Greetings, race fans. And welcome to week two of your annual “Jazz Free Zone” “Soundbites” column, in which I make a concerted effort not to mention anything about the ongoing Burlington Discover Jazz Festival. With the exception of that last sentence. Ahem.
Actually, I’m going to break the rules and briefly mention two acts that caught my ears over BDJF’s opening weekend. Hey, I made the rule, so I can damn well break it, right? Right.
This past Friday, while the majority of Burlington was rocking to Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars on Church Street, I snuck over to Radio Bean and caught one of the hottest combos I’ve seen in a while, yoUSAy Placate. The all-star trio is led by local keyboardist Parker Shper and features the estimable Robinson Morse (Vorcza, Strength in Numbers, viperHouse) on bass and Montréal-based drummer Phil Melanson. Honestly, the band was worth the price of admission — you know, if Radio Bean charged one — if only to experience Melanson, who is among our northern neighbor’s most sought-after players. He is otherwise simply a joy to watch. But this night, the increasingly impressive Bryan McNamara (Strength in Numbers, Souls’ Calling) sat in on sax and blew doors off the room. Word to the wise: McNamara is officially a monster. Each member of yoUSAy Placate is playing in various ensembles around town this week. Do yourself a favor and seek ’em out.
The second group that got my attention was of a slightly different variety but no less impressive: Anna Pardenik & the Holy Smoke-Off, Saturday in the alley at American Flatbread. Pardenik is a throwback in the finest sense. Her stunning, full-throated voice resonated through the cozy brick patio almost as though it were crackling through the speaker of an old Victrola. And her backing band, whether on retro jazz numbers or eclectic indie-folk originals, was charmingly ragged, which regular readers know I love. Of course, any band that ably employs a musical saw is aces in my book. You can catch Pardenik and the HSO this coming Saturday afternoon at the City Hall Stage. And I suggest you do.
Discover … Other Music, Part 2
Peter Negroponte has a problem with the jazz fest. (Déjà vu, anyone?)
Actually, he doesn’t. But John Coltrane does.
I received a number of responses to last week’s bit about the Negroponte-curated Other Music Festival, which is currently underway at Burlington’s North End Studio. Most were from curious readers anxious to check out some good experimental music. But one letter, from a certain “John Coltrane,” offered a different take.
“If you really want to know what local jazz musicians think of the Discover Jazz Festival,” the late sax legend somehow writes, “I humbly suggest you seek out and talk to the top PROFESSIONALS in the area, not former/current UVM students. There are plenty of seasoned pros who will (happily) bend your ear.” ’Trane goes on to imply, specifically, a rift between local jazz players and the powers that be. He closes with this provocative line: “Not to mention how dangerous it is to water down a jazz festival with unmistakably pop, bluegrass and folk music. Not that these are poor-quality bands, but they belong in a jazz festival as much as Sonny Rollins belongs at a country music festival.”
Actually, that would be awesome. In 1957 Rollins recorded an album called Way Out West, which featured a number of jazzy takes on country-and-western tunes — and a picture of Rollins in a cowboy getup. Hey, WOKO, got any openings at the Country Club this year?
Anyway, it seems I have my very own version of Deep Throat. (The informant, not the film … ahem.) Either that or I have a direct line to the afterlife, which raises all manner of existential questions. Most notably: Heaven has email?
As of this writing, none of said professionals, all caps or otherwise, have come forward to air their grievances. Frankly, I doubt they will, especially as most local pro jazz players are probably a little busy, um, playing in the Jazz Fest. And it’s not as though the increasingly liberal definition of the genre at “jazz” festivals is a new phenomenon — have you seen the lineup for Montreal yet? Hello, Lionel Ritchie!
However, I have since spoken to that rabble-rousing former UVM student Peter Negroponte, who started this whole mess — and possibly opened a vortex to the undead.
“It’s really not an anti-Jazz-Fest thing,” he says of his newly minted festival. “It’s really just a chance for us to do our own thing. The Jazz Fest can do their thing, and we’ll just have all the freaks who slip through the cracks at the North End Studio.”
Well put. Even better is what Negroponte wrote in his grant proposal to the New England Conservatory — which was accepted and is being used to fund a live recording of the “other” festival. In it, he states his vision for the OMF is simply “to provide a place for forward-thinking musical projects to perform in an artistic community center that supports the creative and experimental arts.”
And that is exactly what he has done, John Coltrane be damned.
The OMF runs through this Saturday. For a full schedule of performers, visit myspace.com/othermusicfestival2010.