Friday, June 19, 2009

One Door Closes, Another Opens

Well, the sun's set on another year for the Discover Jazz Festival.

We hope you've enjoyed the real-time reports here of everything from experimental music with banjos and pocket trumpets, to the straight-ahead sounds of Branford Marsalis and Duke Ellington, and Django-flavored Gypsy jazz from several local groups.

Not to mention the street performers, patio performances, and everything else!

And while the Jazz Festival's ended, summer's just getting into full swing. That means the start of the season for other music events and festivals all over the region. You can check out VPR's listing of music festivals here. Enjoy, and we'll see you out and about this summer!

Your Jazz Fest blogging team,

George, Jonathan and Cheryl

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

These hands deserve some applause

Fortunately for me, I've had many occasions in the past few weeks to cheer. To applaud. More specifically, to clap.

It started 2 weeks ago when I was fortunate enough to see Phish play at Fenway Park in Boston. I'm a longtime Phish fan and a Boston native, but I had never seen them live and I had never seen a concert at Fenway. Two birds, meet one stone. As you might imagine, there was lots of cheering and clapping at that concert. Every song, every solo, every intro, every encore, etc. Heck, Phish even has a song, Stash, which includes an audience refrain of rapid claps in succession. To wit:

The clapping party continued later that week when we had our annual Employee Recognition lunch at VPR. On that day we honored six of our colleagues for career milestones, six people with a collective 100 years of service to Vermont Public Radio. On the VPR Blog we called it "A Century of Service" and, deservedly so, they all received rounds of applause and even a couple standing ovations. In other words, more clapping.

And it continued from there. The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival began its 10-day run and I started to wonder just how much clapping I would be doing. Mind you, this is not a complaint - I rather enjoy clapping, and I can even be generous (although not overly) with the standing ovations. I merely thought it prudent to take steps to ensure I was in shape for the clapping-filled days ahead, much like a runner preparing for a marathon. Yes, I was like an athlete in training and, like any athlete, I am aware of the importance of proper stretching before and after a workout.  Never having prepped myself for rigorous clapping, I naturally took to the internet to learn some helpful stretching techniques:

As I was sitting in the chair, stretching like the lady in the video, I started to wonder: maybe I should mix it up. Maybe, rather than being an applause one-trick pony, I could expand beyond clapping and have a more diverse set of tools at my disposal for expressing approval in a crowd.  Sure, I can just increase my "woo-hoo" quotient, but that didn't really seem original.

I immediately considered ululation.  Wikipedia defines ululation as "a long, wavering, high-pitched sound resembling the howl of a dog or wolf with a trilling quality".  I suppose that's accurate, but I don't think that description makes it sounds as lovely as I think it sounds.  If you have ever been to a wedding or a concert with lots of African women, they often ululate in celebration and approval.  If you still don't know what I'm talking about, check this video: the ululation starts at around 13 seconds:

Guedra from Hannah Scarritt-Selman on Vimeo.

Unfortunately, Wikipedia states that ululating is "exclusive to women". I'm not sure how they enforce that, but since it's on the internet it must be true. Regardless, I don't really think it's a practical alternative to clapping for your average 30-something white American male.

After ruling out ululation I considered humming.  Yes, humming.  Last year I attended a conference at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard where the method of choice for crowd expression was humming. Yes, that's right, they/we hummed. The Berkman Center is just what it sounds like and at this gathering the crowd was presented with questions from the speaker and if they agreed, they hummed, if they disagreed, they didn't. If the speaker posed a question and heard a loud sustained humming from the crowd, the message was clear: if the speaker heard silence, the message was similarly clear. If the humming was mild - neither strong nor quiet - the speaker knew he had a mixed response and had to further refine his message to achieve some sort of agreement. While it was an effective technique for polling a crowd, it seems less effective as a tool of applause. Was I really going to leap out of my chair and hum for Anat Cohen?

Which brings me back to the Discover Jazz Festival, the original reason I was thinking about clapping alternatives in the first place. Back to the the Main Stage, back to the Flynn Space, back to the Waterfront, to Church St, to Radio Bean, to the rock outside Leunig's. These are the places I saw some amazing artists ply their crafts. This is where I watched Anat Cohen's hands work the clarinet, Esperanza Spalding's hands work the bass, Branford Marsalis's hands work the sax, Parker Shper's the piano, Jen Hartswick's the trumpet, and on and on and on. And I thought those - those are the hands that are truly working hard. Forget my clapping - these musicians' hands are the ones that are working hard to express their art, to entertain the crowd, and to fill our community with music.

