25th Annual Discover Jazz Festival, Burlington, VT
Discover Jazz Festival
May 30-June 8th, 2008
The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival has a profound right to celebrate its 25th anniversary this year. In the quarter century of its existence, it has performed the dual service of honoring the great traditions of jazz and its artists, at the same time developing a forward thinking approach to the music and its creators. In learning to anticipate the innovations to come and simultaneously revering the foundations upon which those innovations are built, Discover Jazz has made a name for itself and developed a legacy of its own worth revering.
2008 is, not surprisingly, a case in point. The courage of the Festival's collective convictions prompted Grammy-nominated Ledisi to open the ten days of musical events in a decidedly contemporary vein. While it might not have justified itself in pure business terms (Flynn Mainstage theatre attendance was limited), it nevertheless set a vibrant tone by dint of the performers' lustrous stage presence.
Joshua Redman Trio
May 31, 2008
The incessantly pouring rain on the last day of May certainly put a damper on the tribute to the late long-time presence of Burlington's music scene, Big Joe Burrell, but it didn't dull the spirits of the audience or the artist at Saturday's mainstage show. Having become acquainted with at least some of his fans and listeners at the afternoon's meet and greet in FlynnSpace, Joshua Redman distinguished himself on the Mainstage as he has virtually throughout his whole career: primarily as an authoritative bandleader who submerges himself within the playing of his group and less prominently as an instrumentalist.
Redman may always be in the process of developing his own voice on the saxophone. Certainly he doesn't play in a truly linear fashion and that is to his credit and distinction, but perhaps no more so than his willingness to allow almost equal input from his comrades on stage.
If you have ever seen Larry Grenadier in the pastwith Brad Mehldau, John Scofield or Pat Metheny you can't help but notice he develops more subtlety and strength in his bass playing as time goes on. Drummer Gregory Hutchinson has a history with Redman, having been a staple of the acoustic quartet of the nineties, but he possesses his own innate sense of dynamics, using his entire kit to play with as much flair when he generates a groundswell of rhythm as when he is restraining himself to just his finger on a ride cymbal.
Paquito D'Rivera's Funk Tango Quintet with The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival Big Band
June 1, 2008
The purity of the Redman Trio's approach certainly hit a chord with the sold-out crowd, but no more so than Paquito D'Rivera as he played with his own quintet after an opening set of his own material with the Discover Jazz Big Band. The return of the latter near the end of the second set was actually something of a disappointment, if for no other reason than the means by which D'Rivera's small group altered its approach when on-stage alone with their leader: each member opened up his playing as the five interacted in a loose- limbed fashion that packed more punch, relatively speaking, than the larger lineup.
That's no criticism of the big band, but only the observation that, except for the final tune of the first set, introduced by Dave Grippo on baritone sax and three other hornmen in a pulsing intro to the tune, the larger ensemble swung and swayed gracefully for the greater part of their time on stage. Big band music may or may not be an acquired taste, but the BDJBBas introduced by leader Alex Stewartmay have opened some ears to its virtues this Sunday night.
June 2, 2008
It's gratifying to see FlynnSpace at capacity but less surprising each passing year of the Discover Jazz Festival. The intimate venue adjacent to Mainstage has nurtured a reputation of its own, not as an alternative to the more mainstream shows, but as a means of augmenting them. An ideal case in point was Trio 3: Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille alternated the abstract and the celebratory in their low-key performance, illustrating how little good jazz needs any trappings of show business but rather thrives on the purity that derives from a direct connection between musicians and listener. Given the relative brevity of the tunesroughly between five and seven minutesit was remarkable how much ground the threesome covered in their flights of fancy: rumbling low notes were interspersed with polyrhythm that emanated from seemingly nowhere, as these three venerable jazzmen made it look and sound easy.
June 4, 2008
This brave, articulate trio led by saxophonist Tim Berne gave what may have been the most invigorating performance of Discover Jazz 2008.