The 34th Lake George Arts Project Jazz Weekend opened Saturday afternoon in Shepard Park to an audience of several hundred. The 2017 festival, billed, “A Tribute to Jazz Innovation,” featured a unique lineup of jazz musicians and vocalists.
In his opening remarks, festival curator Paul Pines said, “When I conceived of this particular festival, this grouping, I thought of it as a major celebration, as a kind of dance. The Gruskin Group, who produces our art, has this year, I think, produced an incredible piece of artwork based on Nataraja ‘the lord of the dance’ — the lord Shiva who dances creation, destruction and renewal. I think of this music as doing that dance, and we are going to have that dance this weekend.”
Saturday’s performances began with Brooklyn-based Lyric Fury headed by pianist/vocalist/composer Cynthia Hilts. “When I first heard their music,” said Pines, “I thought, well, this is really the kind of looking ahead and forward and innovative that I take great pleasure in presenting.” British/Nigerian Vocalist and composer Ola Onabulé followed demonstrating his spectacular vocal range. Saturday afternoon's performances closed with The Cookers, an ensemble of seven veteran jazz musicians. “The seven players in the group,” says Pines, “constitute Jazz history, in its deepest sense, for the last 50 years or more. Their jazz wisdom is exceeded only by their continued energy and innovation.” Saturday evening featured a tribute to Coltrane by Dave Liebman Big Band.
The Festival resumed Sunday afternoon with vocalist/sax player Camille Thurman backed by the Darrell Green Trio. The Orrin Evans Trio, led by pianist/composer Orrin Evans followed and was joined by vocalist Joanna Pascale. Emilio Solla and La Inestable De Brooklyn closed the festival. The nine-piece band, says Pines, is “built on the foundation of Astor Piazzola’s Nuevo Tango now mixing up every jazz genre from Coltrane to Monk.”
Admission to the Lake George Jazz Weekend is free. The annual festival is supported by Kenneth and Susan Gruskin, the Town and Village of Lake George, individual contributions and the New York State Council on Arts. Lake George Arts Project Executive Director John Strong announced that the Gruskins, who have supported the Festival for the past eight years, have pledged $20,000 plus an additional $5,000 in matching funds for the 2018 Jazz Weekend.