January 28, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.
This is the second of four posts on this year's Jazz on the Mountain festival.
Mohonk this year wanted a show for kids. Families always have come for the weekend, but I was amazed by so many kids in the parlor on Saturday morning: 2-year-olds running everywhere with moms and dads in pursuit, 4-10-year-olds singing along with Amy Cervini.
She was (with a runner and a newborn of her own) charming, singing sweetly, telling the kids about jazz, getting the kids to play little tambourines, getting the kids (of all ages) to sing along.
Joe Locke became a JOTM favorite 5-6 years ago when he played vibes so electrifyingly that he got the first ever standing ovation on a Saturday afternoon.
He's been the most requested comeback artist ever since, and this year came back (again electrifyingly, again in the Saturday afternoon "Joe Locke slot") for duets with pianist Frank Kimbrough -- whose solo of "Gone with the Wind" was hauntingly surreal.
John Scofield enjoyed playing last year's JOTM so much that he was game to return.
He especially wanted to play with Anat Cohen, and just about everyone at the Mountain House joined in the Saturday evening "ScoJam" -- playing to the biggest crowd ever in the parlor and the balcony above.
I requested a guitar solo, and he played a melancholy country song of George Jones, "The Girl I Used to Know." I'd forgotten that I'd requested (in an e-mail months ago) that he play a duet with Matt, and they whipped up a wild "St Thomas."
What's most remarkable to me is that some of the best music every jazzfest just...happens. John called up Joe Locke and, together with the house band, they played an impromptu frenzied "Afro-Blue."
Even with a painful finger, Fred played with ecstatic abandon, as if (he said) channeling Jaki Byard. I've heard so much (often great) music through the years that I'm rarely surprised, but at Mohonk I'm always surprised, as I was when Sco and Scott Robinson (on tenor sax) played an exquisite duet of "Old Folks."
Sco called everyone out, including trumpeter Mike Rodriguez from the audience, for a finale of "C-Jam Blues." After everyone played the first line, John improvised a second line, and as everyone jumped in for solos, Anat created riffs for the band to jam along.
Many folks who've been to Mohonk year after year said to me that the "ScoJam" was the best concert ever at Mohonk.
Up next: Sunday highlights with more from Scott, Anat, Fred and Matt's Arts and Crafts!
© 2013 WBGO
January 28, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.
"Look at them!" Matt Wilson pointed to portraits of the Smileys, all around the parlor of Mohonk Mountain House.
"They're swaying!" And so was the audience, standing and swaying...blissfully.
That's because this year's jazzfest was the best ever.
Mohonk, built by the Smiley family in the 1860's, offers thematic weekends throughout the year: a chocolate festival, a Scottish festival (complete with haggis), a rock fest, a classical fest, and then some. Mohonk is best known for the mystery weekend, when someone is murdered and the folks who come have to investigate whodunit.
I don't know when the "Jazz on the Mountain" weekend first happened at Mohonk, an enormous castle along a lake atop the mountain above New Paltz, NY. I first came on the Martin Luther King weekend of 2000. I was expected to answer the musical question "Where is jazz going in the new millenium?" I said that I did not know where jazz was going, but I knew that wherever jazz goes is cool.
I also observed that nobody comes to a jazz festival to hear a lecture. I encouraged Mohonk to have more music played, and across the last fourteen years I've been hearing some of the best jazz I've ever heard. Every year during the JOTM weekend, I hear music that reminds me why I first fell in love with jazz.
I'm the "artistic director," this year also called a "curator," but I think of myself more as "the jazz guy" of Mohonk. I unashamedly self-indulgently book artists that I like, especially artists who get "Mohonk-y" -- a new word coined this year to characterize musicians who get into what's become the spirit of the festival: come for the weekend, bring your loved ones, eat too much (especially at the dessert tables), enjoy being away from the noises of everyday life (no TV's in the rooms), and make music.
Over the last several years, one characteristic of the jazzfest that I've especially enjoyed is that the musicians frequently join in each other's shows and play jazz as it's supposed to happen, in the moment. I booked last year two of the jazzfest's mainstays, drummer Matt Wilson and bassist Martin Wind, as my "house band." They played last year three very different (and all thrilling) impromptu trios: with Ken Peplowski, Anat Cohen, and John Scofield.
Fred Hersch, my favorite pianist, was game to join the "house band," and they opened this year's JOTM with wonderful Anat Cohen, playing Monk, a rollicking "I Mean You." They featured each other as composers and in the spotlight.
Highlights for me were plentiful, especially Anat's clarinet and Fred playing prettily a Brazilian choro, "Doce de Coco," and Matt's drums climactically kicking the call-and-response of "Duck and Cover" into an avalanche, as if running from the rocks rolling downhill after Buster Keaton. They encored with a slow and sexy "Doxy."
And that was just for starters!
Up next: Saturday highlights with Amy Cervini, Joe Locke, John Scofield and more
© 2013 WBGO