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Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2019

Doug Collette By

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Effusive as she was effervescent, Bria Skonberg immediately won over her audience upon taking the stage of FlynnSpace this balmy Friday evening. And this proud native of Chilliwack. British Columbia, Canada maintained her hold on the crowd with a performance in which she maximized her multiple skills to their greatest potential. Yet she achieved that admirable end not by wowing the attendees through innovation, but instead by carefully parceling out her talents in playing trumpet and singing (with equally remarkable control on both fronts), as well as a selecting an effective mix of original songs and standards. The latter category included an encore of "Moonlight In Vermont" as touching in its own way as the tongue-in-cheek dedication to Vermont cheese (!?) in the form of "The More I See You." Reaffirming the predominant Dixieland slant of the seventy-five minutes plus, Skonberg also offered two tunes from the iconic Louis Armstrong including "Hotter Than That," thereby keynoting one of those rare performances in which the artist touched all the bases without ever appearing calculated or contrived; it was thus only natural the woman and her three well-practiced accompanists so fully charmed the near-full house.

Tia Fuller
FlynnSpace
June 8, 2019

The solemn intonations of Tia Fuller's voice on the pre-recorded introduction to her show made for the most theatrical inception of a FlynnSpace performance during the whole of Discover Jazz 2019. And while a similar theme pervaded much (but fortunately not all) of the BDJF artist-in-residence's between song patter, it did not undermine the impact of the complexity in her playing or her accompanying musicians: theirs was the kind of interplay where it was difficult to tell where composition left off and improvisation began. "The Coming," "Fury Of Da'Mond" and "Queen Intuition" were among a clutch of tunes from Fuller's album Diamond Cut (Mack Avenue, 2018) that comprised perfect fodder for the bandleader/saxophonist and her extremely able band to stretch out. Meanwhile, a vocal turn on Cole Porter's "I Love You" further personalized and consolidated an abiding connection with the entire audience, so that Tia Fuller and her band may well have rendered anti-climactic the appearance of Toots & the Maytals about an hour later at a densely-populated Waterfront Park on Lake Champlain.

The Left Ear Trio
Top of the Block
June 9, 2019

The Left Ear Trio's performance in the breezy bright sunshine of Church Street was, in many ways, a natural extension of the previous evening's picture- perfect weather. And while the threesome's two sets may have been more sparsely attended in comparison, the number of onlookers grew with each passing number. The vivid contrasts between "Slow Funky" and an imaginative cover of John Coltrane's "Big Nick" cemented observers' attention so that guitarist Michael Louis Smith, organist Andy Carballeira and drummer Dave Berger fully established themselves with their listeners: the titular bandleader's biting tone on his instrument was an ideal foil for the keyboard (especially as its low-tones were so prominent swirling from the Leslie speaker), while the latter made optimum use of his minimal kit. Even though other musicians followed The Left Ear Trio at the 'Top of the Block" throughout the afternoon of the final day of 2019's festival, the easygoing and authoritative stance with which they conducted themselves earned memorable positioning as de facto closer of the BDJF's ten-day schedule (notwithstanding the sudden cancellation of the final night's MainStage headliner, Brian Wilson). By the time the atmospheric "Gone" closed the first set, The Left Ear Trio had cemented a tacit, bittersweet adieu to these ten days preceding the summer solstice that represent such a reliable pinnacle of excitement and celebration year in and year out under the banner of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival.

Photo credit: Rudolph Lu
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