June 11, 2007
Mary Lou Williams Resurgence Project Concert
This was the fifth consecutive year that the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival Big Band has performed at this festival and I have witnessed them all. Every one of them have been magical. I have the feeling that when I come to their concert that they are playing for my own personal pleasure, since I know most of the musicians on stage.
I think it's mandatory that I should relay some off my friend's names to you. Reed section: Brian McCarthy, Bryan MacNamara, Michael Zsoldas, Dave Grippo & Alex Stewart (also the band master). Trumpet section: Chris Gribnau, Cam Cross, Dave Ellis & Paul Brana (17 y.o. H.S student). Bone section: Lori Salimando-Porter, Andy Moroz, Dan Silverman, & Rick Davies. Piano: Tom Cleary, Bass: John Rivers, & Jeff Salisbury on drums.
Kudos to Cecilia Smith (vibes) for putting this concert together. She was ably assisted by Amina Claudine Myers (piano & vocals) and Elon Robin Dixon (vocals).
Congratulations to Champlain Valley Union H.S. chorus, especially to the six girls on the upper two levels (stage left). They were singing and swaying to the beat just as if they were in the choir at a black Baptist Sunday church meeting. The director, Carl Recchia is to be commended for his chorus's performance. I must admit that every time I see young people like this in performance, my throat starts to constrict and I have to take out my hankie as I must have had some particle stuck in my eye. Strange, it's happening again as I write this. Maybe it's because I'm jealous. The only time that attention has been brought to me is when my name has been published in the daily newspaper court report. Just think how Paul Brana feels like today after being on stage as part of the band. Or how many members of the chorus didn't fall asleep until the wee hours of this morning.
Having extolled this concert, I see a black cloud in the future for this event. Less than 400 people attended this concert. Maybe the BDJF folks need a new hook for the general public. Mary Lou Williams is not a stranger to jazz heads like me, but the attendance figures show that there needs to be a new approach. I would hate to see this concert eliminated because it's "losing" money, and as you well know the local performing arts scene ain't in the business to do that.
This is my last posting on this blog. I want to personally thank Cathy Resmer (7D Online Editor) whose job is very much like the photograph in the 7D jobs section. You know the one I mean. The one where a woman is standing behind an elephant with a canvas bag and is catching the bowel movement. She has been cleaning up behind me for several weeks now and god knows I can produce an enormous amount of drek.
June 10, 2007
Waterfront World & Early Evening Club Cruising
I bypassed Main Street in Burlington and made my way down to the waterfront via Maple Street and was captivated by the long uninterrupted view of the shimmering lake as George described. What a great day to be alive and watching live music. Not much to add to his review other to say that I never thought I would live long enough to see three white guys playing in the Skatalites. I also departed after their set, because...
I wanted to see Sambatucada (local Brazilian Samba street band) at the Saturday Night Block Party
on Church Street. There nothing like a percussion ensemble to make folks start bobbing their heads and feet.
I then made my way to Club Metronome to see the extended version of the 35th Parallel (local duet of guitar and tabla) who change their name to the Mediterrasian Jazz Ensemble when they add some jazz horns into the mix. Interesting to say the least.
Also picked up Guagua (local Brazilian & Latin ensemble) at City Hall Stage at 3:00pm. Always enjoy this group and so did the spectators. Kal Traver (alto sax), who Jill Kilpatrick mentioned in her posting of 5/15/07 (Let's Get Local) has added some serious chops since she and Alex Toth have moved to Boston.
Sorry to see the sun set on this day.
Waterfront World & Paradise/Pizzarelli
I caught The Skatalites, with original vocalist Doreen Schaffer, at the Waterfront World Tent Saturday night. With younger horns and some classic members doing the songs like Freedom Sounds & Latin Goes Ska folks were dancing, even in the long food lines. I tried to wait for Lee Perry but it became clear it was going to take awhile for him to appear.
Caught enough of Dub Is A Weapon (Perry's back-up band on this date) to be very impressed with their tenor saxophone player Maria Eisen, whose solos pulled great response from the throbbing tent. The scene was sweet all by itself with golden light reflected off the lake, with dancing, strolling and the usual hightening of perceptions.
