comments about these concerts on the following day after each performance.
May 23, 2007
Yeah. Yeah. I'll get to the BDJF starting tomorrow. Our blog mistress " demands" more daily entries. You'll probably get sick of my "war" stories before the festival is over with. The following are festivals in New York state that interest me because of their line ups:
Rochester International Jazz Festival (6/8 through 6/18). Never attended, but they have 70 concerts at 20 venues which include free street, museum, gallery performances and some ticketed concerts.
JVC Jazz Festival--NYC (6/17 through 6/30). 300 artists and 200 concerts. It's four decades since I lived in the Big Apple and I can not conceive of a "jazz" festival taking place then. There were just too many jazz clubs to see and hear musicians on a nightly basis in those days. It was a festival of music any night of the year. Performer's booking usually lasted for 4 or 5 days. I wonder what the club scene is like today.
I've perused their schedule for last several years and have contemplated making a trek down, but every time I get close to making preparations, I consider the parking problems, lodging expenses, and ticket costs, and give it up. For example, recently I paid nearly $40.00 to see the
Spanish Harlem Orchestra perform at the Flynn (Seat #1, Row M) and soon there after they appeared at this festival and the ticket cost was nearly $90.00.
Syracuse Jazz Festival (6/29, 6/30, 7/1) They bill themselves as "The Largest Free Jazz Festival in the Northeast" The only time I attempted going to Syracuse is when I missed the exit on the Northway for Vermont.
Caramoor Jazz Festival Located in Katonah, NY(one hour north of NYC). Music on several dates over the summer which are mostly Classical in nature, but there are two dates that I think are worth investigating. The 7/28 date is an all Latin Jazz line up which is VERY interesting for me personally. The 8/4 date includes Odean Pope. Both dates have 5 artists. Performances start at 3:00pm with a "dinner" break around 6:00pm and music restarts around 7:00pm/8:00pm. You can save some money by purchasing online. As far as I can determine one ticket gets you through the whole day.
Friehofer's Jazz Festival (Saratoga Springs) Two day event (Saturday-6/23, Sunday-6/24.) I've
been to several festivals at this location and have made it a day trip each time. Several couples I know rent a RV for the weekend and stay both days.
There are two stages, the mainstage, and one that I think is referred to as the "B" stage. I tend to gravitate to the "B" stage. Lesser know artists perform there with a lot more vigor and experimentation. Performances start at noon and continue into the evening at both stages. One ticket allows you on the grounds for the entire day.
Lake George Jazz Festival (9/15-9/16) Great little outside venue in the middle of town. I pile a car load of people in my vehicle with some wine, picnic baskets, and several blankets. I make it a day trip after I choose the best day for booked players that interest me(weather is also a factor). And best of all, they post the next year's artists on the back of their festival guide. I can start making plans for the 2008 festival while I'm listening to the 2007 performers.
I will speak of this when I begin my discussion concerning the BDJF. I feel a rant coming on. All the concerts are free.
May 22, 2007
The following listed are festivals that will be held in CT:
The Great Connecticut Traditional Jazz Festival - Moodus, CT(7/27, 7/28, 7/29) This is for the blog reader who complained that the BDJF didn't have enough Dixieland/Traditional jazz on the schedule. Three solid days of nothing but Dixieland/Traditional music at this festival.
Hartford International Jazz Festival - (10/5, 10/06, 10/7) I'm seriously considering attending this festival, because there are some international stars that I am familar with and would love to see them in a live performance. Artists from Africa and South America get insulted
if the audience does not particpate like at the Flynn Theatre(Yes, I know all about the fire code).
Litchfield Jazz Festival - Goshen, CT (8/3, 8/4, 8/5) Located due West of Hartford in Western CT. I've seen a lot of NYC based musicians listed on their schedule for several years now and this year is no different. I'll get there one day.
May 21, 2007
Before I start, I phoned the Montreal Jazz Festival office and confirmed that the province of Quebec has banned smoking in restaurants and clubs which means I will probably lose some sleep during their festival.
The following listed are personal recommendations for Jazz Festivals in MA and RI and be aware I have not attended some of them, but their line ups are worth checking out:
Marblehead Jazz Festival - Unusual in that the events are spread out over several Saturdays
over the summer(6/9, 6/23, 7/7, 7/21, 8/4, 8/18). I figured that I would keep an eye on their schedule in case I'm in their neck of the woods. Straight ahead players.
Tanglewood Jazz Festival (8/31, 9/1, 9/2) - I always wanted to go to an outside event and be dressed like everyone else. You know what I mean. Blue blazer, tan slacks and topsider shoes with no socks. Straight ahead players.
BeanTown Jazz Festival (9/27, 9/28, 9/29) - I think this used to called the Boston Globe Jazz Festival. It's produced by the Berklee College of Music. Most events are on the streets. I going because my son has lived in Boston for the last ten years and he has no choice but to put me up for a few days. Headliners are straight ahead, but you can always find some cutting edge music.
