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(Mostly) Free Jazz

Big-ticket acts are nice, but the real Jazz Fest happens when you look for it


Published June 3, 2009 at 12:35 p.m.

The big names you already know: Diana Krall, Branford Marsalis, Pink Martini. As we’ve come to expect — and practically take for granted — this year’s Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is positively loaded with world-class fare that spans the increasingly diverse landscapes of jazz, blues and funk. But as remarkable as it is for marquee names to swing through our lakeside hamlet on an annual basis, what makes the festival special isn’t likely to be found while sitting in a $100 orchestra seat at the Flynn. No, the heart and soul of the festival is so obvious it is almost too cliché to point out. But it bears mentioning, anyway: It’s all about discovery.

What follows are some of the jazzier options about town that you might not immediately think of when planning your itinerary this year. It is in no way meant to be all inclusive. Half the fun of the BDJF is finding experiences of your own. But these are good places to start.

Ensemble V, Wednesdays, 7 p.m.; Anthony Santor Group, Thursdays, 11 p.m. Radio Bean.

Any discussion of jazz in Burlington should begin with the folks who sate our hungry ears all year round. And these two Radio Bean residencies offer some of the best, every single week. The latter is particularly fun this time of year as prodigal Queen City jazz vets such as Nick Cassarino return home to roost, often sitting in with Santor and elevating the sessions to epic proportions. Bean owner Lee Anderson claims his favorite musical moments at the eclectic coffee shop happen here. Come early on Thursdays to catch the excellent Shane Hardiman Trio.

Friends of Joe, Thursdays, 7 p.m. Halvorson’s Upstreet Café.

The late, great Big Joe Burrell is practically synonymous with BDJF. But this weekly tribute to the beloved Unknown Blues Band front man happens all summer long. One expects the jazz-fest editions to be particularly hot, though.

Hot Pickin’ Party, Wednesday, June 10, 8 p.m. Halvorson’s Upstreet Café.

OK, it’s not exactly “jazz,” per se. But this annual bluegrass hoedown has become a BDJF staple. Come for the banjo brilliance of Gordon Stone. Stay for lightning licks courtesy of Brett Hughes and members of Smokin’ Grass.

James Harvey and Garuda, Tuesday, June 9, 7 p.m. City Hall Stage.

James Harvey = Burlington jazz legend. Garuda (Nick Cassarino, Rob Morse, Tony Barba, Bryan McNamara, Andre Moroz) = the next generation.

Stephen Callahan and Mike Piche, Friday, June 5, 5 p.m. Frog Hollow.

Fine Vermont-made crafts and equally fine Vermont-made vibraphone-fueled jazz. What more could you want? You can also catch Callahan’s quartet at Muddy Waters on Wednesday, June 10.

The Dave Keller Band, Friday, June 5, 8 p.m. Church Street Marketplace Center Stage.

If you need proof of Keller’s legit chops, click here to read the review of blues legend Ronnie Earle’s latest album. Keller is all over that record, and has been all over the VT blues scene for more than 15 years. Stop by early and catch a set from local mountain-blues favorites The Eames Brothers.

Mia Adams & D. Davis, Tuesday, June 9, 5 p.m. 1/2 Lounge.

Burlington’s coziest watering hole transforms into something of a boozy speakeasy during jazz fest. Especially when sultry songwriter Mia Adams and eternally underrated guitarist D. Davis (Red Hot Juba, Book ’Em Blues Band) take the stage and pay their respects to the “spirit” of the festival.

Myra Flynn, Saturday, June 13, 5 p.m. 1/2 Lounge.

Neo-soul diva Myra Flynn is easily among the area’s hardest-working performers. Catch her in the intimate environs of the Half as she prepares to release her debut album later this month.

Christopher Peterman Quintet, Friday, June 5, 8 p.m. Parima Main Stage.

This globe-trotting quintet features a slew of local jazz stalwarts, including Matt Wright (vocals), Geoff Kim (guitar), John Rivers (bass), Caleb Bronz (drums) and Peterman (saxophones). Historically, Parima is among the better off-the-beaten-path options throughout the festival. This is why.

Sister Ann Perpetua, Saturday, June, 6, 9 p.m. Parima Acoustic Lounge.

This show is worth checking out if only because there isn’t a better listening room in the city. Well, that and the band features the incomparable acoustic stylings of Michael Chorney, Miriam Bernardo and Polly Vanderputten.

Boubacar Diabate, Lokum, Barbarian Horde, Saturday, June, 6, 2:30 p.m./5 p.m./9 p.m. The Skinny Pancake.

It’s certainly not the first place you might think to look for great jazz, but The Skinny Pancake will rank among your better options, particularly given their new expanded outdoor patio and staging area. The creperie’s Jazz-Fest lineup is impressive from start to finish. But on this day, it’s all about global rhythms, in particular Malian griot Boubacar Diabate.