(Insert Jazz Pun Here)
Sorry about that headline. But with the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival still more than a month away, I’m not quite in mid-season form when it comes to whipping up snappy jazz musings. Though reviewing saxophonist Brian McCarthy’s nifty new record certainly helped get my jazz juices flowing.
Anyway, last week the fine folks at the BDJF held their annual press conference/ice cream social/I-Spy speed-dating mixer to announce the bulk of the lineup for this year’s fest. And also to thank an ever-expanding list of sponsors, which, let me tell ya, is gripping entertainment … but I digress.
As usual, BDJF honcho and Flynn Center artistic director Arnie Malina was practically giddy as he gave the assembled local media the lowdown on this year’s roster. Honestly, it’s hard not to be taken by his enthusiasm, even when — like roughly 95 percent of the people in the room — you are not familiar with half of the artists he’s raving about. Malina’s excitement is infectious.
In the coming weeks we’ll dig a little deeper into many of those artists, but, to whet your appetite, here are a few of the acts that immediately stood out for me — beyond the obvious marquee names Herbie Hancock and Béla Fleck.
The fest kicks off on Friday, June 3, on the Flynn MainStage with an all-star revisiting of Miles Davis’ seminal 1970 album Bitches Brew called, um, Bitches Brew Revisited. The band features ace cornetist Graham Haynes, Living Colour’s Vernon Reid on guitar, keyboardist Marco Benevento and DJ Logic, among several other heavy hitters. Opening the show is Montpelier/Montréal-based keyboardist Parker Shper’s excellent trio YoUSAy Placate. Always cool to see the locals get some love on the big stage.
Tuesday, June 7, will be ladies’ night at the BDJF as two legendary female jazz vocalists, Jay Clayton and Sheila Jordan, perform a double bill in the intimate environs of the FlynnSpace. Actually, women are exceptionally well represented this year. Other top female acts include vocalist Catherine Russell — whom the Boston Globe claims “could melt the ice in a bourbon on the rocks,” whatever that means — the Myra Melford Be Bread Sextet, and Grammy-nominated vocalist Roberta Gambarini, who’s on a double bill with the Roy Hargrove Quintet.
But for me, the big news in this year’s fest is the return of local legends viperHouse. Following Belizbeha’s lead from 2009’s Jazz Fest, the mid-1990s acid-jazz dynamos are reuniting after a decade apart. During that time, the band’s alums have all gone on to impressive careers. For example, bandleader Michael Chorney is now Michael fucking Chorney, while vocalist Heloise Williams is now Heloise fucking Williams and keyboardist Ray Paczkowski is now … well, you get the idea. ViperHouse gets the band back together at the Waterfront Park Groove Tent on Thursday, June 9. Bonerama — oh, grow up — and the Joshua Panda Band open.
To check out the full slate of shows, and for updates on newly added performers, check out discoverjazz.com.
Future Review: Colin Stetson
Last week, I made you promise to take me at my word and plan to attend Colin Stetson’s performance at the BCA Center on Wednesday, April 20 — aka the day this paper hit newsstands, aka “Duuuuuude!” For those of you who either forgot, had your fingers crossed when you made the promise or didn’t pick up this week’s issue until Thursday, here’s a brief review of that show. Keep in mind, I write this column on Monday, so I haven’t actually seen Stetson play yet and won’t for two more days. This is supremely advanced rock journalism, people. Don’t try this at home.
I’ve never seen anything like Colin Stetson (Technically, that’s true.) I admit being somewhat dubious after spending time with his latest solo record, New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges. While technically impressive and ultimately fascinating, it’s not exactly an easy listen. On that record, you have to work to appreciate the saxophonist’s often harsh, ambient soundscapes. Not so live. Throughout his incomparable set, my thoroughly blown mind revisited all of the glowing reviews I’d read or heard about his recent South by Southwest performances. For example, NPR’s Bob Boilen, who had this to say:
“It took all of about 60 seconds for him to appear possessed by some otherworldly force, complete with bulging veins and the sort of overwhelming sonic presence that prompts a thousand whispered queries of, ‘How does he do that?’”
Good question. I’m stumped too. But then, even the Boilen couldn’t figure it out:
“It’s always amazing to hear a musician do something nearly impossible, but there was Colin Stetson with a huge bass sax, the ability to circularly breath [sic], and his immense sound: No electronics. No effects pedals. Just a man, a reed, and a huge hunk of metal.”
True. But his performance was so much more than that. It’s no wonder artists such as Bon Iver and Tom Waits are in love with the guy. He is transcendent. I think I speak for everyone who was there when I say we left changed by the experience.
Oh, and Swale rocked the house, too.
Band Name of the Week: Boil the Whore. Have I mentioned how much I love hardcore and heavy metal band names? This Burlington outfit joins the fun this week at the ongoing Metal Mondays series at Nectar’s, hosted by Nefarious Frenzy and WRUV’s Metal Matt Longo. I happened to catch a recent edition of the residency, and I gotta say, it’s the most fun I’ve had on a Monday night in a long, long time. Tuesday morning, on the other hand…
Waylon Speed have a big summer lined up. In addition to appearing at Gathering of the Vibes and FloydFest, the speedwestern progenitors have just announced they’ll be joining songwriter Jackie Greene on tour to support their rockin’ new double album, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades. Catch them at the Monkey House with Boston-based arena rockers Township this Saturday.
While he’s dusting off some old tunes in preparation for the viperHouse reunion, Michael Chorney does have some new material to share via a new combo featuring bassist Rob Morse and drummer Geza Carr called Chorney, Morse and — wait for it — Carr. Chorney, Morse and Carr make up the core of the Hadestown band and will perform tunes Chorney wrote over the winter this Friday at Langdon Street Café. Incidentally, they’ll be opening for Austin’s the Blue Hit, which features cellist David Moss, a member of the touring Hadestown band.
Last but not least, filling the void left by the now-defunct Black Door Bar and Bistro, Montpeculiar nightspot Kismet has recently started hosting live entertainment on a regular basis. Wednesday, April 27, finds a welcome return of standup comedy to the state capital as Kathleen Kanz hosts an evening with Umberto Garofano, Pat Lynch and Carmen Lagala. If that last surname sounds familiar, it could be because Lagala was the surprise discovery of this year’s Higher Ground Comedy Battle. If her performance that night was any indication, she alone is worth the price of admission.
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.