And so, I clapped.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Winding down

Sunday afternoon before the Jen Hartswick show, your VPR Jazz Bloggers met for a coffee and a quiet set at Radio Bean in Burlington, VT. Mike Martin & Trio Gusto (above right) were doing their regular Sunday gig (albeit an abbreviated set so they could make it to their next Jazz Fest gig). And one very cute baby was dancing along (above left, obviously, and printed with permission from her dad).

It was a typical Sunday afternoon at Radio Bean: sun filtering in, locals meandering through, and music hanging out. And it was a great way to relax, enjoy some music off the beaten path, and begin winding down along with the festival.

Seen (Scene) around town, Pt. 8

Pictures from around town on Saturday and Sunday, June 13-14, including those seeds that look like snow, lights on the tent, the Rev. Lee Mitchell and friends, the Discover Jazz "bat signal", and one seriously cute baby.

All in the Flickr photostream...

Just Walkin' New England In The Rain

Classic sheet music covers sum up part of this year's Discover Jazz Fest experience.
Dancing in the rain works, eh?
Take it away Rudy.

Cheryl's Top Five (that weren't)

With the perspective of a day or so now I'm thinking about this year's Jazz Festival and trying to decide how to quantify and qualify everything I heard. I can't do it.

So rather than review my top moments of the Festival, I'm going to mention the big ones I regretfully did not see - and hope that next year's list is shorter!

In no special order, my "Top Five Misses" for Jazz Fest '09:

1. Lokum, a Turkish-Armenian /folk/roots band playing at the Skinny Pancake on Sat. the 6th. (By the way, check out the Jazz Festival's listing for band descriptions - what a great resource.)

2. Hot Pickin' Party at Halvorson's on Weds. the 10th. Missed it. Where was I? Oh yeah, somewhere else downtown listening to great music.

3. Will Bernard at Nectar's on Tue. the 9th. I really love Stanton Moore, the drummer playing with the group that night. But I got the night wrong and missed it - not in the cards to see him this time around I guess.

4. Bob Blumenthal's Meet the Artist session with Branford Marsalis and Justin Faulkner on Fri. the 12th. And by all reports it was a good one. Darn.

5. Last night's grand finale concert with Jennifer Hartswick, Joe Davidian, Dezron Douglas, & Cory Healey. It was a long week with Monday coming fast, and I just had to get home on the early side...ah, the curse of a 45-min. commute.

Top 10 From a VPR Volunteer

(Sousaphone duct-tape job, closeup)

"Top 10 things I've learned from the VPR Jazz Fest Blog" (submitted by VPR volunteer and jazz fan Barrett Grimm, ...drumroll, pah-LEEEEEZE!)

10. Check back often - updates are frequent.

9. Duct tape works on sousaphones, too.

8. Always a guitar in a hot club.

7. Diana Krall has twins.

6. The tents were a good investment.

5. I should take my lovely wife to Leunig's.

4. George Thomas likes to boogie.

3. Interpretive dancers use land lines rather than cell phones. Who knew?

2. George Thomas needs the Blackberry/I-Phone application that
allows him to operate the VPR board
remotely (say, from the Flynn).

1. Cheryl Willoughby has been keeping some loooong hours.

Do you have thoughts about this year's Discover Jazz Festival, or VPR's Jazz Fest Blog? Share your comments here and please let us know if we can post them on the blog.

George's Jazz Fest Favs

Jazz Fest Saturday afternoon at Burlington's World Tent on the waterfront. It was a great Discover Jazz Fest. My favs? In no particular order:

Pink Martini - fun, camp, even some jazz

Anat Cohen - good as I hoped, a clarinet goddess

Bob Blumenthal's interview with Branford Marsalis, didn't get to see the show

Jennifer Hartswick, Joe Davidian & Robinson Morse's live Performance on VPR

Three Way Tie between:

the sound check for Yousef Lateef and Adam Rudolph with more small
instruments assembled in one place than ever before and then Bob Blumenthal
squeezed in for the spiritual interview


two rooms of dancers, cellos, audience, basses, an avant-guarde Dutch Trio and
Art Brooks, the legendary trumpet player and educator from southern Vermont
all flowing back and forth high in the Firehouse on Church Street.


The Rain

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Movement Of The Martini

Movement Of The People and the Saturday night final tent of Jazz Fest 2009.

A large horn-rich rolling dance world tribute to the late Nigerian sax and vocalist Fela Kuti who annoyed his government with danceable, political lyrics & sounds and manged to enjoy a life playing on stage in only briefs, smoking herb in quantities even his reputed 40 wives couldn't keep up. Movement of the People recreates and keeps his music fresh with a tribute accurate in both music & spirit.

Stayed for their set, danced too hard and did something to both of my knees then up the hill to the Flynn, hit the Pink Martini show, never recovered.