I walked up the hill to the Flynn and, unfortunately missed Kate Paradise & her all-star band, but caught Mr Can't-Joke-Enough Pizzarelli's Swing 7. Rhythm section & four horns playing terrific arrangements while John sang large chunks of Sinatra's book and other classic Gershwin, Porter songs. I enjoyed John's constant schtick of New Joisey jokes, quips and, oops, asides to the band, while others I talked to found it a bit much. The energetic ending highlights included a long sequence based on a song extoling the virtues of New Jersey as if done by Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Bobby Darin, etc, etc. It makes me appreciate where we are, as Vermont doesn't seem to need an-over-the-top tribute, we just are woodchucks & flatlanders struggling to make it thru mud-season. The music helps.
June 09, 2007
On Bass/Drum/Bone Part Deux
I don't know where to start. Lou's review of this concert was so totally, like totally, right on dude. So like, I should like totally write something like soon before the bloom fades.
I probably should start with their interview with Bob Blumenthal. I saw no difference between the interview and the performance. Bob would ask a question for the group as a whole and one of them would reply as an individual after a safe pause and without looking at the others for the go ahead nod. I guess after thirty years, you can do that. I was only married for twenty-two, and we could complete each other's sentences. They described their relationship as 3 (five-year-old) kids playing the sandbox at a pre-school. I agree.
Everything that Lou wrote about Mark Helias, Gerry Hemingway, and especially Ray Anderson was right on. I can only surmise that Ray's lack of "parlor tricks" while playing is because all the tunes were very recent compositions and since he is only five years old, his attention span hadn't collapsed yet. In fact, the whole ensemble's playing was somewhat subdued compared to what they've done in the past. Then again, I am unable/or choose not to do things that I could do easily thirty years ago. Great, great concert.
Before finishing this posting, I would be remiss in not mentioning that the FlynnSpace is my favorite joint. I usually see all the BDJF concerts at this site and this year was no exception. Kudos to Harry Chaikin who takes care of the sound board and to Brian Johnson who is the house manager. The joint wouldn't be the same without their expertise and warped sense of humor. You need to have possession of those two things when you dealing with performing artists and wacko customers like myself.
June 08, 2007
Before I mention some of the local stuff I've seen in the last few days, I thought I would give you a short (hopefully) history of the jazz "scene" in Burlington. My short bio for this blog says that I moved to Burlington in 1989. That's not completely true. I have actually lived here in three different decades. The first time I moved here was in 1967. I was living in NYC and visited some of my NYC friends in the Bad Liver Valley (Mad River). My then-child bride, who was born and raised in Manhattan fell in love with the area, so we moved here.
First of all, I couldn't find a job, because I wore a neatly trimmed goatee (it was black in color then). My hair was short cropped and neat. It's still neat, but I have more growing out of my ears than on the top of my head. There was only one other person in this area who wore a beard and he was an engineer at the G.E. plant off Pine Street. We soon discovered that after NYC, Burlington was a cultural shock for us in 1967.
The only club that had jazz on a regular basis was the High Hat which was located where Nectar's is now. The bandstand was positioned on a raised platform in the middle of a horseshoe-shaped bar. I can only remember the house band (C.R.S. Syndrome), which consisted of a rhythm section plus a reed player. The members of this ensemble were all African-Americans. The Roostertail was located where the Ground Round is now. They had a Hammond B-3 organ (with a Lesley speaker) trio. They could play jazz, but were only allowed to play dance music. If I had consumed vast amounts of alcohol, I would drop by and listen every once in a while. That was the total jazz
scene. Consider yourselves lucky. We lived at the edge of the flat earth then.
Monday (6/04) - UVM "Post-Bop Ensemble - Basement of Memorial Auditorium(rain site) - I've seen a lot of these players on campus and made it a point to pay my respects.
Wednesday (6/06) - South Burlington H.S. Jazz Ensemble - Dave Grippo always brings his troops prepared. Last tune of the day was a smoking Latin piece.
Wednesday (6/06) - Harwood "A" Band &Harwood "B" Band back to back. Bruce Sklar (director), has the same mine set as Grippo.
Wednesday (6/06) Mike Hardin Sextet. This is Michael's third year leading his own group of H.S. players. I've seen them all and can testify of their musicianship.
