The Brian Patneaude Quartet
Story by J Hunter
Photograph by Rudy Lu
JAZZ 2K Extra: Jazz at the Lake Celebrates its 30th Anniversary!
I’ve called the Lake George Art Project’s annual jazz weekend at Shepard Park “The Happiest Place on Earth,” and there isn’t a single drop of irony or sarcasm in that statement – which, if you know me at all, is quite unusual. In many ways, “Jazz at the Lake” is (for me, anyway) the perfect festival. Yeah, I know, I could paint cathedral ceilings with that reach, but hear me out before you call the guys in the white coats.
No other festival offers the same mix of intimacy and integrity – the latter ingredient being an outgrowth of the uncompromising, quality-over-quantity booking policy of JATL curator Paul Pines. There are no wannabes, no time-wasters, and (most importantly) no crossover acts whose only reason for existing is to bump up the gate. That doesn’t mean JATL displays the sort of musical and political “purity” required by hardcore jazz Old Schoolers. Every aspect of the global brilliance that fuels this genre has been displayed on Shepard Park’s arts-and-crafts-style stage in recent years: The straight-ahead goodness of Delfeayo Marsalis and Warren Wolf; the sultry Latin spice of Emilio Solla and David Sanchez; the party-hearty righteousness of Donald Harrison Jr. and Dave Valentin; and the genre-busting madness of John Ellis & Double-Wide and Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra.
In an age where jazz festivals have become “all about ‘The Hang,’” Jazz At The Lake stands up pretty well. No, there’s no big back lawn where people graze on buffets inside massive tents and only think about the festival occasionally. However, there’s nothing to complain about sitting under tall, full trees and listening to weapons-grade music while looking out at the beauty that is Lake George on the cusp of Fall. Throw in the fact that it’s put on for free, and the case for perfection is pretty damn hard to refute. Jazz At The Lake has been doing it right for 30 years, and here’s how they’re doing it this weekend: