It’s March, which typically means that many Vermonters will succumb to cabin fever and retreat to warmer climes. This year, the late-winter exodus will include a couple of notable local jazz acts traveling to far-flung corners of the globe in coming weeks. Call it a jazz version of spring break — minus the booze and public nudity, presumably.
Hepcat George Voland will head to Burlington’s sister city of Yaroslavl, Russia, to perform at the Jazz Over the Volga festival March 14-21. Voland has performed with Yaroslavl musicians during the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival and says he’s excited to continue the cultural exchange between the two cities. Voland will bring along a handful of helping (jazz) hands with VT connections, including keyboardist Joe Davidian, vocalist and trombonist Elizabeth Dotson-Westphalen and “honorary Vermonter,” flutist Ali Ryerson, who appeared on Voland’s first recording some years ago and now travels the world performing and teaching. Oh, and she also leads a big band — wait for it — composed of flutes. True story.
An interesting side note: Ryerson’s father, guitarist Art Ryerson, performed at the same festival some 40 years ago as part of a tribute to Louis Armstrong. Small world. For more info on the band and the trip, check out georgevoland.com.
True, Yaroslavl isn’t exactly a typical spring-break destination — it’s about 150 miles north of Moscow, for starters. But some local musicians are traveling to steamier destinations this month. For example, jazz giants Kilimanjaro, who have been invited to perform at the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival in Indonesia, which begins this weekend.
I recently chatted with Kilimanjaro founding member Chuck Eller about the honor. We spoke over the phone because Chuck was at his new studio in Mexico, where he now spends the winter months … screw you, Chuck. Er, I mean … he was clearly jazzed about the deal.
Kilimanjaro have been around the block, and the globe, a time or two in their three decades together. But Eller says that Java Jazz, among the world’s most storied jazz fests, has long been on the band’s bucket list. He also notes that, following their performances, the band plans to zip through Bali for a run of dates. Screw you, Chuck. Er, I mean … safe travels!
Of course, the big news this weekend is the Magic Hat Mardi Gras Parade in Burlington on Saturday. A fundraiser for the Women’s Rape Crisis Center, it’s the largest single-day party in the state. The parade attracts tens of thousands of revelers to the city to get royally trashed and then jockey for position with small children to snare cheap plastic beads and moon pies. In addition, it’s also a pretty epic day for music.
As has become tradition, local Afro-Brazilian percussion ensemble Sambatucada! will heat up the top block of Church Street with fiery rhythms. They will then give way to local funky bunch Bearquarium, who will rock the top block both before and after the parade. But wait, there’s more! Several Queen City venues have live music all day long, including Nectar’s, Red Square and 1/2 Lounge.
The House that Phish Built gets thing started bright and early — like, 11 a.m. — with a funk-heavy lineup that includes Canyonero, Kite, Jatoba, Turbine, Love in Stockholm and Goosepimp Orchestra. Meanwhile, upstairs at Metronome, local rockers Waylon Speed get their speed western on with an après-parade set.
Red Square gets going early, as well, with a morning set from the Steph Pappas Experience, followed by DJ Cre8 and then, once again, Bearquarium. Meanwhile, in the Red Square Blue Room, turntablists rule the day with a lineup that includes Frank Grymes, Nastee, Craig Mitchell and DJ Stavros.
The Square’s hip next-door neighbor, 1/2 Lounge, gets up a little later in the day, with a mid-afternoon set from neo-soul siren Myra Flynn, followed by Tom Waits tribute act Small Change and rowdy cowboys Whiskey Bullet.
Band Name of the Week: Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers. Déjà vu, anyone? Yes, it’s the same band I designated for this “award” last week. No, they’re not playing here again this week. But experiencing their pure, unbridled awesomeness at the Monkey House last Thursday, I thought it fitting to make them the first back-to-back BNOTW winners in Soundbites history. How awesome were they? Glad you asked. You know that scene in the original Wayne’s World when Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) first see Cassandra (Tia Carrere) singing at that crazy metal club? They’re both stunned, saying only, “She wails.” That’s kinda what I felt like watching Shilpa Ray. That woman — all 5 feet and 90 pounds of her — is a dynamo. I’m pretty sure she violates several laws of physics, not to mention the advice of vocal coaches everywhere, each time she unleashes that banshee wail from her minuscule frame. Unreal. She will be mine. Oh, yes…
Band Name of the Week (Honorable Mention): Joey Pizza Slice. The ever-enigmatic Pizza Slice also played the Monkey last Thursday, delivering a set of — I’m not making this up — deranged lounge karaoke. His takes on Frank Sinatra and obscure Elvis Presley tunes were bizarre treats, to be sure. And gauging the reactions of audience members unfamiliar with his act is always fun. But Slice’s version of “Suddenly, Seymour,” from the musical Little Shop of Horrors, was something like a religious experience, and his introduction to the song was priceless: “I only know half the words. And it’s also a duet.” JPS tells me he has two new cassette-tape projects in the works for a pair of nonlocal labels. Details to come.
Local songwriter Phil Yates recently sent along a rough mix of a new cut that will appear on his forthcoming, asyet-untitled EP. I gotta say, I’m intrigued. Yates admits to a touch of Old 97s hero worship, which is evident on the track. As someone who spent a fair amount of time bowing at the altar of Rhett Miller with my own musical ventures, I can’t hold that against him. You shouldn’t, either. Catch Yates and his backing band the Affiliates at Radio Bean this Friday.
And finally, this just in from the Department of Corrections: Last week’s blurb about local punk band Skulls having their gear stolen in France contained a minor factual error. Namely, the Skulls didn’t have their gear stolen. Nor have they, um, been to France. The victimized group was actually Montréal’s Brixton Robbers. My bad.
Once again, this week’s totally self-indulgent column segment, in which I share a random sampling of what was on my iPod, turntable, CD player, 8-track player, etc,. this week.
PJ Harvey, Let England Shake
Toro Y Moi, Underneath the Pine
Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, Teenage and Torture
Tom Waits, Rain Dogs