Discover Jazz Festival, Burlington, Vermont: Garden of Musical Delights
“ In music as in business, the tone is set at the top: Marsalis would introduce a theme and the direction of the piece, as he did on the encore 'St. Louis Blues,' then would go to the rear of the stage to enjoy, unobtrusively, the instrumental repartee of ”
June 5-14, 2009
Observing how the Queen City of Burlington Vermont comes alive during the ten days of the Discover Jazz Festival is akin to the way the spring and summer evolves in the Green Mountains. The plenitude of rain that preceded the inaugural event on June 4th gave way to balmy weather, both trees and grass are as green as they get this time of year in Vermont, while flowers are just beginning to bloom. And so it is with the music during the run of the Discover Jazz: music blossoms inside and outside, in venues where it's usually featured and also in those who only do so at this time of yearclubs, restaurants and the streets of Burlington fill with sounds as varied as the flora dotting the asphalt and concrete around the city environs.
Anat Cohen Quartet
June 5 2009
It's well near impossible not to deeply enjoy this Israeli-born composer, bandleader and horn player. And not just because she was immediately and deeply caught up in the spirit of the moment in her own playing this opening night of Discover Jazz: her band was ever on its collective and individual toes, prompting and prodding each other, never allowing the music to slip even near the threshold of predictability.
Cohen will walk to the side of the stage when pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Daniel Freedman take solo turns or play as an ensemble without her, and when she does, she is constantly responding to the music with the unself-conscious grace of the music lover who can't resist. Her response and the audience's buzz post-show is merely a reflection of Cohen's compositions, arrangements and playing. In sum, this first formal show of the Festival was an opening of the highest order.
Red Square. Church Street
June 5, 2009
While this Vermont trio is by no means careerist in that they spend as much time seemingly on solo endeavors as in the Vorcza combine, when hearing them outside on this summer night, just off the main commercial downtown thoroughfare, it's as if they never stopped playing together. And that's meant as the highest of compliments: the natural motion of the rhythms and the thick fluid melody lines suggest keyboardist Ray Pazckowski, drummer Gabe Jarrett and bassist Robinson Morse tap in to that music that is perpetually in the air and, in so doing, translate its power and beauty in such a funky way we can understand it and groove to it, physically and mentally.
Dave Keller Band
Church Street Market place
June 5 2009
Playing under the stars and the floodlight this first weekend of Discover Jazz, erstwhile Vermont bluesman Keller and his three rockin' amigos sounded like they could've and should've been the house band for the Burlington marketplace. Coaxing a crowd to dance and sing along, the guitarist/vocalist frontman was in his element, alternately tantalizing and tough in the elemental blues patterns he brought to life with organist Ira Friedman, drummer Brett Hoffman and bassist Jan Schultz, Keller was.
Parker Shper Quintet
City Hall Park
June 6, 2009
In a stop-and-go start that mirrored the alternately overcast and sunny sky, not to mention the breeze that came and went, this young five-piece band was nevertheless the direct reflection of the warm inviting weather next to Burlington's government headquarters this summer afternoon. Bryan McNamara's guttural sax sounded just smooth enough around the edges while composer/pianist Parker Shper's instrument was simultaneously warm and crisp. Traditional as their roots might be, the group expands upon tradition making their final slot in the bill a sign of deserved respect.
Luis Perdomo Trio
June 8 2009
From the very first notes struck by The Luis Perdomo Trio, it was abundantly clear they were going to bring a classic jazz format to full fruition. The intensity rose through the first two numbers while Perdomo and co. found the perfect foil for the rollicking "Baby Steps" (written by the leader's wife) in the gorgeous balladry of "Comedia."
Certainly the piano trio was perfectly suited to the low-ceilinged intimate downstairs venue and vice versa: the acoustic piano, double bass and minimal drum kit was all perfectly audible in almost audiophile sonority throughout the first set. As they played, there wasn't a wasted note as each musician aligned with the other two, overlapping only enough to create an ensemble sound without sacrificing their individual instrumental personality.
The Will Bernard Band
June 9, 2009
What was true of The Luis Perdomo Trio was equally true of West Coast guitarist Bernard and his band. The quartet was right at home in the informal atmosphere of the Burlington landmark and the sound suited the space, allowing the deep bass lines of Tim Luntzel, the least known member of the group, to rise to its proper prominence (and remain perfectly audible throughout the close to three hours of playing). Each of the other three members of the band was worth watching and listening to on their own. New Orleans native Stanton Mooredances behind his drums (when he can't help standing up all of a sudden) and with eyes closed sounds almost as mighty as an entire marching band. Robert Walter, on the other hand, is the epitome of casual as he plays Hammond organ with quiet panache: no one could make it look easier.
For his part the leader of the band is deceptively dexterous, utilizing the liquid texture of Wes Montgomery, an unorthodox approach to the bottleneck no to mention the bonafide badass attitude of a rocker: the final tune of set two was Led Zeppelin's "Good times Bad Times."
June 11, 2009
Highly improvisational music the likes of which this Dutch trio plays rarely derives from the blues, but this rainy Thursday night a snappy shuffle and a hard twelve-bar provided the launching pad for a first set that moved into truly rollicking sounds before it was abruptly over. There's a sense of exuberance that comes from free playing like this, but it rarely appears with such a tangible sense of purpose. This threesome were confident enough of themselves to alternately avoid melody or play it at will, exulting in the sound of their instruments with all the relish of the attentive audience.
The Branford Marsalis Quartet
June 12, 2009
Any thoughts of a staid formal presentation from Marsalis and his band went out the window during pianist Joey Calderazzo's tune "Blossom of a Parting": the author played his instrument as gently as could be prior to the rest of the group coming in to create rolling waves of intense playing. It was just the first instance of the audience lighting up in response to the vigorous interplay between the four musicians.
On this gorgeous evening, after a day (and night) of rain, The Branford Marsalis Quartet was a whole much greater than the sum of its parts, especially so because the leader was front and center roughly only ten to fifteen percent of the time the group was on stage. But, in music as in business, the tone is set at the top: Marsalis would introduce a theme and the direction of the piece, as he did on the encore "St. Louis Blues," then would go to the rear of the stage to enjoy, unobtrusively, the instrumental repartee of his band.
And there was much of that, particularly in the form of precocious drummer Justin Faulkner, who fully justified his cocky demeanor. With all intelligence and complete immersion in his playing, bassist Eric Revis demonstrated equal aplomb when he took his solo. Not the final show of Discover Jazz 2009 or even the last from the MainStage, but the finality of The Marsalis Quartet performance necessarily rendered all that followed through the second weekend an anticlimactic encore.
Pato Banton-Corey Harris
Waterfront Park World Tent
June 13, 2009
And that's just how the reggae music at the World Tent worked Saturday afternoon and evening. It might have been more or less enlivened and enlivening if the weather were sunny rather than rainy, but that's the relative nature of encores: they can function as a huge sendoff or a quiet benediction. Harris' solo acoustic music laid a solid foundation for Banton and his band, which built momentum with each successive tune, the inclusion of a tease of Bob Marley inevitable perhaps (certainly more so than one of The Police!?!), but appropriate nonetheless.
And more so than he might have guessed. One of the late reggae icon's most oft-quoted lyrics might apply to the 2009 Discover Jazz Festival: "When the music hits you, you feel no pain..."