Saturday, June 6, 2009

Jazz Fest Daze

(on the left: Bob Blumenthal with vocalist and upright bassist Esperanza Spalding)

At 5:30 on Friday, the FlynnSpace hosted the first of the annual "Meet the Artist" sessions with artist-in-residence, jazz critic Bob Blumenthal.

He engaged with Esperanza Spalding in conversation that included her observations that Bach Inventions had the best bass lines; that when she was younger she would hear a song on the radio or on a CD, memorize it and play it on the piano as her own composition, until someone finally called her on it; that all of the exciting elements of jazz are also in bluegrass; that you can never completely prepare to improvise; that her "sound" on the bass is partly based (pun intended) on how the instrument rests on her pelvic bone and how each bassist's sound is partly a reflection of their particular body; that her song writing often begins in just watching people and making up stories about what she's seeing and, finally, how she aims for the "arc" of the storyline in each bass solo.

Anat Cohen (above)'s sound check ran late so she only had a brief time to talk with Bob but she added the thought that jazz knows no gender, age or color. She mentioned that Anzic Records, Anat's recording label, is her own and she maintains complete control over her music. (Which is something jazz artists from Mary Lou Williams to Blossom Dearie to Betty Carter have found crucial to their own financial success-my obsevation.)

Later, the concert upstairs in the Flynn before an appreciative audience with both women's groups was filled with high points but one that particularly struck me happened during Anat Cohen's set when her drummer Daniel Freedman used a rather long silence as part of his drum solo and the Flynn audience was perfectly in sync with him and seemed to hold its collective breath right in time with his phrase -you coulda heard a pin drop. One begins to understand why musicians like playing in Vermont.

Trio Gusto with Mike Martin at Leunig's tent on Church Street Burlington Saturday night. (right)

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