Monty Alexander Jazz Festival Wraps Up Successful Weekend of Jazz
Contact: Don Buxton 410 819-0380
or Amy Steward 410 829-0436
Labor Day Weekend’s Monty Alexander Jazz Festival began with a packed auditorium at the Academy Art Museum for a concert featuring jazz vocalist Caterina Zapponi. Backed by an all-star ensemble, Zapponi, Italian by birth, wove a magical spell with French and Italian songs. The ensemble included Lauren Cohen, on bass, Sardinian Alberto Pibiri on piano, Israeli Yotam Silberstein on guitar, and Chuck Redd on drums and vibraphone.
Friday evening at the Avalon Theatre, renowned jazz vocalist René Marie and her musicians produced one of the most amazing, creative and original concerts of all the Shore Festivals to date. A 2015 Grammy Award Nominee for Best Jazz Vocalist, Rene performed works from her latest CD, entitled “I Wanna be Evil.”
Saturday morning’s venue began in the beautiful Thompson Park. Dave Robinson, on cornet, led the Conservation Classic Jazz Band through favorites like Benny Goodman’s “Blue Lou.” Tiny tots and seniors danced in sunshine filtering through the trees. Reaching back to early New Orleans, the four piece band then led a streaming line of folks to the patio of the Tidewater Inn, where they played a full 90 minute set.
Monty Alexander introduced the afternoon’s “all-star band” comprised of Eric Alexander on sax, Harold Mabern on piano, John Webber on base and Joe Farnsworth on drums. The Avalon burst at the seams as Monty came on stage Saturday night. The evening’s theme was to stretch back to 1962 when Monty accompanied Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole at Jilly Rizzos Piano Bar in NYC. Allan Harris sang the role of Nat King Cole in Jilly’s Piano Bar. His baritone has an uncanny resemblance to Cole’s distinctive timbre. Clint Holmes, the British born and incredibly talented singer took command of the Sinatra tribute, rendering other Sinatra favorites.
Jermaine Gardner, a young blind pianist with Asperger’s Syndrome, opened the Sunday afternoon concert at the Avalon Theatre. Described by many as a child prodigy, his performance roamed from Beethoven through Joplin to Brubeck. His impromptu duet with Monty Alexander playing Harry Belafonte’s “Banana boat song” brought Jermaine a standing ovation. The Festival’s finale turned the spotlight on Alicia Olatuja, her husband Michael on five string electric bass, David Rosenthal on Fender Stratocaster guitar, Toru Dodo on piano and Otis Brown III on drums. Alicia is one of the most original and creative jazz vocalists around today.
This 6th Monty Alexander Jazz Festival was a testament to the increasing level of talent garnered by Monty Alexander, Artistic Director, and the dedication of the volunteer team which pulled off a first class Jazz Festival on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
#1: Pictured left to right are Quinton Baxter on drums, Elias Bailey on bass, vocalist René Marie, and John Chin on piano. (photo by Blake Wise)
#2: Pictured left to right are jazz vocalist Caterina Zapponi, Don Buxton, executive director of Chesapeake Chamber Music; and legendary jazz pianist Monty Alexander. (photo by Amy Blades Steward)
Jazz on the Chesapeake is a program of Chesapeake Chamber Music