For all those hep cats and kittens out there, David Amram – the man, the myth, the legend – inaugurated the Lake George Jazz Cruise on the lovely paddle-boat the Adirondac, to launch the 27th Lake George Jazz Weekend. And what a start it was.
Twenty seven and counting Jazz Weekends. Lots more great ones to come because the executive team spearheading the Lake George Arts Project’s annual event, executive director John Strong and artistic director Paul Pines have been doing this for that long.
David Amram. The man is a dynamo, and at 80 years old is still going strong both musically and spiritually. He and his band – with son Adam Amram on congas, Kevin Twigg on drums and bassist John Dewitt – played for more than two and a half hours on the three-hour cruise.
They couldn’t keep Amram off the bandstand from the git-go. He wanted to start his set off while people were still boarding. The powers that be pursuaded him to wait until the boat was at least a few feet away from the dock and steaming ahead before he began playing.
Let’s just say that Amram must have lost track of time because his first set encompassed the entire cruise, not just the typical two 45-minute sets. The raffle and last minute ‘thank-yous’ were conducted as the ship was already at the end of the cruise and secured to the dock.
For those who don’t now who David Amram is, well, there’s a lot history: he was there in the thick of things through the beginning of modern jazz’s creation wih Monk, Mingus and Miles – playing wth all of them. And he was among the Beat poets of the ’50s, as well – playing the hell out of the French horn with folks like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg – and helping in their contribution to the American musical and literary cannon.
On the classical music end of the spectrum, Amram was a protégé of Leonard Bernstein. He was a friend of playwright Arthur Miller’s and was the composer/musical director for Joseph Papp’s Shakesphere in the Park – in NYC’s Central Park, that is. He even found time back then to go to Hollywood to do a few notable film soundtracks, including “The Manchurian Candidate” with Frank Sinatra and “Splendor In The Grass” with Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood.
To be there aboard the Adirondac with David Amram was a treat and an honor.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Excerpt from Andrzej Pilarczyk’s review in The Glens Falls-Lake George Chronicle:
“Mixing it all together with Middle Eastern, Native American, and good old Be-Bop jazz tunes, Amram traversed both the globe and the history of modern jazz during his performance that Friday night. Miles Davis’ tunes, traditionals like ‘Summertime’ from ‘Porgy & Bess,’ flew out one-after-another from the bandstand.
Amram possessed an arsenal of different instruments to add both musical texture and a kaleidoscope of soundscapes to any song. One minute he was blowing on the French horn and in the next two Irish pennywhistles were blasting notes over the diverse multi-rhythms. The man was colorful – musically speaking – to say the least.
Between songs Amram told vivid stories from his illustrious career as a troubadour and a minstrel, so to speak, spanning so many decades of fruitful collaborations with orchestras and individuals. The man has lived a full life so far. Considering his energy and chutzpah that night, 80 years is really 40 by any other person’s calendar. He’s like the Energizer bunny, but on steroids.”