Thursday (6/07) - Moss Point (Mississippi) H.S. Jazz All-Stars. Old fashioned instrumentation (brass driven). This band must make a lot of pilgrimages to New Orleans. Excellent.
Friday (6/08) - Union College Jazz Ensemble - Ugh!! I would put up any of the aforementioned local H.S. bands against this group. After the second song, they drove me up the street into the arms of the...
Wes Ruielle Trio (I think? because there was an additional two reed players) who were performing under the tent at Leunig's Bistro. Just as I began to appreciate their straight-ahead playing, the boss came out and said to tone it down, because nobody wanted to sit up front next to the band stand. I don't understand. This is a jazz festival isn't it? Okay, if you want the diner crowd, then hire the Lester Lanin Orchestra (inside NYC joke). I departed soon after.
Thursday (6/07) - Ellen Powell Quartet at Leunig's - Damn, I wish that Ellen's foot would permit her to pick up the upright base again. She sounds better with it.
Wednesday (6/06) - Nicholas Cassarino & Joseph Davidian at The Daily Planet - Some more of the upcoming young lions.
Every time I've made a search up Church Street, I poke my head into the 1/2 Lounge and I like everything I've heard. It's always been some adventurous music. The ambience is classic old school NYC hole in the wall jazz club. A postage stamp-sized bandstand and the customers are actually listening! I don't know what they do the rest of the year, but I'm planning to visit more often. Of course, my recommendation may be their death knell.
Bass (Mark Helias)/Drum (Gerry Hemingway)/ Bone (Ray Anderson) has been a working unit for thirty years now, holding up longer than many marriages, and their current tour is an ongoing celebration. Last night the FlynnSpace audience was particularly fortunate to be on hand to hear a generous set of their original new material, some of which is apparently still in development. This meant that there was nothing tired or overly familiar to be heard. This trio came on fresh as a daisy.
Bass/Drum/Bone is a jazz photographer's wet dream. So where were they all last night? You've heard of poetry in motion? That's Gerry Hemingway. Except for Max Roach, I can't think of another drummer/percussionist who knows every inch of his trap drums better than Hemingway, and his mastery of it is thrilling to watch.
Mark Helias also proves that jazz playing is one of the greatest of spectator sports. Every spare note of his solos counts for a lot, and he gives full due to melody. His stage presence is totally assured; a solid figure with shaved head, he's like Yul Brynner turned bassist. But more to the point, he knows his bandmates' technique almost better than his own.
Ray Anderson has become a favorite of DJF regulars over time, and there was a lot of talk in the audience about his previous appearances with the Pocket Brass Band, SlideRide, etc. It seemed too as if nearly every extroverted trombonist in Central Vermont turned out for the show. What was absent was Ray Anderson as the consummate vaudeville entertainer of yore. (Some time back he spoke of a need to stop singing, and it looks like he has.) Instead, he was everything a slide trombone master should be, playing with grace and feeling, demonstrating the full range of his demanding instrument.
This group can spend extended time with textural and timbral explorations, blowing tones and sketching sound patterns, then swing and sing like crazy. They like to fool us; we don't know where we're going but it's a good trip. It's impossible to get bored, and it's hard to avoid being caught up in the fun. So congratulations to the Festival Board for getting them here.
David Beckett's eagerness to see comments on the BassDrumBone concert last night reminds me of an old joke. It seems like there were two bulls on the top of a hill, and they were looking down into the valley at a heard of female cows. The young bull said, "Let's run down and make love to a couple of those cows". The old bull said, "Let's walk down and make love to all of them". Have patience, it's good for your blood pressure.
I am deferring my comments to this concert until Lou makes his. I thought that our comments would overlap, so at the end of the concert, I asked Lou if he would go first. Last night was Lou's last concert of the festival, because he will have a cataract operation on Monday morning.
I am leaving this computer momentarily to go down to Church Street and see the Union College Jazz ensemble and will return to mention some local artists that I have seen over the last few days.
