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Duck Jazz Festival 2017

Mark Robbins By

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The average early October temperature in Duck, NC is in the low to mid 70s, extremely comfortable for an outdoor jazz festival. Add to that the seasonal tourists have all gone home and the summer population of 20,000 is reduced to between 300 and 400 year round residents. Except this past October 8 the thermometer reached close to 90 with what felt like 100% humidity. That didn't stop an overflowing audience from attending this one day non-ticketed festival featuring national, regional and local jazz musicians on two stages. This years main stage performers were the The Robert Jospe' Express, The Rad Trads, Marquis Hill Blacktet, and Davina and the Vagabonds.

The Robert Jospe' Express consists of Butch Taylor on keyboards, Dane Alderson on electric bass and Robert Jospe' on drums. Playing from a mixed bag of jazz, funk, Latin and rock they kick started the day with high octane performance that continued throughout the day.

The The Rad Trads come out of New York and brought a collection of New Orleans brass band, early jazz, rock and roll, Chicago and delta blues. Playing with a smaller group than usual (home gigs include three horns and three lead vocalists). The Southern tour consisted of Johnny Fatum drums, Alden Harris McCoy guitar,Michael Harlen electric bass, Patrick Sargent tenor saxophone and Michael Fatum trumpet. If this festival had walls the Rad Trads would have blown them out.

Closing out the day Davina Sowers performed a stew of New Orleans, Memphis, and gospel. Their 2011 all original album Black Cloud received 4 1/2 stars from Downbeat Magazine and it was easy to see why. This band, which defies category due to its mixture of soul, blues, jazz and funk, explodes from the first words out of lead singer and band leader Davina Sowers. Close your eyes and imagine Etta James, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin and Aretha Franklin all on the same stage. That's Davina! Backed by Zach Lozier's trumpet/vocals, Steve Rogness on trombone/vocals, George Marich on drums and rotating bass players this group is in your face and dares you not to get up and dance.

Between The Rad Trads and Davina and the Vagabonds was the Marquis Hill Blacktet. Winner of the 2014 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Trumpet Competition Marquis Hill has been on the forefront of the jazz scene both as a player and educator for a great part of his life. Borrowing from their new album, The Way We Play, as well as originals and the Great American Songbook, Hill and his group played a set of straight ahead music reminiscent of smoke filled jazz clubs. Make no mistake, this is a 21st century group putting their own respectful spin on tradition.
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