For many, the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is the true harbinger of Summer. Setting the mood for the plethora of festivals and activities that the Burlington area loves to host – Jazz Fest is the crown jewel in the summer lineup. Kicking off this Friday, May 31st and going strong through Sunday, June 9th, the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is 10 full days of amazing music in a great town. We were able to sit down with Festival Director Linda Little to get the lowdown on how to make an event like this a success, the volunteers who help bring it all together, and what shows you just shouldn’t miss.
Vermont.com // When you’re planning an event as large and iconic as this, what type of atmosphere and tone are you trying to set throughout the week?
Linda Little // There are so many different artists out there doing different things, that I just want to throw as much variety at people as possible, so my goal is to put something out there that every kind of music lover is really going to be into. I want there to be at least one event that will grab you and have you say, “Oh, that sounds cool, yeah!” I think some people might think of jazz at elitist, and when they think about funk music they might not link it to jazz, but the two are wholly connected and one and the same. If you want to dance and have a good time – hip hop, funk – it’s all deeply rooted in jazz, so get down to the tent and enjoy yourself!
VTC // If we could only get to one show – tell us, where are we headed?
LL // Opening night is a double bill that Steve MacQueen [Artistic Director at the Flynn Center] and I programmed together featuring John Scofield Uberjam and the Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio. This is a double bill that you’re not going to see anywhere else – only at the Jazz Fest. They’re both legends in their own instrument – guitar for Scofield and organ for Dr. Lonnie Smith. Super funky and it’s a great show to kick off the festival, one I’m ridiculously excited about!
VTC // Who is the player that the average listener might not have heard of directly, but won’t forget after seeing their show?
LL // Greg Tardy is my big pick – someone I lobbied hard for. He’s one of those guys where every musician knows who he is and salivates over – he’s just a monster player. Came out of the same generation as Branford Marsalis and Joshua Redman, but for some reason ended up as a sideman all the time. But he’s one of those guys that everyone in town has seen him play at least four times – with Dave Douglas, Bill Frissel – an absolutely great player in his own right and has put out four great records and I was excited to get his group here so he could show everybody what he can do as a leader. An absolutely great musician.
VTC // Just so we can get an idea of just how big the Discover Jazz Festival has become, do you have any type of estimate on how many people are coming out?
LL // We estimate somewhere around 50,000 people. It’s hard for us to get an exact number though, because so much of what we do is no charge and completely open. That’s one of the things that we do that a lot of that other festivals don’t; you know, there’s no gate, you can just go down Church Street, and there’s free music. We also have music coming out of nearly every restaurant and club, we’re putting out music on the street from all directions. So our estimate is 50,000, but in all likelihood it’s much higher.
VTC // With an event of this size and magnitude there must be some heavy behind the scenes action to make everything come together that the public doesn’t see.
LL // Our volunteers are rock stars. If we didn’t have them – the festival just wouldn’t happen. If you think about it, the majority of what they’re volunteering for is production. So every stage that goes up, every bike rack that goes out, every banner that gets hung, trash pickup, keeping the area clean, setting up chairs, putting out tables – none of it would be possible without them. They give their time 100% and are absolutely amazing.
Not to get too sappy on you, but Jazz Fest is one of those events that makes you fall in love with this wonderful town we call home. Come out and see a band you haven’t seen before, invite some friends up from out of town, let people know what an epic event this truly is – you know they’ll dig it as much as you do. You can buy tickets and learn about all the artists performing at the 2013 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival here. To stay up to date on Jazz Fest events and happenings – follow them on Facebook. And for more blogs, reports and live postings on the Jazz Fest, please visit the Vermont.com Facebook page. Enjoy the music!