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Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2019

Doug Collette By

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Burlington Discover Jazz Festival
Burlington, Vermont
May 31-June 9, 2019

Prominent among the many of virtues the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival offers its hometown each year is a reminder of the energetic activity that permeates the Queen City of Vermont (and not just at this most wonderful time of the year). Witness the first night of 2019's ten-day run: in addition to one of the most friendly and accessible opening acts in recent years—Bobby McFerrin on the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts MainStage—Arts Riot's Friday night Truck Stop was in full-swing on Pine Street in the increasingly vibrant South End of the Green Mountain metropolis, while at the 'House That Phish Built,' Nectar's on Main Street, peripatetic Vermont native Seth Yacovone's solo acoustic set (a twenty-year plus weekly tradition) had given way to a tribute to Thelonious Monk.

Bobby McFerrin with Ranky Tanky
Flynn Mainstage
Friday May 31, 2019

At least in the early going of the first hour, Bobby McFerrin's set in front of a capacity crowd was not a tour-de-force, but then it didn't have to be: he responded in kind, albeit humbly, to the gracious and enthusiastic introduction he had received from the Mayor of Burlington, Miro Weinberger. McFerrin's subsequent crowd-pleasing gestures were par for the course at such concerts on the Mainstage and he might've seemed unctuous if not for the more solemn, gospel-inflected interlude that stilled, then stirred the attendees on the floor and into the balcony. The audience was with the gifted vocalist him every step of the way this opening night of Discover Jazz, at least judging by how quickly those in the seats picked up on his invitation to singalong some twenty minutes into the set. And there was barely a nanosecond between the his request for a partner in a vocal duet and the appearance of a more-than-capable volunteer by the name of Page. The twosome's instantly symbiotic relationship mirrored McFerrin's bond with Ranky Tanky, the five musicians and singers arranged alongside and behind him on stage; befitting that alignment, McFerrin was more a member of the troupe rather than simply backed up by that ensemble, a down-to- earth setting that nurtured the intimate air throughout the room.

Chris Potter
FlynnSpace
Saturday June 1, 2019

Befitting his variegated solo career, plus membership in bands led by the iconic likes of Dave Holland and Pat Metheny, saxophonist Chris Potter is nothing if not unpredictable. But any attendee of his first of two sets in the cozy confines of FlynnSpace might nevertheless have been surprised— and pleased— that this early show with drummer Eric Harland and bassist Reuben Rogers was more than simply free blowing. Not that the group didn't give free reign to such impulses, especially near the end of this performance and with vigorous aplomb. But the Circuits Trio—so named after Potter's latest long-player— also engaged in some very finely tuned interplay during this hour plus, many of which interludes were introduced (and/or furthered) by the leader's judicious use of technology as well as his brief turns at grand piano: such segments served to balance the use of pre-recorded sound effects in combination with delays and looping on both horns and flute. "The Nerve" was particularly notable in this eclectic, forwarding thinking mode, but the title track of the aforementioned album also reminded how memorable Chris Potter's previous visits to Burlington's Discover Jazz have been, precisely for that fundamental virtue of his distinctive horn playing: unlike so many who play his instrument, he refuses to engage in clever quotes too often—"My Favorite Things" came and went in a flash—preferring to offer always articulate and often eloquent passages that on this Saturday night so inspired his bandmates to stretch themselves proportionately.

Club D'Elf
Red Square
Saturday June 1, 2019

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