Well, that was fun.
Opening night of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is among my favorite nights of the year in the Queen City. Some others: Art Hop Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving and the glorious first night after most of the college kids have moved home for summer. Ahhh … where was I? Oh, right. Enjoying a moment of quiet. Also, Jazz Fest.
This year was no exception, as the city was awash in live music, from the Radio Bean to the Flynn Center and innumerable stops in between, both indoors and out. What’s more, the forecasted rain mostly held off, which unfortunately may not be the case for much of this week. (Speaking of which, did anyone find a blue rain jacket, perhaps somewhere between the top block of Church Street and, say, the ½ Lounge patio? I’m gonna need that back.)
Anyway, if there’s one thing better than the opening weekend of Jazz Fest, it’s the closing weekend of Jazz Fest, when we say goodbye to beboppin’ hepcats and -kittens for another year with a riot of ass-shakin’ jazz-funk, jazz-fusion, jazz-hop, jazz-rock, jazz-house and maybe even some jazz-jazz. So with that in mind, here are some under-the-radar selections for the final days of the 2012 BDJF.
Thanks in part to their always packed Thursday sessions at Radio Bean, Kat Wright & the Indomitable Soul Band have become one of the most electric live acts in town. It may also be because Wright is a flat-out soul dynamo. Friday, the band brings the party from the Bean to the streets — specifically, the top block of Church Street, where BDJF unofficially kicks off its final weekend. If you’re still looking for more soulful, high-octane jams, you don’t have to venture far: Halvorson’s Upstreet Café hosts local wagon o’ funk Funkwagon immediately following the outdoor show.
A couple of weeks back, I wrote about Bryson Barnes & the New Method making their Burlington debut. The indie-funk band is composed of several alums from defunct-ish Burlington/Montréal hip-pop ensemble Strength in Numbers. Barnes and Co. are back this Friday, June 8, at Nectar’s, which is pretty cool. Even better, headliners S.I.N. are playing their first show since last year’s Jazz Fest. It’ll feature a cadre of guest MCs and vocalists. The latter will reportedly include a special tribute to the late Donna Summer by a not-to-be-named local singer, one of few who has any business covering Donna Summer. Fingers crossed.
What’s more, local bass titan Rob Morse will debut his latest endeavor, the S.I.N. Med. Big Band, an 11-piece “medium” big band featuring a mix of S.I.N. players and other local luminaries, including Barnes on trumpet, viperHouse pal Michael Chorney on bari sax, Parker Shper on keys, PJ Davidian on drums, and Bryan McNamara on tenor and alto sax, to name a few.
Morse, who composed an entire set of original material for the show, describes the new group as “an explosive, genre-melting ensemble” that draws influences from straight-ahead jazz to post-rock, hip-hop, world music and beyond. In other words, it’s like a microcosm of the entire Jazz Festival. Neat.
Meanwhile, in the bubbling laboratories of the BCA Center, JazzLab kicks off again this week, meaning a trio of local acts gets to experiment with recording and mixing albums in front of a live audience, with help from the Tank Studio’s Ben Collette and Rob O’Dea. It begins Thursday, June 7, with neo-R&B ensemble Craig Mitchell & Motor City recording a traditional A-side/B-side single. On Friday, June 8, local songwriter and pianist Joshua Glass steps out from his role as an in-demand sideman — for which he won a 2011 Seven Daysies award — and begins tracking for his forthcoming debut album. And on Saturday, June 9, Brooklyn-based guitarist Mike Gamble invites Burlington’s Greg Davis into the studio to play around with synths and drones and explore the nexus of organic and electronic sounds. In other words, cyborg-jazz.
Moving east, and about as far as one can get from jazz, local blues man Seth Yacovone is spearheading a one-day festival tribute to Bob Dylan dubbed, um, Dylanfest, this Saturday, June 9, at Moog’s in Morrisville. The show features more than 30 local bands and songwriters paying homage to the songwriting legend who has inspired, well, pretty much everyone who has picked up a guitar and written a song in the last 50 years. Actually, that’s sort of a suspect legacy. For every great artist who has been influenced by Dylan, there are about 3000 shitty ones who were equally “inspired” by his music. That’s not his fault, of course. But given those odds, you could argue that Dylan did more to set back the cause of American songwriting than move it forward because he is indirectly responsible for so much bad music. Kidding! Fortunately, Yacovone’s show boasts some great local talent, including the Eames Brothers Band, D. Davis, Lowell Thompson, Brett Hughes, Kelly Ravin and many, many more.
Last week, the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival (August 10-12) announced the full lineup for its free concert series, and it’s impressive. The afternoon series happens on three different stages along the Burlington waterfront and includes a diverse cross-section of local and regional fare — and, again, it’s free. Among the highlights are hip-hop crew Lynguistic Civilians, indie upstarts Chamberlin, folk rockers the Amida Bourbon Project and indie rockers Lendway. For the full rundown, check out lcmfestival.com.
Speaking of summer fun, the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe boasts some star power in this summer’s lineup. Some choice cuts here include famed mandolinist David Grisman on Saturday, July 21, the Taj Mahal Trio on Wednesday, August 15, and the Cowboy Junkies on Thursday, August 16.
Former Burlingtonian Audrey Ryan returns to town this week with a brand-new album in tow. Sirens, the Boston-based songwriter’s fifth full-length, is a collection of “lost” songs recorded between 2005 and 2010 that had never seen the light of day. She’ll be at the Monkey House in Winooski on Thursday, June 7, with Boston’s Will Dailey and Burlington’s Lowell Thompson.
While we’re on the subject of VT expats, saxophonist Noah Bernstein has been keeping good company lately, touring the country with Merrill Garbus and her critically adored Afro-indie-lo-fi-uke-pop-insertyourowndamnhyphen project Tune-Yards. Unfortunately, the closest that band will come to Vermont on its current tour is the Newport Folk Festival in July. But if you want to keep tabs on Bernstein, he’s just released his debut, a blistering improv-jazz record called Six, with his own quartet in Portland, Ore. Check it out at noahbernstein.bandcamp.com.
Last but not least, have you heard the new Seven Days interview podcast, Tour Date, hosted by DJ Llu? Well, why the hell not? It debuted last week, and it’s really good. In this week’s episode, Llu sits down with the Blow and talks all things electro-rock. Check it out here.
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, eight-track player, etc., this week.
The Mynabirds, Generals
Sun Kil Moon, Among the Leaves
Sigur Rós, Valtari
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Here
Lee Fields & the Expressions, Faithful Man