Jazz has always surprised, excited, soothed, enticed, shocked, united, saddened, encouraged, seduced, inspired, self-reflected. Traditional, small town, avant-garde, big city jazz is at the 2012 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival from June 1-10 at the Flynn Center for Performing Arts. AND! Jazz is almost everywhere else that’s Burlington hip: in clubs, on the grass, in restaurants, under tents, in parades, and on stage in concerts and sessions.
Being anywhere at the Burlington Jazz Festival is being at the heart and soul of jazz. What kinds of musical pleasures await? Just dig the instruments waiting to wail: sax, banjo, piano, trumpet, vibes, melodica, bass, drums, tuba, congas, clarinet, voice, accordion, trombone, flute, and sousaphone.
Jazz has always meant community by building traditions and breaking them. At the Festival, musicians who are strangers will play, listen, and discover the musical and aesthetic pleasures they have in common. Audiences will also recognize their love of jazz they have in common with performers and other audience members. That’s part of the definition of being cool.
The Festival begins with the Béla Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio. With featured banjo performer Fleck, the group presents ragtime and jazz classics. On the same opening day (June 1), there’s also the electro-rock Asphalt Orchestra, a Brooklyn based brass band that mixes rag-tag marching band music with cutting edge jazz. (In New York, I came around a street corner and saw a bunch of scruffy looking young people with musical instruments. Until I heard one or two play, I wasn’t sure they weren’t street thugs with stolen instruments!) And would the American March King, John Philip Sousa (inventor of the tuba-like sousaphone), be proud of Asphalt? No doubt, he would be not only tickled (and probably shocked) by the rag-tag Asphalt Orchestra, but he’d also smile proudly hearing the Vermont 40th Army Band playing Sousa marches and jazz.
Jazz has also always meant the young learning from the greats, the great tunes and performances. Midweek, Burlington Jazz Festival presents more than a dozen high school jazz bands, performing and learning. Listening to them is listening to a suggestion of the future. Appreciating them is contributing to the future. It is this respect over generations that suggests that jazz is an art form that will continue to find and make an important musical place for itself in the cultural future of America and the world.
The Festival ends with the signature performance of 84 year old Lee Konitz, an alto sax jazz legend. Read these names of the musical company Konitz has kept: Miles Davis, Gil Evans, Jim Hall, Elvin Jones, Lennie Tristano, Warne March, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden. Add musical influences such as Paul Desmond and Art Pepper. Know these names? Come to the Burlington Jazz Festival and continue in the great tradition of jazz. Unfamiliar with these names? Come to the Festival, in the tradition of the legendary Newport Jazz Festival (established in 1954), and have a wonderful musical adventure that invites you to hear the professional and the young in a great musical tradition that welcomes all.