Award-winning, innovative bassist Ben Williams performs with a member of his Quintet 'Sound Effect.' The group will be on stage at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in Shepard Park, Lake George during the two-day Lake George Jazz Weekend, set for Saturday Sept. 14 and Sunday Sept. 15. Seven acclaimed jazz groups will be performing in a lineup that starts at 1 p.m. both days. A highlight of the festival is a special performance at 7 p.m. Saturday evening featuring the legendary vibraphone master Gary Burton.
LThe region’s premier jazz festival returns Saturday Sept. 14 and Sunday Sept. 15 with a strong lineup of musicians for its 30th annual edition.
For three decades, the Lake George Jazz Weekend has presented innovative, acclaimed jazz performers in the scenic outdoor setting of Shepard Park.
The stellar lineup for 2013 includes special appearance by legendary master vibraphonist Gary Burton, award-winning, innovative bassist Ben Williams, and Grammy-nominee woodwind master David Liebman & his big band, as well as central New York favorite Brian Patneaude Quartet. Patneaude has been named “Best Jazz artist” in the Capital Region.
The Lake George Jazz Weekend, presented by the Lake George Arts Project, is celebrating its 30th edition this year.
LGAP Director John Strong offered his thoughts this week about the festival, that has captured a loyal following since it was launched in 1984. Since then, it’s earned a reputation of offering the finest musicians in the jazz world performing in an intimate outdoor venue.
“For a lot of people, jazz is not an easy thing to love — listening to jazz takes work. There’s quite a difference experiencing it live.” Strong said.
Strong, a singer/songwriter in the roots-rock idiom, said he was impressed by how the crowd at the Lake George Jazz weekend is so attuned to the musicians’ work.
“It boggles my mind listening to the jazz — and see how our audience interacts with it intellectually,” he said. “The festival annually has such a knowledgeable, sophisticated, appreciative crowd.”
Recalling the uncertainty in early 1984 about how the festival would take hold here, Strong said he was pleased with the strong following the festival has generated.
“Lake George is not historically been a jazz community. Surrounded by otherwise tourist-oriented activities here in the village, to bring such a high-quality cultural event to Lake George is a big accomplishment,” he said. “I take pride in the fact that great jazz is happening here in Lake George.”
Lake George Jazz Weekend curator Paul Pines said that he, too questioned 30 years ago whether the festival would endure in Lake George.
“We all wondered whether it would take hold, but 30 years later, it’s become an anchor event,” he said. “It’s amazing to stop and reflect 30 years later that the jazz festival is healthy, vital and has undiminished energy. There are middle-aged people attending now that literally grew up with this event, people who first came here as kids.”
Pines said the essence of this year’s festival is twofold — the musicians all are composers as well as instrumentalists, and they represent a wide range of idioms.
“This year’s festival combines masters and younger cutting edge musicians,” Pines said.
The veteran jazz artists onstage include Gary Burton, 70, credited as a pioneer with the vibraphone, and Dave Liebman, a woodwind player and band leader pronounced by the National Endowment of the Arts as a Jazz Master. Burton was bestowed a lifetime achievement award, reflecting his 40+ years winning jazz polls.
Burton, who’s won seven Grammy awards, just released his memoir, and the jazz innovator will be signing the book at the festival.
Another notable performer is Michele Rosewoman, who Downbeat magazine has called “One of the under-the-radar stars of American music.”
The festival serves a celebration of the release of Rosewoman’s new double CD, which sums up her 30 years of compositions and arrangements for her 11-piece ensemble, the New Yor-Uba New Yor-Uba Project, noted for their African, Caribbean and progressive jazz.
The younger, cutting-edge performers in the festival include Ben Williams, winner of the 2009 Thelonious Monk International Bass Competition, with his quintet Sound Effect. He’s been declared by a reviewer to be at the forefront of a new generation of jazz players.
Also an innovator is Joel Harrison composer/guitarist who teams up with the Anupam Shobhakar and his quintet, Leave the Door Open.
Also exploring new territories in jazz is jazz violinist Christian Howes, appearing with his quintet Southern Exposure, featuring accordionist Richard Galliano with their Tango Nuevo stylings with an Argentine influence.
The festival opens Saturday at 1 p.m. with the Brian Patneaude Quintet followed at 2:30 p.m. by the Joel Harrison-Anupam Shobhakar ‘Leave the Door Open’ Quintet; 4:15 p.m.: Michele Rosewoman & the 10-piece New Yor-Uba Project; and a special concert at 7:30 p.m. by the New Gary Burton Quartet, followed by fireworks over the lake.
On Sunday at 1 p.m. Violinist Christian Howes & Southern Exposure take to the stage; at 2:30 p.m.: Bassist Ben Williams & Sound Effect; and at 4:15 p.m.: the Dave Liebman Big Band.
The rain site for the performances is the Lake George High School auditorium, northwest of Shepard Park on Canada St. Details: 668-2616 or: www.lakegeorgearts.org.