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Burlington Discover Jazz Festival 2017

Doug Collette By

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The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival
Burlington, Vermont
June 2-11, 2017

With multiple popup shows and one on the roof of a local parking garage, in addition to the usual plethora of musical offerings up down and around Church Street at the center of the city, The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival has never seemed more like a merry go round than in 2017.And that's meant as high compliment because each passing day of the ten in the schedule offered a slightly different perspective on the multitude of events taking place throughout the Queen City. Over the years, BDJF has come to pride itself on an eclectic take to both style and presentation, but perhaps never more so than this its thirty-fourth year: just look at a Flynn Center MainStage lineup comprised of Pink Martini, Diana Krall, Robert Cray and Kamasi Washington.

What's different this year and perhaps only subliminally so, is an elevation in significance of events related to, but not formally arranged by, Discover Jazz itself. So, the June 9 Block Party on Church Street, the Long Trail Ale concerts up and down the same thoroughfare and the triple bills at Waterfront Park (featuring headliners Trombone Shorty and Arrested Development) all compel as high a profile as artist-in-residence Terence Blanchard who played two shows within the cozy confines of FlynnSpace.

This year, though, it's impossible to under estimate the cachet of must-attends at Nectar's. Highlighting of local music stalwarts such as Seth Yacovone and Vorcza thus compared favorably—some might say exceeded—the range of style offered in the cabaret-style venue, now a firmly established bastion of memorable performances, the likes of Bassdrumbone and The VT/NY Collective underscore the fundamental truth of this festival's title 'Discover Jazz.' It's a growing and changing concept, like the very music from which it derives its name.

Robert Cray
Flynn Mainstage
June 3, 2017

It's illustrative of the broad appeal BDJF aimed for in 2017 that bluesman Robert Cray followed the kitschy likes of Pink Martini on the Flynn Center Mainstage. In front of an audience clearly primed for his mix of soul singing and guitar slinging, Cray and his band reminded that the blues is a comfort zone for him, a somewhat narrowly defined happy place of which the quartet pushed the boundaries roughly two thirds of the way through their ninety minute set. Further demonstrating that intensity is a purely relative concept, slow blues were not markedly different that the predominantly mid- tempo numbers Cray and company tendered. Perhaps goaded by the vocal crowd, at certain points late in the evening, the musicians threatened to catch fire but drew back, until the two-part encore where "The Forecast (Calls for Pain)" turned as emotionally wrenching for Cray as it was cause for celebration for his fans in the seats. Unfortunately, on the final number, the sound of keyboardist Dover Weinberg organ wouldn've been far preferable to the synthetic sounds he unfurled at these crucial moments?

Sullivan Fortner Trio
FlynnSpace
June 4, 2011

The Sullivan Fortner Trio are a groove incarnate, individually and collectively. The threesome walked out before their audience in a rhythm which continued, with all appropriate modifications, as they spent roughly ninety minutes in various conversations conducted verbally, facially and instrumentally. Mixing a clutch of tunes by Thelonious Monk (including "Crepuscule with Nellie"), originals by both the leader and the rhythm section, plus standards and the theme song from "Wheel of Fortune," pianist Fortner and company proffered bouncy takes that came in increasingly quick succession as the single set progressed. Yet the quick bursts of the tunes, punctuated regularly with laughter all around the intimate stage, sounded of a piece rather than disjointed, the tangible result of a spontaneous approach that highlighted the variations of the material and the melodic and rhythmic variations that arose from the songs.

Peter Brotzmann & Heather Leigh
FlynnSpace
June 5, 2011

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