VJC's Solo Jazz Piano Fest concerts begin

BRATTLEBORO — The Second Annual VJC Solo Jazz Piano Fest is a celebration of the "orchestra of all instruments." The piano was critical to the establishment of jazz as an art form and has influenced jazz's development at every harmonic turn. If you love ragtime, boogie woogie, stride, swing, the Great American Songbook, bebop, free jazz or complex harmonic progressions, solo jazz piano provides a fascinating and authentic lens through which to listen to all of these styles.

Piano artists featured in this season's festival include Kirk Lightsey, Harold Danko, Helen Sung, Christian Sands, David Berkman, Franz Robert and Joe Davidian.

The Solo Jazz Piano Fest has emerged into a joyful collaboration between the Vermont Jazz Center and the Brattleboro Music Center. The VJC will move its New York Steinway D to the BMC's venue so that it can be nested with the BMC's Hamburg Steinway D. This will give performers the opportunity to explore two-piano pieces in addition to their solo offerings. This second festival will also be expanded to include activities on Sunday that emphasize educational options, including a "piano forum" for student musicians and an in-depth workshop on re-harmonization with Queens College professor David Berkman.

Throughout the weekend, master classes will offer windows into the processes of playing jazz piano: touch, tone, technique, repertoire and lots of stories — these master classes are a playful doorway into the lives and fascinating minds of musicians, they are not just for pianists.

The idea of two-piano duets augmenting this festival came from suggestions made by the pianists who performed at the first annual VJC Piano Festival (Luis Perdomo, Stanley Cowell, Miro Sprague, and Amina Figarova). In an attempt to make this vision a reality, VJC reached out to the BMC who quickly embraced the idea of a collaboration that included the matching of their two pianos and of using their recently built concert hall. Engaging Kirk Lightsey and Harold Danko as headliners was then pursued; their two piano recording featuring the compositions of Wayne Shorter was recently remastered and the

reissue has received critical acclaim. Christian Sands and Helen Sung will also be performing duets — they have done this in Los Angeles in a tribute to Errol Garner.

From Friday evening, April 13, through Sunday afternoon, April 15, seven world-class pianists will present a distilled form of language that provides careful listeners with a clear view of how jazz piano's vocabulary has evolved over time. The pianists will explore the instrument's breadth of range and dynamics and will utilize its percussive, harmonic and melodic capabilities to create an overall sound that is as personal as a fingerprint. During their performances these pianists will employ devices created during hours and hours of practice that reveal their own choices, personality and identity.

Topics that might be shared during the educational offerings (master classes) include discussions on each artist's development, how they acquired their harmonic palette, their techniques for improvising, their unending search for inspiration, their arranging and re-harmonizing processes and how they practice. All the artists have been informed that the audience will be made up of both trained musicians and others with little to no musical training. It is the VJC's goal that the educational component will leave experienced pianists with plenty to work on after the Piano Fest without talking over the heads of non-musicians whose aim is to grow from and enjoy the experience. Indeed, much of what will be taught is universal and applicable to all of us who aspire to embrace creativity in our lives.

Tickets for the VJC's Solo Jazz Piano Fest at the Vermont Jazz Center are $120 for the "full-package" admission (all events) or $20 per evening feature concerts on Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets for Saturday's daytime concerts and educational offerings — 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., full day without feature

performance are $80 or $50 per ticket for groups of five or more. Sunday's feature concert is $10. Tickets available at vtjazz.org, email ginger@vtjazz.org, or call 802-254-9088, ext. 1. Handicapped access is available by calling the VJC. Friday and Saturday concerts are at Brattleboro Music Center, 72 Blanche Moyse Way. Sunday's concert is at the Vermont Jazz Center, 72 Cotton Mill Hill, #222.

The full schedule is listed on vtjazz.org or check out today's arts calendar. Contact the VJC for information about educational discounts.


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