Donald Harrison, Jr. (photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)
Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Additional photographs by J Hunter
I’d seen almost everyone on the bill for Day One of the Lake George Jazz Weekend (aka, Jazz at the Lake), and my iPod Classic contains music that has each performer in either a starring or a featured role. Therefore, I expected to get what I usually get at Shepard Park every year – an afternoon (and, on Saturday, an evening) of sublime music in one of the coolest settings on the planet. What I didn’t expect was to get my ass kicked by four world-class pianists, but that’s the way it shook out.
One pianist I was ready for was Emilio Solla. A classically-trained Argentinian pianist with six CDs to his name, Solla started out in the clear, playing lilting and evocative lines as the boats floated by on the breeze-stirred waters. He’d started slow, but he built the speed and intensity as Ziv Ravitz added an urgent hand-drummed backbeat on cajon that would lead the rest of the band into the astonishing brightness of “Llegera, Llegera, Llegera.” Victor Prieto’s accordion teamed with Chris Cheek’s reeds to make a unique front-line harmonic, and when Solla chimed in, it was like nothing I could describe, except you couldn’t help but smile like a fool. Solla did a lot of smiling himself as his quintet pulled Astor Piazzolla’s romantic tango firmly into the 21st century, all the while bringing an improvisatory sense other attempts to modernize Piazzolla have sorely lacked.