• Bourne's Mohonk 2015: Better Than Ever

    February 9, 2015. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    This is the first of several highlights from this year's Jazz On The Mountain festival.

    I was afraid I was jinxing myself, as I got ready for this year's JOTM at the Mohonk Mountain House.


    This year's line-up looked to be one of the best I've emceed, performed at, and "curated" - more like "fantasized" - at Mohonk in 16 years. Almost too good to be true.

    But this year’s JOTM turned out to be, indeed, one of the best.

    L-R: Amy Niles, Michael Bourne, Guy Davis. Photo: Cynthia Lewis & Byron Smith

    This year’s Jazz On The Mountain was enjoyed by more WBGO’ers than ever before.

    About half of Mohonk’s enormous castle on the lake was filled with folks who'd come on the WBGO trip package, and something like 140 folks attended the Saturday evening dinner with the artists.

    L-R: WBGO Dinner with Terry Dawson, Rita Annan-Brady & drummer Dennis Mackrel

    Kudos to the indefatigable WBGO travel troupe: Amy Niles, John Newcott, Carmen Balentine, and Jennifer Spiegler.

    WBGO's Jen Spiegler

    My mantra about the artists I invite to Mohonk is that "they don't come to play a gig, they come to play!"

    The Butler-Bernstein Hot Nine On Parade

    And the artists who get into the spirit of the jazzfest, in their own shows and often joining in other shows, while also enjoying being with their loved ones in the  Mountain House - we call these artists "Mohonk-y."

    L-R: Scott Robinson, Martin Wind, Helen Sung, Dennis Mackrel

    And about that Mountain House… it was built in 1869, and it always looks beautiful!

    Photo: Carmen Balentine

    Coming up: more on our favorite Mohonk-y moments and musicians, including Dave Stryker, Martin Wind, Scott Robinson and Catherine Russell, so stay tuned!

  • Bourne's Mohonk: Jazz on the Mountain, Day Four

    January 29, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    This is the last of four posts on this year's Jazz on the Mountain Festival.

    Jazz on the Mountain always ends on Monday morning with what I call the Parlor Games, a mixing and matching of the artists, sometimes playing my musical fantasies (a bass solo or a bass and bass sax duet, Joe playing a cappella, and the like) or whatever feels like it'll be fun.

    This year ended with a grouping I called the Mohonk Nuclei: Anat, Scott, Joe, Martin, Matt. We quickly sketched out a program, and then let the games...happen.

    Photo by Beth Lasoff
    Photo by Beth Lasoff

    "Solar" for starters, and then a trio of Anat with M&M. They'd enjoyed playing together so much last year that they recorded together, and they played a whimsical piece inspired by a rutabaga festival.

    Photo by Jeff Riman
    Photo by Jeff Riman

    Joe told a story about being inspired early on by a record of Jimmy Scott, and about the thrill years after of recording with Jimmy. Joe played, alone at the vibes, his tribute to Jimmy, "Sword of Whispers."

    I (or the mostly dormant actor in me) usually join in the Parlor Games. I'll "act" some lyrics or poems with the cats playing along. Last year: a jigsaw of Stephen Sondheim. This year: a shuffling of Cole Porter I called "Cole Slaw."

    Photo by Jeff Riman
    Photo by Jeff Riman

    I performed shards of Porter's lyrics with the players improvising counterpoints or playing some of Porter's melodies. Especially beautiful were a Joe Locke solo of "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" and a duet of Matt's drums and Scott's bass sax playing "You Do Something to Me."

    Photo by Beth Lasoff
    Photo by Beth Lasoff

    I called up an actual singer, Amy Cervini, to sing some Blossom Dearie songs. Martin, with Joe and Scott, played the aptly-titled Hank Jones tune called "Sublime."
And, as the jazzfest began with a Monk tune, we ended with a Monk tune, "Rhythm-a-ning."

    mohonk-sunday morning 11
    Photo by Marilyn Catasus

    I always enjoy when Matt Wilson goes nuts at the drums, as when, mid-solo, he leaped up, threw open the door to the balcony, and hurled a drumstick onto the ice of Lake Mohonk.

    Photo by Jeff Riman
    Photo by Jeff Riman

    Rather like tossing a penny into the Trevi Fountain for the promise of a return to Rome, Matt's drumstick was the promise of a return to JOTM 2014 at the Mohonk Mountain House.

    --Michael Bourne

  • Bourne's Mohonk: Jazz on the Mountain 2013, Day Three

    January 28, 2013. Posted by Michael Bourne.

    This is the third of four posts on this year's Jazz on the Mountain festival.

    Incapable of being anti-climactic, Scott Robinson stole the jazzfest on Sunday morning. He played mostly with Martin and Matt, but Frank and Fred also joined in.

    mohonk-sunday morning 5
    Photo by Marilyn Catasus

    He was funny, telling stories about his dad. He was dramatic, playing a harrowing theme from his album inspired by pulp hero Doc Savage. He played a growling bass sax and more of his heartful tenor sax. He remembered playing with Chet Baker and played "But Not for Me" on a cornet.

    Photo by Marilyny Catasus
    Photo by Marilyn Catasus

    Scott's finale featured a clarinet-like Hungarian instrument called the tarogato. He inherited the brown-ish horn, somewhat chubbier than a clarinet, from Joe Muranyi, clarinetist with Louis Armstrong. He remembered his friend with "The Old Miss Blues." Scott's concert was a favorite of the Mohonk multitude, and he sold more CD's than any artist ever at the jazzfest.

    mohonk-sunday afternoon 7
    Photo by Marilyn Catasus

    I've always wanted Fred Hersch to play what I think of as the "Horowitz slot" on a Sunday afternoon. He played several of his most evocative pieces. "Whirl" -- which it does. "Stuttering" -- which bounces like a ball down stairs. "At the Close of the Day" from his setting of Whitman's "Leaves of Grass."

    mohonk-sunday afternoon 4
    Photo by Marilyn Catasus

    Anat Cohen joined in a lively and lovely duet.
 Anat's album called "Claroscuro" and Matt's album called "An Attitude for Gratitude" were my favorite albums last year.

    mohonk-sunday night 10
    Photo by Marilyn Catasus

    Matt's Arts and Crafts group featured Mike Rodriguez on trumpet, Gary Versace on piano and organ -- "He forgot the accordion," said a teasing Matt -- and Martin Wind playing on Sunday evening.

    Photo by Marilyn Catasus
    Photo by Marilyn Catasus

    Goofy and swinging, they played a musical kaleidoscope. Gary was especially edgy, sometimes with one hand on the piano and the other playing an organ that sounded like a sci-fi soundtrack. Martin's "Cruise Blues" was especially lyrical.

    mohonk-sunday night 16
    Photo by Marilyn Catasus

    Matt's "Bubbles" was inspired by (and included him touchingly speaking) a poem of Carl Sandburg. And along with a call for the audience to join in Matt's mass-sway, Anat, Scott, and Joe joined Arts & Crafts for a fireworks finale of Duke's "Blue Pepper."

    ...Michael Bourne

    Up next: Monday highlights with Parlor Games and the Mohonk Nuclei