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Discover Jazz Festival 2005 Burlington VT: Bouncing Around the Room(s)

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Its gratifying in itself that prestigious jazz artists come to Vermont, doubly so when they play at such a high level of inspiration when they are here.
Each year Burlington's Discover Jazz does an admirable job in providing jazz fans a chance to hear music to suit their taste, reaffirm their taste or broaden their taste, and this year is certainly no exception...

Bill Charlap Trio/Flynnspace - Monday, June 6

One wonders if the approach of The Bill Charlap Trio was more or less studied for their first show on this weekday night. The latter half of the Charlap trio's hour and fifteen minute set at 8:30 p.m. was tuneful and energetic, most of the color and momentum provide by rhythm partners Peter and Kenny Washington. For his part, Charlap painted with broad strokes on piano, predictable touches of melodrama only accentuating an overall method as conservative as his dress (gray suit and tie, white shirt). The splendid sound filling the intimate room made the music more enjoyable than it otherwise might've been, but having said that, Charlap & Co. made for a comfortable introduction to a week's worth of diverse jazz

Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts/Flynnspace - Tuesday, June 7

Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts band displayed an ebullient temperament in keeping with their leader's own boisterous, comedic personality. The first of two sets ranged from warm ballads just shy of the saccharine, formal improvisations that left you wondering if the quarter was too staid for its own good, then on to some crisp interplay highlighted by not one, but two fascinating solos by Wilson using both bare hands and sticks.

A flat room sound in comparison to the previous night was the only drawback to an entertaining presentation that drew on jazz tradition, the opener composed by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, as much as it portrayed how fluid the genre can be: Wilson's original "25 Years of Rutabagas evolved from soft sounds to churchy/cheesy organ, which when you reminded yourself it was (or might've been) meant ironically, proved jazz can be pure fun.

Kurt Rosenwinkel/Flynnspace - Wednesday, June 8

That Kurt Rosenwinkel was able to bring a standing-room only crowd to the Flynnspace says as much about the fascination with guitarists as his own rising star as the heir apparent of contemporary jazz fret hero. Certainly Rosenwinkel's hungry to play, dominating each number through its seven- to ten-minute length, demonstrating an undeniable technical proficiency.

To his further credit, he adheres to tradition with his (over?) reliance on standards by Billy Strayhorn and Joe Henderson. And that's not to mention his warm liquid tone, reminiscent of Jim Hall, among others, that's so inviting to listen to in and of itself. But the absence of any discernible familiarity with the blues leaves his dynamic range stunted, leaving you to wonder if he unveiled any surprises whatsoever in the second set he played this mid-week night.

Sonny Fortune-Rashied Ali/Flynnspace - Thursday, June 9

Within ten minutes of beginning their performance, Sonny Fortune and Rashied Ali generated more energy in this intimate venue than had been evident in the three previous nights. Their extended free-playing duets of saxophone and drums may not have been to the liking of all who showed up—more than a handful of attendees heading for the door within the first thirty minutes, but for the faithful who knew what to expect, they were rewarded and energized.

Formulating a logic all their own and reinventing it continuously as the minutes wore on, Fortune and Ali deliberately aimed for that rarified air first explored by the drummer when he worked with the late John Coltrane in the late '60s; it's a space few musicians visit—much less live—and for a music fan it's an acquired taste, to be sure, but the stimulating vigor of their presentation excited the crowd no end. Their climactic flourish, with the theme of "My Favorite Things at the end of 90 minutes , sounded simultaneously like homage to Coltrane and a statement of purpose to continue the musical adventures the late saxphonist first initiated.

Dave Fiuczynski's Kif/Club Metronome - Thursday, June 9

Just as Fortune and Ali were finishing guitarist Dave Fiuczynksi was beginning some adventures of his own up the street and up the stairs at Club Metronome. With his current band Kif redolent with tones and timbres from Middle Eastern music, if not all the structure that might benefit Fuze & Co., the three-man attack was formidable, indeed, their electricity both tangible and intangible before a sparse crowd.

Fluid, heavy drumming and wide-ranging wiry bass brought to mind hard-rock icons Cream and the Hendrix experience, a stable foundation for the guitarist leader's exploratory forays along the dual fretboards of his double-necked six- and twelve-string guitar. More rhythmic chording to counterpoint his harmonic picking might elevate the intensity of Kif even more, but it'd also render them less distinctive, as flourishes of funk combined with exotic sonorities created a world music of a whole different kind for those lucky few there to listen.


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