• Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival is Sweet

    July 12, 2013. Posted by Becca Pulliam.

    Named for a bakery established in Troy, NY, in 1913 -- the free cookies are addictive in 2013 -- Freihofer's Jazz Fest takes place at Saratoga Performing Arts Center the weekend before the Fourth of July. You can drive, take the Amtrak (less than four hours) or Adirondack Bus up the Hudson, and step into a jazz scene many seasons in the making. I've gone twice. I like it because I see a few New Yorkers but not too many. I travel light though the locals bring tarps, umbrellas, lawn furniture, coolers, blenders, you name it.

    FreiSatLongShotRichardCondePhotog(c) Richard Conde Photography

    Between the amphitheater and the gazebo (about 100 diversion-filled yards apart), Danny Melnick staggers the programming with a mindful flow. So after The Cookers play hard bop with lyrical solos by pianist George Cables on the big stage, Ben Williams' Sound Effect at the gazebo takes that groove and adds a hiphop bump. That was a nice sequence. A rainshower comes and goes, umbrellas open but people do not run for cover.

    FreiSatRudGilRichardCondeRudresh Mahanthappa and David Fiuczynski of Gamak

    I'd never seen Gamak, Rudresh Mahanthappa's quartet with double-necked guitarist David


    Fiuczynski, Francois Moutin and Dan Weiss, but I like the CD. Outdoors, the sax and guitar sound so summery. The music has a vision, pitch and rhythm are in the cracks, yet the band is absolutely secure. I sought shade during McCoy Tyner's set in the amphitheater. After only the second or third tune, without any cue, the audience rose and gave him its first standing ovation of three, at least. Tyner looks less robust than he used to, and his powerful sound stirs emotions. His band has heart too -- guest John Scofield, Gary Bartz, Gerald Cannon, Francisco Mela.


    The line of people to buy aerialist Gregory Porter's CD and get his autograph was longer than any food or drink line I saw all weekend. His band gives him great support. Brianna Thomas singing at the gazebo late Sunday kept people from fleeing a shower. She is young and swings. Ingrid Jensen's sound at the gazebo was particularly Miles-like. Jazz sounds good outside, especially at the gazebo.

    Freihofer's Jazz Fest is manageable, user-friendly, and connects with the world, with Big Sam's Funky Nation from New Orleans on Saturday and Ladysmith Black Mambazo from South Africa on Sunday. At night it appeals beyond jazz with David Sanborn and Arturo Sandoval on Saturday, Tony Bennett and Buddy Guy on Sunday.

    Twenty-four hours after Tyner told the audience he wrote "Blues on the Corner" for his Philadelphia neighborhood -- the neighborhood he left for the John Coltrane Quartet -- Kevin Eubanks from Philadelphia played a soaring "Resolution" from Coltrane's A Love Supreme, with Kevin's quartet of Bill Pierce, Rene Camacho and Nate Smith. That Sunday afternoon set tied a lot of the threads and diverse sounds together.

    FreiKevWaveKevin Eubanks

    This post was edited on July 19 to correctly identify the guitarist in Gamak as David Fiuczynski (not David Gilmore). -- B.P.

  • Bourne's Montreal: Nous Reviendrons A Montreal

    July 11, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Montreal is the City of Festivals -- 108 through the year.


    Festival International de JAZZ de Montreal is the biggest and best-known, although the Juste Pour Rire comedy festival is getting bigger and better-known.


    While the jazzfest was happening, also happening was a circus festival. I'd like to have seen a troupe called Gandini Juggling, nine Brits juggling 80 apples in a show characterized as "Downton Abbey Meets Monty Python."


    Meanwhile, an international fireworks festival happens every summer. Also a world choir festival in suburban Laval. Also a festival of First Natives, celebrating the Algonquin and other peoples here long before the British fought the French and Indian War. Not to forget the African Nights festival and the Francofolies, celebrating French culture in very French Quebec.


    None of the other festivals contributes as much to the Quebec economy as FIJM does -- $64 million annually -- or generates as much media interest as FIJM does. Altogether this year the festival accredited 400 journalists and broadcasters representing 135 media outlets from 16 countries.

    Including us.

    Saxophonist Charles Lloyd with WBGO's Michael Bourne and Simon Rentner
    Saxophonist Charles Lloyd with WBGO's Michael Bourne and Simon Rentner

    This year was our ninth broadcasting from Montreal.

    Next year will be the 35th anniversary of WBGO and the 35th anniversary of FIJM. We will celebrate together wonderfully.

    To paraphrase the iconic song of Robert Charlebois:

    nous reviendrons a Montreal ...

  • Singer Rene Marie With Rhonda Hamilton

    July 10, 2013. Posted by Tim Wilkins.

    Singer Rene Marie talks with WBGO's Rhonda Hamilton about her career and her tribute album to Eartha Kitt, I Wanna Be Bad, which will be released this fall. Marie performs as part of the Newark Museum's "Jazz In The Garden" series of concerts on July 11 at 12:15 p.m. Enjoy!