Jazz Hands! | Music News + Views | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Music » Music News + Views

Jazz Hands!

Soundbites: Discover Jazz Festival, Mocean Worker, The Barika Ensemble, Mike Device


Published May 28, 2008 at 2:31 p.m.

Can you hear it? Stop and listen for a second . . . got it? That, my friends, is the sound of silence, which reminds me of a song: “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” by Kenny Chesney. Great tune. Anyway, get your fill now, because starting this Friday, hardly a corner of the Queen City will offer refuge from the onslaught of aural pleasure we like to call the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival.

This year marks the festival’s 25th anniversary and, from top to bottom, the city has pulled out all the stops. From youth jazz ensembles ditching class to perform on the Church Street Marketplace, to living legends such as Ornette Coleman and Dave Brubeck on the Flynn MainStage, to virtually every nightclub, coffeehouse, restaurant and street corner in between, Burlington will be hopping with some of the finest jazz and jazz-influenced music being made today. I’m not what you’d call a jazz aficionado, but this is easily my favorite time of year in our lakeside hamlet.

Frankly, the sheer wealth of options is almost cripplingly overwhelming — it’s hard to know where to start. You’ve got your obvious “big ticket” shows such as the aforementioned luminaries, boogie piano sparkplug Marcia Ball, sax savant Joshua Redman and dancehall godfather Eek-A-Mouse. (Quick question: When the hell did reggae become jazz?)

But what makes BDJF so special isn’t just the glamorous names on the Flynn marquee. It’s the lesser-known acts on the smaller, out-of-the-way stages that have endeared us to the festival. Discover Jazz is about, well, discovery. Last year, a then little-known soul singer by the name of Ryan Shaw captivated a packed house at Nectar’s on a Wednesday night. Those who were there to see it maintain it was one of the best shows of the year — and I agree.

Over the last quarter-century, that phenomenon has likely occurred any number of times at a number of venues during jazz fest. And it’ll happen again this year, I guarantee it. The question is, of course, where? Here are my bets:

Mocean Worker, Wednesday, June 4, at Nectar’s. There’s a common misperception that I have something against funk bands. Frankly, I have no idea where anyone would get that idea — OK, I do, but that’s a story for another column. The truth is, I really like funk. I just don’t like bad funk, and this NYC sextet is anything but. Progenitors of what they describe as “breakbeat jazz,” these guys simply cook.

Project Logic this Monday, June 2, at Club Metronome. I know this show is highlighted in this very issue, but one thing you won’t find in the spotlight on page 16B are the members of the pioneering DJ’s backing band. Are you ready? Casey Benjamin on sax, Jared Nickerson on bass, Lettuce and John Scofield Band drummer Adam Deitch and — drum roll please — keyboardist Marco Benevento of the Benevento/Russo Duo. Talk about hired guns.

James Harvey, Paul Asbell & Nicholas Cassarino, Sunday, June 8, at the FlynnSpace. Though I bristle slightly at the notion that Harvey is “the godfather of the Burlington music scene,” as the BDJF claims (everyone knows music didn’t exist in Burlington before Trey, dude), the man is an incomparable talent and appears too infrequently these days. Plus, he’s playing solo piano, which is even more rare. Add a set of sonorous guitar strains from Asbell and Burlington ex-pat Cassarino, and you’ve got one hell of a double bill.

The Magic Hat Street Bizarre, Saturday, June 7, on the Church Street Marketplace. No jazz? No problem. More on this one next week, but here’s a teaser: Led Loco, The Aztext, The Cush, Farm, The Smittens and a new band from Chuch pedal steel player Matt Hayes called The Marsten Lot. And CSM thought The Jazz Guys were loud? Yikes.

I could go on. Instead, I’ll leave it up to you folks to find your own highlights, because really, isn’t that what the jazz fest is all about? Listen up.


If jazz isn’t your bag, there are still loads of options in the coming weeks to soothe your fickle ears, including a trio of locally focused music series at three of the area’s marquee venues.

Tuesday nights at Nectar’s have been a-rockin’ lately with the sweet sounds of some up-and-coming local talent. This Tuesday the (world) beat goes on with eclectic Burlington outfit The Barika Ensemble, who, in truth, are actually kinda jazzy. Good, but jazzy. Typically, the evening has featured a nice sampling of rock bands and songwriters and, really, you could find worse ways to spend a Tuesday night. Plus, if you’re over 21 it’s free. Bonus!

Moving down Williston Road, Wednesday nights at Higher Ground’s Showcase Lounge are about to take a local turn as the club unveils “Northern Exposure” on June 4. The weekly series will also include a selection of burgeoning regional acts, but, by and large, Vermont bands appear to make up the bulk of the schedule.

First up we have Mad River Valley songwriter James Kinne, South Burlington folk-rockers Flatlander — who apparently cover Hootie and the Blowfish . . . wow — Burlington rock outfits Close to Nowhere and Sour Boy, the last of whom claim that “a music revolution is coming.” Nifty.

Finally, this Thursday at Montpeculiar’s Langdon Street Café, three newer outfits are taking part in “Local Band Night,” which might be the most self-explanatory title in history. Getting in on the fun are Trail 18, psych-funk outfit Electric Sorcery and didgeridoo rockers Earthman. Did I just write “didgeridoo rockers?”


Before we bring yet another rousing installment of “Soundbites” to a close, I’d like to acknowledge the incredible efforts of the music community in helping DJ A-Dog put the pieces back together, following the fire that destroyed his apartment earlier this month. The outpouring of support has been truly remarkable and culminated in a stellar benefit last week at the Higher Ground Ballroom. But there’s still work to be done. And by “work,” of course, I mean “partying.” And, yes, I hate myself for using “party” as a verb.

Somewhat lost in the shuffle is the fact that Mike Porrata, a.k.a. Mike Device, a.k.a. Future Methods, also resided in the ill-fated apartment building on North Union Street and, like his neighbor A-Dog, he lost virtually everything he owned. Not that he’s been left out in the cold, but A-Dog’s name recognition has somewhat overshadowed Porrata’s equally significant loss.

This Saturday at The Monkey House, Tick Tick is devoting the next installment of its ever-popular dance party series, “Stereo Warm-Up,” to the cause, funneling all proceeds to Porrata and A-Dog. Both will man the turntables for the evening. Tick Tick will unveil a special screen-print for the occasion, which will be available for purchase. As an aside, I’m wearing a Tick Tick T-shirt as I write this, and I look simply stunning.

Hope to see you there.