Soundbites: Burlington Discover Jazz Festival First Look | Music News + Views | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Soundbites: Burlington Discover Jazz Festival First Look


Published May 12, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
Updated June 1, 2021 at 6:03 p.m.

  • Courtesy Of Beowulf Sheehan
  • JACK Quartet

Around these parts, the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is known as the gateway to summer. Normally, the annual 10-day event reaches nearly every square inch of downtown, with scores of nightclubs, bars and restaurants hosting music under the BDJF banner, not to mention venues such as the Flynn, Flynn Space, Waterfront Park and Church Street Marketplace. The jazz fest took a pandemic-induced hiatus last year and was replaced by a fully online alternative, the Burlington ReDiscover Jazz Festival. The virtual fest was a valiant effort under dismal circumstances, but there's nothing like the real thing. So Tuesday's announcement of the BDJF's return has us all doing the Snoopy dance.

From Friday, June 4, through Sunday, June 13, the BDJF lives — as a somewhat scaled-down but nonetheless exciting version of its usual self.

I think it goes without saying that all shows will allow for social distancing and adhere to the latest guidelines from the Vermont Department of Health, and yet here I am saying it nonetheless. But the biggest change from past years is that, aside from a few ticketed shows (such as guitarist Marc Ribot's trio Ceramic Dog at Nectar's on Sunday, June 6), everything this year is free and outdoors, with most of the action taking place in and around the Church Street Marketplace.

The BDJF kicks off with a raucous start, a show called "50 Saxophones" on the Burlington waterfront. Led by local funk icon Dave Grippo, the community-sourced group of players is set to rock your world with an en masse explosion of sax. Fun fact: 60 saxophonists have already signed up, so the name is technically no longer accurate. In this case, that's a good thing.

Also exciting is the final event of this year's BDJF: On Sunday, June 13, Middlebury composer Matthew Evan Taylor and New York City's JACK Quartet team up to premiere renowned trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith's new work, String Quartet No. 13. The show will be presented Hurly Burly-style at Smalley Park — that is, on a stage wheeled in on the back of a flatbed truck, as was done last summer during the Flynn's pioneering pop-up concert series.

  • Courtesy Of Luke Awtry Photography
  • Matthew Evan Taylor

There's a ton of great stuff to see and hear between these bookending shows. Though there won't be a boozy block party at the top of Church Street this year, there is one planned for Saturday, June 12, right smack-dab in the middle of Main Street under the Flynn marquee. Also presented Hurly Burly-style, the penultimate party features trumpeter Ray Vega and his Latin Jazz Sextet, psych-fusion outfit Barika, and a beer garden across the street in City Hall Park.

Throughout the festival's run, disparate local artists who have never worked together are teaming up for some collaborative performances.

Included in these unique partnerships, which were arranged and curated by guitarist and Saint Michael's College associate professor of fine arts/music Bill Ellis, are saxophonist Brian McCarthy and rapper Edwin Owusu (fka S.I.N.siZZle), pianist Tom Cleary and Afro-jazz duo KeruBo, violinist Daniel Bernard Roumain and percussionist Gopal Niroula, guitarists Paul Asbell and Mikahely, and pianist Amber deLaurentis and cumbia bandleader Maïz Sandoval.

"What does it sound like when they sit there and try to find some commonality?" asked the Flynn's artistic director, Steve MacQueen, of the collaborations in a recent call with Seven Days. I bet a lot of local music fans can't wait to find out.

See the full BDJF lineup on our Live Culture blog, and visit for additional info. And stay tuned to these pages in the coming weeks for more in-depth looks at this year's festival.

Into the Unknown

  • Courtesy Of Joseph Deuel
  • Tony Markellis

The Vermont music community recently said goodbye to bassist Tony Markellis, who died unexpectedly at age 68 on April 29. A longtime scene fixture, he was known for his work in the Unknown Blues Band and jazz group Kilimanjaro and as a player in the Trey Anastasio Band. Though he was technically a resident of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Markellis had a commanding presence in Burlington, particularly in the 1970s and '80s. Read his extensive obituary, penned by erstwhile Queen City nightclub Hunt's co-owner Fred "Chico" Lager, here.

"Whenever someone dies, they live on through the people who loved them," wrote Unknown Blues Band and Kilimanjaro bandmate Paul Asbell in an email to Seven Days and in the obituary. "Tony's sense of musical time and groove — and his sense of emotional support and friendship — were as immovable and solid as his physical build."

Markellis will be sorely missed, evident by a flood of social media tributes after news of his passing.

"It's a huge loss, obviously, on a personal level, but we have 45 years of having developed a musical language," said Chuck Eller, who also played in the Unknown Blues Band and Kilimanjaro, by phone. "That language is the ability to mind-read what the other person is going to do. After 45 years, you kind of get the kinks worked out, and you have this dialogue with your other players and a communication that only time allows. It's not something that you can do a cram course in."

Asbell and Eller told Seven Days that they plan to celebrate Markellis' life with a live music event later this year, though no details have yet been confirmed. We'll be sure to let you know when they are.

History Channel

Sigh. For two Mays in a row, we've had to endure a world with no Waking Windows Music & Arts Festival. Usually occurring the first weekend in May, the three-day indie music celebration in Winooski was one of the first major local events to be canceled because of the pandemic. Currently, the fest is scheduled to resume on Friday, May 6, through Sunday, May 8, 2022.

But you gotta stay busy, right? As a fun quarantine project, Waking Windows cofounder Nick Mavadones spearheaded the Waking Windows Archive, a listing and gallery of every Waking Windows show ever. Viewable at, the page features a complete list of every show the production company has put on, as well as a ton of art posters.

"I've always been one to archive emails or any attachments, anything anybody sent me," Mavadones said by phone. "It's weird to think back about the actual timeline of how these things came along."

The archive traces back the company's lineage to the pre-Waking Windows era, when upstart groups such as Angioplasty Media and MSR Presents, which eventually fused to become Waking Windows, were setting up shows all over town.

Aside from being an obvious nostalgia trip, the archive is the ultimate argument settler. You can look at the list and know with confidence which bands played with which other bands at which venue on which particular date.

On a hopeful note: Soon enough, shows that haven't happened yet will need to be added to this living document.

Cattle Call

Seven Days is looking to bring on some new freelance music contributors who can tackle the perennial task of album reviewing. Ideal candidates are Vermont-based, have extensive music knowledge and are comfortable reviewing albums in a range of genres. A familiarity with Vermont artists is a huge plus.

If you're interested, send me an email at [email protected] introducing yourself, along with three diverse, concise writing samples that highlight your music chops and show off your voice. Think 500 words or fewer.

Listening In

If I were a superhero, my superpower would be the ability to get songs stuck in other people's heads. Here are five songs that have been stuck in my head this week. May they also get stuck in yours.

Years & Years, "Starstruck"

Aurora Shields, "Only You Can Make Me Blue"

The 1975, "She's American"

Empress Of, "U Give It Up"

Gorillaz, "Clint Eastwood"

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