FREE FEST: Jazz at the Lake in Shepard Park This Weekend
By J Hunter
I’ve called Jazz at the Lake – the annual free festival in Lake George’s Shepard Park that closes the outdoor jazz scene – “the happiest place on Earth.” It also might be the wettest place on Earth this weekend, if we’re to believe the drones at The Weather Channel.
But here’s the good news: You won’t have to camp out under a highway overpass to see great music. The Lake George High School Auditorium is the rain site for JATL, and as we saw when the first day of the 2014 festival was rained on, it’s a warm, comfortable space with good acoustics and solid sightlines. So other than changing your usual parking spot, weather shouldn’t keep you from venturing up north to see another great bill from Paul Pines, John Strong and everyone else at Lake George Arts Project.
Here’s the complete 2016 schedule (and, yes, it’s all free):
SATURDAY (SEPTEMBER 17)
1pm: THE BRUBECK BROTHERS QUARTET
Multi-instrumentalist Chris Brubeck and drummer Dan Brubeck have been bringing their generation’s take on jazz to Greater Nippertown for decades now, with appearances at Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival, Zankel Music Center and Saratoga’s Universal Preservation Hall (where BBQ keyboardist Chuck Lamb is staging a drop party for his new CD on Saturday, October 1). With a blend of acoustic and electric music that features their own originals as well as great takes on some of their late father’s best known tunes, the Brothers Brubeck should get the weekend off to a beautiful start.
2:45pm: CHARENEE WADE SINGS THE MUSIC OF GIL SCOTT-HERON
One of the best discs of 2015 was Charenee Wade’s Motema release Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson. With a supporting cast that included Albany’s own Stefon Harris and up-and-coming sax player Lakecia Benjamin, the NY-based vocalist introduced the powerful words of the late Gil Scott-Heron to a new generation. I’ve seen Wade rock the San Jose Jazz Festival and NYC Winter Jazzfest with her dynamic voice and razor-sharp interpretations, so trust me: Missing this set is not an option.
4:30pm: LAO TIZER QUARTET featuring KAREN BRIGGS
Keyboardist Lao Tizer has been rocking the contemporary jazz scene for over 15 years, appearing with outfits as diverse as Spyro Gyra and Zappa Plays Zappa. The Boulder native is a former Best New Jazz Artist nominee, and his band TIZER was a Jazz Group of the Year nominee in 2011. African-American violinist Karen Briggs has a pretty varied resume of her own, with stints alongside Stanley Clarke and Chaka Khan. The energy these artists bring to this music will definitely put an exclamation point on Saturday afternoon.
7:30pm: THE DIVA JAZZ ORCHESTRA
Birthed from a simple idea in 1990, DIVA has been making the jazz world swing since 1993 with a vibrant all-female orchestra that’s included such genre luminaries as Anat Cohen, Claire Daly, Ingrid Jensen, Natalie Cressman, and Sharel Cassity. Led by drummer Sherry Maricle, DIVA may be the swingingest thing Lake George has ever seen. There’ll be no problem keeping warm until the fireworks show with this 17-piece group on the job.
SUNDAY (SEPTEMBER 18)
1pm: EDMAR CASTANEDA TRIO
The Colombian harpist’s axe may live in the “miscellaneous” category of jazz awards, but there’s nothing miscellaneous about the insanely beautiful noises Castaneda has been hypnotizing us with since his first solo album Cuarto de Colores dropped in 2006. Frequently performing with his wife, vocalist Andrea Tierra, Castaneda’s World Ensemble was recently captured on the 2015 Arpa y Voz Records release Live at Jazz Standard. Don’t be late for this show, because Castaneda’s music is a sight to see and hear.
2:45pm: THE GARY McFARLAND LEGACY ENSEMBLE featuring DICK OATTS
Anyone familiar with drummer/educator Michael Benedict knows his love for the music of star-crossed jazz wunderkind Gary McFarland. However, the world found out about that love (and about McFarland, too) through the 2015 PlanetArts release Circulation: The Music of Gary McFarland – a disc that made more than a few “Best Of” lists at the end of last year. There will be a couple of changes to the line-up on this day, with Steve Nelson taking the vibes slot and Vanguard Jazz Orchestra mainstay Dick Oatts playing alto, but this is definitely not addition by subtraction. McFarland’s compositions will live, breathe and jump again.
4:30pm: AMINA FIGAROVA SEXTET
From Azerbaijan by way of the Netherlands, this new New Yorker has been recording her rich, detailed compositions since 1995; however, Figarova really caught everyone’s ears with her jaw-dropping 9/11-inspired 2005 release September Suite. Since then, she has released four outstanding discs, including her late-2015 In+Out Records release Blue Whisper. With a lyrical sense akin to Maria Schneider and a piano style that can capture both the subtle and the stunning, Amina Figarova proves why this nation should continue to be a nation of immigrants.
ADDITIONAL UPCOMING FESTIVALS FOR 2016:
FRESHGRASS @ MASS MoCA, North Adams, September 16-18
BASILICA SOUNDSCAPE @ Basilica Hudson, Hudson, September 16-18
IRISH 2000 MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL @ the Saratoga County Fairgrounds, Ballston Spa, September 16 & 17
PEARLPALOOZA @ North Pearl Street, Albany, September 17, FREE
QUIET VILLAGE @ Hasbrouck Park, New Paltz, September 17, FREE
ART IN THE PARK @ Congress Park, Saratoga Springs, September 17, FREE
JAZZ AT THE LAKE @ Shepard Park, Lake George, September 17 & 18, FREE
LARKFEST @ Lark Street, Albany, September 24, FREE
AMERICAN MUSIC FESTIVAL FOR THE LAKE @ Charles Wood Park, Lake George, September 24 & 25