WILMINGTON >> The Southern Vermont Jazz Concert Series continues this Saturday at the Historic Memorial Hall, 14 W. Main St., Wilmington, at 8 p.m. featuring Avery Sharpe. Admission is by freewill donation with proceeds going to Twice Blessed, a non-profit community organization dedicated to helping residents of the nine surrounding towns of the Deerfield Valley.
Honesty. Clarity. Dignity. These are words that come to mind when you listen to the music of bassist Avery Sharpe. In an age of ephemeral pop stars and flavor-of-the-month trends, Sharpe is a reminder of the lasting value of steadfast dedication and personal integrity. As the title of one of his tunes asserts, "Always Expect the Best of Yourself." Sharpe was born in Valdosta, Georgia, on Aug. 23, 1954. His first instrument was the piano. "I started playing when I was eight years old," he recalls. In 1972, Sharpe enrolled at the University of Massachusetts, where he majored in Economics and minored in music, and continued to play electric bass in gospel, funk, and rock groups. While at UMass, he met the jazz bassist Reggie Workman, who encouraged him to learn the acoustic bass.
His recent album is Sharpe Meets Tharpe, a homage to the gospel icon and tradition-shattering, chart-busting crossover artist and legendary singer/guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe. "The most important thing is depth," he says. "You have to seek out what was happening before and try to understand it. In my music, I do things that are a little older as well as things that are contemporary. If I try to do just one type of music, that limits me. But the more bases I cover - the more experience I have in my life - the further I can go."
Sharpe will be joined by drummer Denny Ray Pelletier and host and series pianist Chris Bakriges. Denny Ray Pelletier, drums, developed strong roots in jazz early on, and his American Indian background and spiritually-centered approach to rhythm help to forge the musical identity of the group. The son of a jazz trumpeter, Pelletier began performing as a drummer in many local social events, dances, and talent shows. He studied with Les Harris Sr., then head of percussion at Boston's Berklee School of Music, which led to freelance opportunities on the Boston circuit. Years of experience have foundPelletier in a wide variety of musical situations, performing with J.J. Johnson, Ronnie Laws, Michael Omartian, Anthony Cox, and on soundtracks for Sesame Street.
Regardless of the setting, Avery Sharpe always brings both exceptional musical skill and unswerving honesty to the endeavor. "You can be sincere or you can be jive about what you do," he says. "People might not be able to tell at first, but if you're really sincere it will come through."