House was full-looking and filled with quite a few return celebrants of the 12 piece Seattle band who sing songs in Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Turkish, on and on. Think Eartha Kitt hosting Prairie Home Companion with Louis Prima as bandleader, Carmen Miranda as music director and Dean Martin on board to teach World Music Cool. Add a few "classical" pieces with well executed violin/piano moments, sprinkle with jazz, do not fold in, pianist must fling hands & even arms about, vocalist is leaning slightly back, arms stretched, head back, the drama of a Broadway show vocalist with campy jazz humor. In the Program Notes by Bob Blumenthal he sums up with the statement that "Pink Martini creates what [founder and pianist Thomas H.] Lauderdale refers to as urban musical travelogues full of unashamed feeling and sly wit."

Swing, Swang, Swung

As I'm writing this I'm thinking it's just around the time the last notes of this year's Jazz Festival are sounding in the Flynn Space: Jen Hartswick and her Quintet. Nice closer for a memorable 10 days of music.

I had to call it an early night and head home before the final show, but even as I was leaving downtown around 6pm I saw a large group gathering outside the Flynn. Another full house, wish I could have stayed!

I did catch Mike Martin and Trio Gusto earlier this afternoon at the Radio Bean. What an absolute treat. They play at the Bean every other Sunday at 5 - definitely worth making a plan to enjoy them swinging through classics like Honeysuckle Rose, Careless Love, and a cheerful, irreverently updated 21st c. version of I Can't Give You Anything But Love (including Blackberries, cell phones, tanked portfolios and all. Wonderful.)

Since that's the last music I'm hearing for this year's event I can tell you I am leaving the 26th annual Festival a very, very happy music fan.

Seen (Scene) Around Town, finale

A few more random shots from today's walk around downtown: festive banners overlooking Church St.; sweet sounds of The Blue Gardenias at Leunig's; and the new exhibit Uncharted Territories at the Firehouse Gallery

Get On Board

My vote for best improvement of the 2009 Jazz Festival: moving the traditional Sunday morning Gospel show to Church Street. I've loved it in past years at the Waterfront, with a special memory of last year's show as the Lee Boys rocked it out and brought the place down.

But having it on the Marketplace puts it front and center, where it belongs, and sets just the right vibe for the last day of the Festival. Great move.

A few inspiring moments from this (early) afternoon's tent with Reverend Lee Mitchell and friends:

Seen (Scene) Around Town, pt. 7

Really enjoyed seeing (hearing!) so many young musicians out and about today.

Seen (Scene) Around Town, pt. 6

Lots to see, lots to do!

Seen (Scene) Around Town, pt. 5

It's the last day of the Jazz Festival but downtown showed NO signs of slowing down today, in fact it looked like there were as many folks out as ever. Amazing what a little sunshine, a lazy Sunday, and a lot of great music can do to bring us all together. Smiles all the way around...this is Eliza, who was out enjoying a walk on Church Street with her family.

Jazz: it makes me want to... draw?

The obvious boon of the Discover Jazz Festival is that it brings together the entire community to celebrate music. There are performances, large and small, spread out all over town, from the Main Stage at the Flynn to the impromptu stage on Church Street. From locals, like the Vermont All State Jazz Ensemble, to legends, like Yusef Lateef, musicians travel from near and far to create and share music.

But it's not just the jazz.  Take one trip down Church Street during the festival, especially on the weekend, and you'll see that the atmosphere of creativity nurtured during these 10 days inspires artists of all tools and instruments and media.

So what better time is there than during the Jazz Festival to have a Sidewalk Chalk Pastel Competition? Apparently, that was the logic of the Arts Alive folks and, fortunately for me, I happened to stumble across (if not walk over) the sidewalk art show yesterday.

For your viewing pleasure, a short walk through the City Hall Park on Saturday June 13, 2009:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Positive Vibrations

Day nine of the Jazz Festival and the music just kept coming. Under the tent tonight: Vermont's own Movement of the People: the Fela Kuti Project (on the left) ; Corey Harris, (right)...

...and Mr. "Stay Positive" himself, Pato Banton (below).

Here's That Rainy Day

Another wet night at the Waterfront Tent, but less so than the Bayou Tent event a couple of nights ago. No matter, that's why there's a tent - and plenty of music to keep everyone moving.

(On the right: two of your waterproof VPR Jazz Fest blogging team, Jonathan and me taking a break outside the tent on the waterside picnic tables. Turned out the rain was fine but the seagulls sure were pesky!)

Ensemble V at Firehouse Center

Firehouse free jazz & dance spread across two rooms on Thursday June 11th. Ensemble V musicians include Michael Chorney on prepared guitar; Anthony Santor on upright bass; Arthur Brooks on flugelhorn; cellists Polly Vanderputten and Nelson Caldwell and dancers from The Architects