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Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2016

Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2016
Doug Collette By

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Discover Jazz Festival
Burlington, Vermont
June 3-12, 2016

With thirty-two years of history, the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is an avowed tradition, but those who oversee the wide variety of events that take place in Vermont's Queen City for the duration of its multiple nights regularly find a way to inject fresh ideas into the basic concept. 2015, for instance, saw the introduction of recording shows at the intimate FlynnSpace, later to be broadcast on Vermont Public Television (and streamed on-line). This creative initiative continued this year in the wake of winning a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for future festival initiatives.

As in the past, BDJF 2016 inspired the city to join the festivities in all manner of ways, from the various venues that feature music on a regular basis throughout the year, like the historic home of Phish Nectar's, as well as the other clubs, restaurants and various locations who rise to the occasion of the festival. Not to mention the multiple local sponsorships that not only make the festival possible, but allow films, workshops, meet-the-artist sessions, over one hundred of which such events are free.

But the overriding distinction of 2016's Discover Jazz Festival lie in the vividly memorable way the high(er) profile concerts, over the course of the ten days, set in motion a discernible momentum not unlike that a great band will generate during a truly stellar performance. By the time Bela Fleck & The Flecktones left a tumultuous Waterfront Park stage near 11:00pm Thursday June 9, it was as if the main 'set' was complete, leaving the ensuing three nights as multiple encores. Such a perception does nothing to disparage the subsequent appearances of The Kenny Barron and Marcus Roberts Trios or anyone else subsequently performing before the festival's actual close the evening of June 12th: it only reaffirms how appropriate is the festival's name 'Discover Jazz.'

Randy Newman
Flynn Mainstage
June 3, 2016

Regular and repeated ripples of recognition for songs, spontaneous applause through the venue the likes of which usually erupts at the end of shows, whispered singalongs more frequent as the night evolved, a genuinely heartfelt thanks from the artist (including good wishes for the festival he headlined) and a final tune clearly directed at this capacity crowd...Burlington's 2016 Discover Jazz Festival could not have offered and received a better opening night than the the two-set concert by this award-winning, yet self-effacing songwriter. Over the course of the two hours plus, both performer and audience laughed knowingly during his salty repartee, even as poignant tunes such as "I Wish It Would Rain" rendered the room silent as he sat alone at the Steinway piano. Newman might've played one elongated set instead and/or delivered less between-song repartee during the second segment, but regardless, the reciprocal affection that permeated the air was a far cry from his performance back in the early Seventies on a co-bill with Bonnie Raitt, long before the modern renovation of the Flynn, in front of fifty some attendees a handful of whom came just to razz the performers. But then Newman's come a long way since then and it's not just his own hit with "Short People" or the popular covers of "You Can Leave Your Hat On" and "Mama Told Me Not to Come" (presented here in a short sweet take). It's a canon of tunes juxtaposed with numbers he's written for Disney movies like 'Toy Story,' as well as the poignant "Baltimore," which was no more or less cinematic than "Louisiana" which,like his lighthearted ode to Vladimir Putin, sounds as relevant now (perhaps more so) as when it was originally recorded. It wasn't even necessary to be a Randy Newman fan this warm June night: a voice caricatured but wholly unaffected radiated a deceptive confidence that justified the rapt and reverent attention from the floor and the balcony of the Flynn Center.

Will Bernard Trio
City Hall Stage
June 4, 2016

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