Burlington Vermont Discover Jazz Festival 2014 Burlington, Vermont May 30-June 8, 2014
During Burlington Vermont's Discover Jazz Festival, Vermont's Queen City teems with a level of excitement and activity unusual even for its ceaselessly vibrant environs. And while the Mainstage of the Flynn Performing Arts Center functions as the center of that universe, it is often the case that those performances at the intimate FlynnSpace downstairs, as well as other venues around the city, imbed the most indelible memories of the week-plus run. With all due respect to headliners such as Tony Bennett and Donald Harrison, 2014 was certainly no exceptionin fact, perhaps a better illustration than usual of that rule of thumb.
Seth Yacovone Nectar's May 30, 2014
Guitarist/composer Yacovone embodies the improvisational nature at the heart of jazz with his regular succession of performances with his own trio, Blues for Breakfast, and Dead Sessions. Though not officially affiliated with the fest, with this acoustic set he rose to the occasion of the BDJF's annual inauguration with one of the most scintillating set lists he's offered in recent memory. Having just celebrated his ninth anniversary of solo shows at the former home of Phish on Main Street, the native Vermonter offered tunes by Bob Dylan ("Po Boy"), the Band ("Ophelia"), two by Neil Young ("Thrasher" and "Motion Pictures"" and a selection from the vast repertoire of the Grateful Dead (in the form of Jerry Garcia's and Robert Hunter's "Dire Wolf"). If such an opener sounds a bit intimidating, it was no doubt intended, and worked successfully as an attention getter as Yacovone parlayed his various choices with an upbeat and fundamentally positive air. Even without brandishing his bottleneck at all, his impeccable acoustic fingerpicking lent further decoration to those aforementioned songs from which his voice elicited their intrinsic subtleties. And, to think the native Vermonter was heading out after these two hours for a show with Seth Yacovone Band, made the uniformity of this presentation all the more laudable.
Regina Carter Southern Comfort Flynn Mainstage May 30, 2014
Roughly halfway through Seth Yacovone's set up the street, the center of the Discover Jazz universe was filling with attendees for Regina Carter's concert, the momentum of which hit its home stretch at roughly 9:00 p.m. A headlining article in a Burlington weekly newspaper trumpeted the violinist's incursion into Americana on her latest recording, but just prior to the blues-derived "CC Rider" (where she and her four accompanists proved how to generate steam in low key), the collective offered palpable European strains that couldn't help but recall Stephane Grappelli's work with and without Django Reinhardt. Even so, those sounds were no more or less authentic than those emanating from the Louisiana-rooted tune, arranged by accordionist Will Holshouser, which closed the set. As polite as was the audience, deep in rapt attention to the detail in this musicianship, it was impossible not to sense the rustle of enlivenment as it permeated the listeners and, appropriate to its varied history, the building at large and the venues within. To call Carter's show a most apt opening for 2014 Discover Jazz is an understatement, given the festival's theme of traditionalism and the constant redefining of that concept in the hands, hearts and minds of the genre's most creative proponents.
Every year at Discover Jazz there's a show that, somewhat unheralded in advance, ends up becoming the buzz of the festival. As with J.D. Allen's 2011 show, this year the distinction may go to the Gregoire Maret Quartet, who played a late night (10pm) show in order to avoid conflicting with Tony Bennett
on the Mainstage. The band sounded sumptuous just coming down the stairs to the intimate venue, and all the more so when surrounded by the luxurious tones they created. Drowned out by the electric bass and drums once in a while early on, the mix evened out quickly to allow the warm, friendly tones of Maret's harmonica to float in and out of the keyboards of Federico Gonzalez Pena, creating a plush flow of sound not all that dissimilar to that of the Pat Metheny
Group, with whom Maret played in 2005. In their bell-like clarity and glistening tones, acoustic and electric pianos as well as the leader's instrument offset synthesized textures, while James Genus's bass flowed in tandem with John Davis's drums: it wasn't so much that they kept a beat as generated an ebb and flow of rhythm that added all the depth necessary to a create a cushion of sound upon which the sound of the leader's instrumentand in fact much of the comfortably ensconced audiencecould rest.
The Benny Golson Quartet Flynn Mainstage June 1, 2014