LIVE: Lake George Jazz Festival (Day One), 09/18/2021

A diverse sampling of the world of jazz is what the Lake George Jazz Festival has been all about since it was founded by the late Paul Pines in 1984 and continued to be curated afterward by his successor Dan Kelley. There has also been another transition in the Lake George Arts Project. The long-time director John Strong has retired, and Tanya Tobias became his successor just before Covid 19 shut down live performances.

Last year’s festival was without a live audience and a streamed version was used instead. So, the weekend’s live performances were welcomed by both the musicians and the audience alike. For many musicians and audience members, this was their first live performance. Many musicians used the shutdown as a reset for their artistic focus many new works were played.

Helen Sung Quartet wsg violinist Janina Norpoth

Helen is a well-known pianist and composer who has been active on the international scene for many years and was named a 2021 Guggenheim fellow. She brought a quartet of equally distinguished musicians including John Ellis (saxophone, flute), David Wong (bass), Adam Cruz (drums) as well as guest violinist Janina Norpoth.

Her new CD was released the day before pays list to the long list of underrepresented female jazz composers.

The band opened with Toshiko Aikiyoshi’s “Long Yellow Road”. Mary Lou Williams’s “Mary’s Waltz” was played with Grace and Beauty.

Her original “Coquette” starts with classical flourishes with Helen’s classical training and Janina’s playing then quickly evolves into a Brazilian composition with Brazilian rhythm.

The loss of the feeling of time passing was expressed by her pandemic composition” Temporality/Impermanence” followed by the late Geri Allen’s Elegy for The City”.

Carla Bey’s abstract composition “Wrong Key Donkey” showed the band’s versatility to tackle the abstract.

Dayna Stephens Quintet

Dayna Stephens is a prominent woodwind player/composer on the NY scene. He appeared with a quartet featuring Aaron Parks on piano, Ben Street on bass, and Kweku Sumbry on drums.

After opening with the standard Hoagie Carmichael” Stardust”, the quartet dazzled the audience with the different tones and colors of Dayna’s original compositions. “Tarifa” is a city in Southern Spain close to Africa that had a Moorish/flamenco feel with Dayna playing on a EWI. “Loosy/Goosy” was propelled by the rhythm section. Even though the title “Contagious” suggests a pandemic influenced composition it was written when Stephens was in college. The composition “Stalemate” presented his thoughts and emotions on shutdown. Dayna enjoyed listening to his band as much as the audience did, frequently stepping to the side of the stage with a big grin, nodding his head to the music.

Aaron Parks Little Big

Aaron was originally a child prodigy; he is now a mature artist flexing his creative muscle in many directions. He presented an entirely different part of jazz. The band had almost a jam band feel to it, the configuration was like that of a rock band; guitar, bass, drums and keyboard/piano. Guitar player Greg Touhey was a guitar hero, playing with real emotion and showing it. Bass player Chris Morrisey and drummer Josh Dion were substitutes but played like they knew the music forever. The danceable nature of the music was evidenced by a small group of dancers in the audience. This band was visual as well as musical.

Yosavny Terry Quintet

The day was closed with Cuban/Latin music. Yosavny Terry is a saxophonist who came here from Cuba in 1999. His pianist Osmany Paredes has appeared on this stage as a leader as well as bassist Yunior Terry. They were joined onstage by Junior Miltenberger on drums and veteran trumpeter Mike Rodriguez. The band dazzled the audience with their Afro Cuban influenced polyrhythms. Miltenberger dazzled the audience on his drums, Yosavny taught us about the African influence on the music by dazzling us with his performances on the Shakere (beaded gourds) and the music of Camaguey, Cuba.

Stay tuned for Day Two

Photo Gallery by Rudy Lu

Comments are closed.