LAKE GEORGE - Annually for 27 years, the Lake George Jazz Weekend has brought innovative, top quality jazz to upstate New York.
Year after year, the festival has attracted knowledgeable jazz enthusiasts who are aware the event showcases the idiom's finest musicians and presented their artistry in an incomparable setting.
This year, the festival's concerts, Saturday, Sept. 18 and Sunday, Sept. 19, are preceded by a related event Friday, Sept. 17 - a special jazz cruise and party celebrating the 80th birthday of jazz performer, composer, arranger and conductor David Amram, who's been hailed as "The Renaissance Man of American Music" by the Boston Globe.
Paul Pines, a former Manhattan jazz club owner who has lined up the jazz performers for all 27 years, said this year's lineup of talent is one of the fullest and most diverse ever, by featuring both seasoned, acclaimed performers and those who are pushing the familiar boundaries of jazz.
"This year's Jazz Weekend represents a really a great celebration - a celebration of David Amram's birthday and a celebration of youth," he said. "It's a concert that really involves an incredible span of time chronologically."
Friday night features a party at the Shoreline restaurant with various testimonials and a short presentation by filmmaker Larry Kramen who is in town to film scenes for a documentary on Amram's life. A three-hour jazz cruise aboard The Adirondack follows at 7 p.m. and features entertainment by the David Amram Quartet.
Amram - who has worked with everyone from Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker to Leonard Bernstein, Bob Dylan and even Jack Kerouac - has scored the films of Splendor in the Grass and the Manchurian Candidate as well as writing 100 orchestral and chamber music works.
On Saturday Sept. 18, he takes to the stage at about 2:30 p.m. in the middle of the Jazz Weekend's afternoon presentations, likely playing the French horn, for which he is known as a pioneer for jazz improvisation, Pines said.
"David Amram is a national treasure," he said.
The afternoon starts off at about 1 p.m. - the two days of concerts are presented in the lakeside setting of Shepard Park - with the Daniel Kelly Trio. An award-winning keyboardist noted for incorporating sampling into his jazz performances, Kelly has worked with a broad range of artists including hip-hop star Lauryn Hill.
Saturday afternoon concludes with the jazz vocalist Roseanna Vitro & the Randy Newman project, which presents works of the talented rock composer in a new light.
Saturday at 7:30 p.m. is a special performance by trumpeter Christian Scott, 27, who's performed with McCoy Tyner, and been featured on the cover of Downbeat. Scott's been nominated for a Grammy award, Pines said, noting how he fuses the approach of Miles Davis with hip-hop as he re-interprets the works of contemporary artists like Radiohead.
"Scott has been labeled by some as the saviour of jazz, with his very modern, cutting edge work," Pine said.
Opening Sunday's roster at about 1 p.m. is Sharel Cassity Quartet. Cassity is a young Julliard graduate whose improvisation fuses blues, swing, bebop and post-bop. She has recorded an album that Downbeat magazine has rated four stars, Pines said.
"Cassity is one of the most extraordinary young talents performing today," he said.
She is followed by the Buster Williams Quartet featuring Stefon Harris and Cindy Blackman - both acclaimed jazz performers and composers in their own right.
Buster Williams, who's played with Herbie Hancock, and won numerous Grammys, is acclaimed as one of the greatest bass players alive, Pines said. Vibraphonist Stefon Harris is in demand internationally, and drummer Cindy Blackman, who recorded and toured with Lenny Kravitz, has performed with jazz greats Pharaoh Sanders and Ron Carter, Pines said.
"Cindy is one of the most incredible forces of nature to watch," he said.
The Sunday concerts end with the Samuel Torres Group. A percussionist, Torres toured with Chick Corea and many other jazz stars. Pines said Torres melds straight-ahead jazz with the Latin idiom. He said Torres' solos on the congas have been acclaimed by the Boston Globe as "not humanly possible."
Lake George Arts Project director John Strong hailed the 2010 lineup on musicians.
"With every band, you get a different angle on jazz," he said. "Part of the beauty of this festival is that it represents a very diverse variety of music."
The jazz weekend's presentations are all free, and the Amram birthday party at Shoreline Restaurant is open to the public, with no cover charge. Tickets for the cruise sponsored by STAR 101.3 FM, are $25 and can be purchased by calling 899-3000.