• Jazz on the Mountain 2011 -- Mohonk Mountain House

    January 20, 2011. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    Photo by Sam Calello
    Photo by Sam Calello

    Mohonk was again a great success, especially musically. Mohonk Mountain House was sold-out Saturday and close to full Friday and Sunday, including this year more than two dozen WBGO supporters who booked through the station. Our supporters enjoyed a special dinner with the artists on Saturday evening, and plenty of WBGO listeners came up to me through the weekend to say how much they listen to and love Jazz 88.

    John Pizzarelli played guitar and sang opening night, joined by his brother, bassist Martin Pizzarelli. John was as funny telling stories as the brothers were swinging, playing especially Nat Cole, Duke Ellington, and bossa nova favorites. John's climactic solo on "Lady Be Good" was as virtuosically plectral as I've ever heard him.

    The Low Blow Trio played Saturday morning: Gary Smulyan on the baritone sax (shown above) with bassist Martin Wind and drummer Dennis Mackrel. They'd never before played together as a trio, but who could tell? They segued as one, a non-stop 70-minute medley from one tune to another -- Thad Jones & Tadd Dameron & Charlie Parker tunes, a request from me for Andre Previn's "Two for the Seesaw," and more.

    Carol Fredette and pianist Steve Kuhn have been friends for years and came together on Saturday afternoon. Carol was especially touching on some lost-love songs, but also charming singing about a Brazilian duck. Steve improvised a rhapsodic whirlwind of themes, including Leonard Bernstein's haunting "Lonely Town." Sheila Jordan came for the show and was cajoled by us all to sing Steve's surreal "The Zoo."

    Photo by Sam Calello
    Photo by Sam Calello

    Paquito D'Rivera (far right) enjoyed himself so much last year that I immediately invited him back, this year twice. Saturday evening he played songs from the Grammy-winning "Brazilian Dreams" and revisited Benny Goodman's classic of Louis Prima's "Sing, Sing, Sing" with the New York Voices. Sunday evening he was (as I've always called him) "a one-man party" -- joined by his trio (Alex Brown, a rising star on the piano; Zack Brown, his brother, on bass; and Mark Walker, Paquito's firecracker drummer almost as many years as the Browns have been alive) plus Voices saxophonist Darmon Meader, trombonist Jay Ashby, and Jay's son Lucas whipping out some serious tambourine. One treat for me: Paquito's lady, Brenda Feliciano, is a serious soprano, and heart-poundingly sang for me Ernesto Lecuona's "Siboney."

    When the musical twosome of singer Carolyn Leonhart and saxophonist Wayne Escoffery came for an interview last year on WBGO, I knew then that I wanted them at Mohonk, and they were sensational Sunday afternoon, especially her scat and his sax as if one voice resounding on Lee Morgan's "Infinity."

    I've wanted so many artists through the years, and sometimes it's taken years for things to work out. I've often fantasized having my favorite pianist, Fred Hersch, play solo on Sunday morning, and indeed he played one of the best performances of my dozen years at Mohonk, including tunes he composed for friends (guitarist Bill Frisell, trumpeter Kenny Wheeler), a Jobim tune, a Monk tune, and then some.  Fred is already thinking about something special for next year's Jazz on the Mountain, as is Paquito.

    Monday morning we played our farewell "Parlor Games," mixing and matching artists from the groups. Dennis Mackrel came back just to play with us. Martin Wind on the bass is often an anchor for me, and he was again, spotlighted with a beautiful "Nuages."

    All the more enjoyable for me was that my grand-kids came this year. I never go out into the snow, but Nora and Luke snow-tubed, snow-shoed, and otherwise played in the winter weather. I was much more contented by the firelight with my Other Half -- and listening to all the great music. Jazz on the Mountain will be back next January at the Mohonk Mountain House. Hope to see you there!

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