Burlington Discover Jazz Festival: Burlington, Vermont, June 3-12, 2011
Big Joe Burrell Day City Hall Park June 4, 2011
Fastidious as they are, the organizers of Discover Jazz wouldn't presume to say they arranged the balmy weather that graced the area the first two days on the festival schedule. No doubt they would have wanted to take credit for the sunny, breezy atmosphere that descended on City Hall Park the afternoon of Saturday, June 4th, as it was ideal for the annual fete in honor of the late icon of Burlington Music, Big Joe Burrell.
As usual, a number of bands filled the skies with sound as the lawn collected women and children, old and young alike, but of special note had to be the appearance of James Harvey's Jazzilla's Jazzilla. For some years a steadfast figure of the Queen City's music, Harvey assembled an all-star band of sorts, including Nick Cassarino on guitar, Vorza's Robinson Morse on bass and Jen Hartswick on horns and vocals. In keeping with that versatility at his command, Harvey and company were equally at ease with jazz-lie, funk of a greater or lesser groove as the afternoon wore on as well, as a hearty swing through reggae territory. The band received rousing acclamation as they finished and they deserved it.
Herbie Hancock Flynn Mainstage June 4, 2011
As did Herbie Hancock before he'd ever played a note from the Flynn Mainstage on Saturday evening. A disciple of Davis and a living jazz legend in his own right, Hancock has maintained his integrity over the years, even as he has tested the limits of jazz music's accessibility. The keyboardist/composer's outing was a purposeful set throughout its over two-hour length: Hancock began as he ended with a feisty workout on the grand piano, joined by his inestimable rhythm section of Vinnie Colaiuta on drums and James Genus on bass.
Mid-set found the bandleader alone on stage for an extended rumination at the same ivory keyboard, during which time the teases of "Maiden Voyage" echoed over the likes of the theme from "Watermelon Man," originally of the same vintage (and reinvented in the 1970s for The Headhunters). Hancock's synth figures retain an earthy warmth after all these years.
Herbie Hancock gave no short shrift to any stage of his career at Discover Jazz 2011, but rather paid attention to the respective phases in direct proportion to the time he'd devoted to it. So The Imagine Project (Herbie Hancock Records, 2010) was well represented with the aid of Kristina Train on vocals and violin, while technology became an essential element of the show beyond the keytar Hancock brandished twice during the concert: audio samples from his hard-drive augmented the live musicians at least twice.
And even mugging for the audience, ever-so-eager to be pleased, found its level, because Herbie Hancock understands the value of showmanship and why it should not come at the expense of his innate curiosity and well-tempered imagination.
The Ray Vega Latin Jazz Quintet FlynnSpace June 5, 2011
The music that happens in smaller venues than The Flynn during the ten days of Burlington's Discover Jazz Festival often rivals what happens at that venue, at least when it occurs downstairs at the intimate FlynnSpace cabaret. Ray Vega and his quintet inaugurated the series of cabaret-style shows this year, effectively playing the role of opening act with a presentation of Latin-flavored traditional jazz on which he, in turn, let loose brassy brays alternating with more gentle, melodic turns of phrase. Meanwhile, his rhythm section was, not surprisingly, the star of the show, drummer Diego Lopez effectively grooving deeply along with bassist Andy Eulau or leaving light insinuations of rhythm floating in the air to entwine with Zaccai Curtis' electric piano.
JD Allen Trio FlynnSpace June 6, 2011
It was a coup of no small proportions that Discover Jazz was able to nab J.D. Allen for an appearance at FlynnSpace on June 6th. Allen is a rising star within contemporary jazz circles, ascending at a prodigious rate, and his performance did not disappoint. Unleashing a torrent of notes to begin and sustain the first set, he wanted to demonstrate what a thorough grasp of dynamics he possesses by devoting much of the second set to mid-tempo and balladic material that found his saxophone virtually caressing the soft notes as they left his horn.