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Live Reviews

Berkshire Jazz Festival: First-time Jazz Fest is a Big-time Hit

By Published: March 12, 2004
Reeves (also on the Blanchard CD, but her set was unrelated), was also very inspired. Her voice is an outstanding instrument and she used scatting, plus a great sense of swing, singing behind the beat, and all around it, in a very strong set. Some songs were not in the jazz repertoire (“music without boundaries,” she said), but the improvisation changed them entirely. Cat Stevens’ “Morning Has Broken,” was utterly transformed into an exotic and imaginative romp; “Afro Blue” displayed the range of her vocal instrument; “Lullaby of Birdland” was a tribute to Sarah. “Embraceable You” was a sensuous ballad, showing her soft side, her voice resonant and true. “Nine,” which she wrote about being 9 years old, was a fun romp, rhythmically aggressive, but with a tender and nostalgic lyric that was soft and humorous.

Randy Weston’s group played his typical African-influenced music, the large man displaying a heavy, percussive touch, filled with invention and passion. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band showed that Dixieland can be cool and bluesy when done at its finest.

The Paul Winter Consort played without Winter, delayed by a cancelled flight and road traffic. But he showed up and pleased the crowd with his World Music style (which he’s been playing long before they called it that). The band, particularly Bill Mays on piano, was very sympathetic in support.

Of the lesser known musicians featured, the Richie Hart trio was super. Guitarist Hart is a mainstreamer with plenty of chops and fire. He was supported by veterans Rick Petrone on bass and Joe Corsello on drums; they were both excellent in their in-the-pocket support, as well as wonderful in their solos.

Mark Morganelli, Jazz Forum Arts director and a fine trumpeter, said the group signed a 3-year pact with the ski center for the festival. This well-run, relaxed event, with its excellent lineup, could become a mainstay for fest goers. Let’s hope its better advertised next time. While the crowd was not small, the quality of the event should have attracted more. Many people commented that they found out about the event almost by happenstance. It was a quality event and it should one day be an automatic must-go event for the region.

Bravo, Jazz Forum Arts. Encore.

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