Berkshire Jazz Festival (7/25, 7/26, 7/27) - Located in the Western part of MA. A long four
to five hour car ride from Burlington may hinder my attendance. Straight ahead players.
JVC Jazz Festival (8/10, 8/11, 8/12, Newport, RI) - The grandfather of outdoor jazz festivals which began in 1954. You need to go at least once in your life time, just to say you've been there. Bring deep pockets, 'cause it ain't cheap in Newport. It's been a while since I have attended. In fact, the last time I was there, most performances were at the minor league baseball park in the center of town. Now most events take place at Fort Adams.
I had a friend who use to live there year round, so lodging was never a problem and I used to cook for us, because the restaurants always had long lines during the festival. My friend brought me to a 24-hour jazz radio station which was located on the main road into Newport. He called me up one night, crying, and told me the station went out of business and shut down. All music was from LPs. You know, those 12" CDs. I used to stroll down the main street parallel to the docking area to get away from the festival crowds and heard some pretty decent music in the clubs. They probably don't exist anymore either.
I just got an e-mail from Phil Sentner, maniacal jazz fan and sleepless consumer, from the depths of Lyndonville, VT. Phil writes, "By the way, I heard the new Kenny Garrett disc last night and Pharoah sounds like the old Pharoah, not playing that New Age shit Laswell was producing." This is good news to me--though I have to admit to liking some of the New Age shit Bill Laswell was responsible for--since I'm assuming Phil has in mind the excitement Pharoah Sanders generated when playing with such greats as Coltrane and guitarist Sonny Sharrock (Check out Sander's Tauhid and/or Sharrock's Ask the Ages.)
Since I hate to form false preconceptions, I try to avoid listening to an artist's new CD before the performance. Sometimes the live music can be quite different than the studio product, or the artist may head out in a new direction on the moment. George Thomas's report that the fusion of the new Chick Corea and Bela Fleck CD sounds more like classical music (rather than rock) with jazz really surprises me (and makes me think I may have to see the damn thing). But one thing for sure is that you can never be sure what you'll hear, that there's always room for the unpredictable in jazz. Unless, that is, you're at Lincoln Center.
By the way, does anyone know who the sidemen will be for this gig?
May 15, 2007
Let's Get Local
My favorite part of Jazz Fest is not the selection of amazing jazz artists performing at the Flynn and other ticketed venues. It's the open air concert in City Hall Park, usually featuring local artists. This year, the concert has been dubbed Big Joe Burrell Day, and one of my favorite local musicians will be there.
You may recognize saxophonist/vocalist Annakalmia "Kal" Traver from any of a number of her projects. I've seen her at Radiobean with the self proclaimed "psycho-tropical" group Gua Gua. I've seen her in Soulvation Army, Burlington's own 17 piece funk band. She tours with the popular reggae group John Brown's Body. She is also the lovely lady of Alex Toth and the Lazybirds, with whom she will be performing on Big Joe Burrell Day.
I happen to have seen Miss. Traver many times other than with the projects listed, at pep rallies, band concerts, etc. While we've never met, we hail from the same high school, Woodstock Union, in beautiful, rural southern VT. My memories of Kal Traver are all music related. I'm not sure how many school assemblies featured announcements of new honors awarded to Miss. Traver for her musical achievements. She has stood out from other young musicians from the start.
She never fails to impress me, particularly what I've heard of her vocals on the new Lazybirds album Birdhead, which the Boston Phoenix says "...hits the hard-bop sweet spot."
So don't miss this local treasure of a musician this Jazz Fest. I would say Kal Traver is a promising young musician, because that's what people says about people like her, but she's already fulfilling those promises.
I'm not planning to be at the Chick Corea/Bela Fleck concert primarily because I live too far from Burlington to take in the full ten days straight. Now, however, the ongoing discussion here (and probably elsewhere) of Fusion and its discontents seems to be making this the most talked about gig of the festival before it even begins. I'm really curious at this point as to how the event might size up against my barely formulated expectations.
Briefly, the old story: As the fusion movement became progressively diffuse over the two decades following its start, it gradually became bled of its emotional resonance. The worst result in time became the mealy schlock/pop market-driven cheese mix already lamented in these postings. Less offensive but even more ubiquitous was all the "nice" music aiming to please and not offend. A bottomless appetite for both continues and grows stronger.
From these guys I'd expect more, though both have played to please the masses and no doubt will on June 6. What performing artist, after all, would want to pack a church basement when he can fill a stadium? But Corea and Fleck have have the chops--still--to deliver virtuoso stuff. If the music lacks heart and spontaneity, and it might or might not, it should still project the energy that defined the movement way back in the '70s. I'd expect each to work the other mighty hard and to get the obligatory standing ovations.
(Hey, let's ask Bob Blumenthal what he thinks if we get a chance. His knowledge and erudition are as solid as his judgment, and his contributions to previous festivals are considerable.)