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Burlington Vermont Discover Jazz Festival 2010: In Service to the Community

Doug Collette By

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Discover Jazz Festival 2010
Burlington, Vermont
June 4-June 13, 2010

The symmetry of the graphic design for the poster announcing the 2010 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is emblematic of the balance attained in this year's lineup. More thoroughly traditional than in years past, the event nevertheless could not help but produce a diverse array of styles given the stature of the musicians, including saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins and legendary guitarist Jim Hall. And that emphasis on quality, in turn, mirrored the panoply of activities that took place during the festival.

The Jazz Lab, offered by local recordists at The Tank Studios, allowed musicians to record themselves live in front of attendees present and via webcam. The Meet the Artist sessions, conducted by esteemed journalist Bob Blumenthal, allowed serious music followers to witness interactions between artists such as Allen Toussaint and their audiences in settings other than the performing stage. The Long Trail Concert Series provided live music on Church Street at all times and at various locations along the pedestrian thoroughfare, even as Burlington venues offered live music more often than at any other time of the year.

In addition to concerts at the intimate FlynnSpace—where surprises always abound—as well as the Performing Arts Center MainStage, the tent on the waterfront this year featured contemporary R&B in the person of Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, plus an extended afternoon/evening bill of reggae artists.

Perusing the colorful, information-packed but eminently readable program required meticulous attention to absorb the level of detail, but such thorough documentation only reaffirmed the impression of a truly great festival. With so much going on, some tough choices and irreconcilable conflicts are inevitable for the visitor intent on taking it all in: not even the most avid devotee of the music can be two or three places at once! The embarrassment of riches only served to call attention to what is perhaps The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival's greatest community service of all: to spotlight what a vibrant ongoing music scene exists in Vermont's Queen City.

Arturo Sandoval
Flynn MainStage
June 4,2010

Whether or not you imagine Sandoval as the opening, rather than climactic, act of a stellar weekend-long triple bill, there's no arguing how astute a choice it was to make Cuban-rooted jazz the kick-off of the entire Discover Jazz Festival. There may be no more infectious sub-genre of jazz, and the enthusiasm of the audience, sparse though it was in some quarters of the venue, was in proportion to Sandoval's own gusto, his ingratiating stage patter only warming the atmosphere further.

The trumpeter and his band certainly sounded larger than a quintet as they roared into action, maintaining a high level of intensity through at least the early part of their set. Thankfully, pianist Manuel Valera provided some variation in dynamics by offering lyrical interludes to offset the frenetic attack of saxophonist Charles McNeal. Sandoval & Co. relied a bit too much on pure technique rather than in-the-moment musical interaction, with drummer Alexis Arca the weak link of the group, as he seemed to struggle to keep up with his rhythm section partner, bassist Dennis Marks if not, in truth, the rest of the group. But the leader displayed an unwaveringly sleek tone from the first notes he played, greeting the audience with impressive aplomb.

Bob Wagner & Friends
Long Trail Concert Series
June 4, 2010

One of four bands sequenced in one of the festival's many outdoor events, Wagner & Friends gave new meaning to classic rock by substituting Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton for the usual heavy-handed fodder found in that niche. A terrific arrangement of "Isis" closed the set, but that followed less resplendent shreds, from Derek & The Domino's "Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad" through a reading of "Down in the Flood" that owed more than a little to The Derek Trucks Band's recent reinvention of The Basement Tapes tune.

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