Detail view of “Shaft,” laser cut acrylic, H-O scale figures and aluminum
Review by David Brickman
Several times now I’ve seen one or two of Susan Meyer’s tiny, fantastical utopias and, every time, they fascinate. So I couldn’t bear to miss her solo show Formation Proposal at the Lake George Arts Project’s Courthouse Gallery in Lake George, which is on view only until Friday (April 15).
Meyer uses brightly colored acrylic sheets to build complex little spaces that are populated in this show by miniature nude figures. Her sense of color and form is outstanding, and she fully exploits the way light penetrates these stacks of stripes.
Though dates were not provided for the pieces on view, they seem fresh – especially the central piece – titled “Together” – which is more airy than dense, with a limited palette of white, yellow and blue, and is suspended from the ceiling, so it floats as if in zero-gravity. As one gallery-goer commented during my visit, it looks like The Jetsons. There’s a playfulness here not completely opposed to that favorite 1960s cartoon – but there is also a slightly ominous dystopian feeling to the worlds Meyer creates, adding to their mystique.
Last year’s event, also produced by locals Robert Millis of Saratoga and Dave Ehman of Lake George, was the site’s first real success story.
This year, they scored a true coup: One of few appearances here by Capital Region success story Sawyer Fredericks, the soulful young guitarist-songwriter-singer, he of the bowler hat and long blonde hair, winner of Season 8 of “The Voice,” TV’s music contest.
Sawyer drew a massive crowd of between 2,100 and 2,300 people, Mr. Millis tells The Chronicle, for his Saturday evening gig. Many came early enough to catch the lead-in acts as well — but most left almost immediately after young Sawyer was done on stage.
Well, except for the 300 who had paid to stand in line and get autographed CDs and pictures with the young phenom.
That had to be a little galling to the next act up, stellar reggae-rock group Crucial Fiya, who played to a significantly emptied lawn and a sea of empty VIP chairs previously held by members of “Team Sawyer.”
The irresistibly charming French jazz vocalist Cyrille Aimee made quite an impression in her Greater Nippertown concert debut a year ago at the annual Jazz at the Lake festival. But the weather forced the performances to the rain site at the Lake George High School auditorium.
So it was fortunate indeed that the fine folks at the Lake George Arts Project brought her back to town to headline one of their weekly Wednesday evening summer concerts last month, and she finally got her chance to sing in Shepard Park with the lake shimmering behind her…
I’ve emceed a few concerts in my time, and it’s a pretty cush gig – tell a joke or two, give a shout-out to sponsors and/or dignitaries, and try not to mispronounce the name of the act you’re introducing. No heavy lifting is involved, there’s usually food & drink backstage, and occasionally you get a free t-shirt out of the deal. You gotta love that, right? Well, as I discovered when I first attended Jazz at the Lake in 2005, Paul Pines definitely takes the other road.
Sure, the Brooklyn native tells jokes, and he always gets the artists’ names right. But Pines takes the job three steps further – he educates the audience about what they’re about to see, and how it relates to what has come before in jazz. When I first saw Pines do his thing at the jazz fest in Lake George’s Shepard Park, he talked about how one of that day’s acts – vocalist Giacomo Gates – sang “in the spirit of Eddie Jefferson.” Forget that I didn’t know Jefferson was one of a cadre of jazz royalty who played the Tin Palace, a jazz club Pines ran in the ’70s just down the street from CBGB’s; I didn’t know who Eddie Jefferson WAS… but you can be damned sure that I found out, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one who did some digging into jazz history after the show was over.
It’s not just that Pines is one of the best minds I know when it comes to this genre; his stage patter isn’t about showing off how much he knows. As the longtime curator of the free Jazz at the Lake festival – which returns to Shepard Park in Lake George this Saturday and Sunday (September 19 & 20) – Pines has taken great pains to make his weekend as far from the “standard jazz festival” experience as possible, and part of that is avoiding the kind of lightweight, commercial fare that’s come to dominate your typical mega-festival. Unlike the bookers for those shows, Pines assumes his audience is of more than average intelligence, so he books bands that don’t insult that intelligence. That said, because of the death-defying – and, occasionally, ear-piercing – qualities of some of his acts, Pines’ introductions are sometimes less about education and more about preparing the crowd for the coming storm.
And while there’s still more Louisiana music on tap for Shepard Park (the soulful squeezeboxer Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience close out the series on August 26), this week’s show takes a different spin with the irresistibly charming French jazz vocalist Cyrille Aimee stepping into the spotlight at 7:30pm on Wednesday (August 12). And, yes, admission is free…
The rollickin’ Gulf Coast pianist Marcia Ball and her band brought their tasty party-time gumbo of Louisiana blues and Texas honky-tonkin’ to Lake George’s Shepard Park last week for the second installment of the Lake George Arts Project’s weekly free Wednesday night concert series.
The series continues at 7:30pm tonight (Wednesday, July 15) with the homegrown Celtic band Get Up Jack.
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