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Live Reviews

Lake George Jazz Festival

By Published: March 12, 2004
Amran scatted, invented hip poetry lyrics, played piano, tin flute, talking drum and French horn. His own "In Memory of Chano Pozo" was a delightful Latin romp in memory of the conga player Dizzy used to first introduce the marriage of Cuban and American music. Amran's "Pull My Daisy," from his Kerouac beat days was superb, a simple blues in which all the members of Monk's group soloed joyously. On piano, Amran traded fours with Monk; on French horn, after borrowing a mouthpiece on the spot from an orchestra member, he traded fours with Porcelli. He sang its hipster lyric and scatted out slick rhyming poetry about the Lake George area and about people in general. It was a fun, raucous, spiritually uplifting.

Wilkins started off the festivities on the first day bringing his great touch to staples like "Gone With the Wind," "How Deep is the Ocean," and his own "Kiwi Bird." His quicksilver hands and solid tone are remarkable. Wilkins should be better known, though as Pines noted, among guitarists, he's revered. A great musician.

Another notable set came from Vacca's group that had five people playing percussion instruments from all over the world. There was no traditional trap drum set, but seemingly everything else under the sun. Sound boring? It wasn't. The steady propulsion was captivating and the number of different tones and sounds and rhythms enthralled everyone from the gray-haired to the small children. It was an experience in rhythm, in feeling and in exaltation. It was stirring in its effect.

Vacca, too, recited beat-type poetry that celebrated the oneness of man, and the uniqueness. It wasn't all drums, though they dominated. Joe Sallins also played some bass, and Tim Moran provided tenor and soprano sax melodies over the rhythms at times, evoking a John Klemmer-like feeling. The music was entrancing and charismatic — a great prescription for the numbness that terrorists cast upon a nation earlier in the week.

The only sub-par note of the weekend came from singer Melissa Walker, whose sense of time and pitch were off in a poor set. She said she considered not making the trip, due to the tragic events, and maybe she was affected by it. Based on what was heard, there are hundreds of jazz singers of better quality across the nation. Her reach exceeded her grasp.

But the weekend, at the best "little" jazz festival around, was outstanding. It was also much needed. It was a good call by the organizers to keep it rolling, and it was a great job by the artists to send out a positive and hopeful vibe that hopefully won't soon be forgotten. Music, the most visceral of all arts, proves once again that the human spirit won't be suppressed.

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