June 07, 2007
Esperanza Spalding Concert
I liked this concert, "but" not as much as some people did. She's a capable singer, but all I heard were elements of Blossom Dearie, Betty Carter, and Carmen Macrae. I would hope that her delivery and tone will "mature" in time. She's a capable bass player, but again I don't think she has fully developed her own tone on the instrument. She scatted note for note while playing on two songs which I liked better than her regular vocals. I also wish that in the future that she would develop an ability to play with a bow(which I did not see on the stage). I mention this is because, it would be nice to see a woman do something in the style of Slam Stewart and Major Holley. I think that it would be wonderful if she could pull it off.
Miss Spalding definitely has a stage presence. Her introductions to the tunes were warm and sometimes very humorous. She didn't seem to mind poking fun at herself. To showcase her naturally abilities, she played three different types of acoustical basses. One of her better singing efforts was a Brazilian song which she sang in Portuguese. Her voice, which I've made comments on previously was perfect in this setting.
Regardless of what I have said about her performance, Ms. Spalding knows how to choose musicians. There were a couple of instrumentals that transported me to the "Sunday at the Village Vanguard" recordings(1961). The pianist, Leonardo Geonvese has a physical resemblance to Bill Evans which may have influenced my self-induced time machine trip . Lyndon Rochelle is the perfect percussionist for this ensemble.
With apologies to Cornelious Ryan, Ms. Spalding's encore was "a song too far". Having said that, I would not mind purchasing a ticket to her concert if she ever appears in the Burlington area again, just to hear her if she "ages" gracefully.
June 06, 2007
Canadian jazzbirds have on occasion been found to migrate south in the spring and summer. This gave the Discover Jazz Festival audience a choice opportunity last night to show up and actually discover something new.
The Christine Jensen Quartet instantly became a quintet with the participation of sister Ingrid Jensen, perhaps already known to some as a member of the Maria Schneider Orchestra. Christine on alto and soprano saxophones, and Ingrid on trumpets turned out to be a striking pair, bold and energetic in performance and intricate in their interactions. Supported by an able rhythm section with--heresy--a Vermonter, Dave Restivo, on piano, they spun out a program of original compositions to what this listener found to be an inordinate length.
Despite colorful moments and spirited interplay, I felt the music at times failed to move forward. Instead of progressing toward new ground, much of it at times sounded too similar to some of what had preceded. But here I feel I'm missing something, and should back off before falling into the Pit of Subjectivity.
I can conclude though, without any reservation, that these sisters from British Columbia have solid chops. (And where the hell have I seen bassist Fraser Hollins before? Hours later, it's still driving me crazy.)
Quebec's wonderful Bourassa/Tanguay/Derome trio showed itself to be adept at breaking every mood they created in their riveting set. A lot of their music depended on quick changes and surprises, with wit and brio. ("That wasn't very good," said drummer Pierre Tanguay after the opening piece, "but it was exciting.") Derome at one point explained that he loves to compose his tunes on airplanes, and if that enables him to avoid boredom it certainly shows in his music. There were two covers in addition to several originals, one by Ornette Coleman, the other Billy Strayhorn's lovely "Isfahan" from Elllington's Far East Suite. This was a high point, a rare exploration of one of the most poignant songs in the Ellington songbook, and Derome and associates delivered in full its breathtaking poignancy.
Pianist Francois Bourassa proved to be as snug and cozy with Derome and Tanguay in trio formation as was bassist Normand Guilbeault. Derome is a monster on both alto sax and flute, and Pierre Tanguay on drums is a sort of French-Canadian Han Bennink. Please, Discover Jazz Festival, bring them back and also give us a chance to hear master guitarist Rene Lussier and clarinetist Francois Houle and whoever they choose to bring through customs.
June 05, 2007
Comments on Miguel Zenon Concert
Ah! Beckett has stolen my thunder. Well, that won't keep me quite for long. This performance is the highlight of the festival for me so far. The whole ensemble was excellent. I can add nothing to Beckett's comments about their musicianship other than to tell you that Aaron Parks (piano) had never played with this group before and with just Miguel and himself, they went over the music for an hour and a half yesterday afternoon.
I think most of the music were original compositions by Miguel with exception of a bolero and the final song of the night which was Monk's "Rhythm 'A' Ning." Here, Miguel was outstanding in his "Bird-like" interpretation of the great jazz standard.