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David Sanchez

Lage Lund & Ben Street

David Sanchez

Adam Cruz

David Sanchez

Adam Cruz & David Sanchez

photos by Albert Brooks
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Shepard Park, Lake George, NY
September 17, 2005

by J Hunter

More notes from “Jazz at the Lake '06”:

SPARE CHANGE? FUHGEDDABAHDIT: I only just made the start of the Sunday bill, thanks to the parking space I had to take four blocks from Shepard Park. Last year, the village had hooded the meters around the park, giving festival attendees a freebie. No such luck this year, and co-emcee John Strong repeatedly advised the crowd to keep feeding their meter, or they would be ticketed. I realize it's almost the end of the season, and revenue will soon be scarce, but this was simply ridiculous.

WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN: I couldn't stop thinking it throughout the David Sanchez Quartet's awesome performance: “MAN, this would have been great last year!” Sanchez was originally scheduled to headline LG Jazz 05's Sunday bill; he had to back out at the last minute, and his erstwhile replacement - fellow saxman Greg Osby - never showed up. (Paul Pines still doesn't know what happened; Osby never called to apologize or explain.) Then again, it wouldn't have been the same experience. “This is only our second gig with guitar,” Sanchez laughed at the end of the set.

You could have fooled me. Lage Lund meshed perfectly with the rest of the band, giving Sanchez' music the otherworldly quality John Abercrombie gave Charles Lloyd's work back in the late 90s. When Sanchez wasn't serving up solos that combined Cannonball soulfulness with Coltrane complexity, he stood behind drummer Adam Cruz and beamed like a lighthouse, a kid with a cool new toy. This unit's potential for rewriting musical chaos theory is unlimited. Where's a mobile recording unit when you really need one?

AND ON BARITONE SAX… THE LAC DU SAINT-SACREMENT: One of the occupational hazards of playing Shepard Park is getting upstaged by the parade of steamships that insist upon blowing their horns as they come closer to Million Dollar Beach. It wasn't always intrusive, though: A blast from the Minne-Ha-Ha provided a final note to Sanchez' encore, “There Is No Greater Love”. It was even on key, and on the beat! That's jazz, baby!

TRULY AN ORIGINAL: Sheila Jordan goes back to the beginning: She appeared with Harvie Swartz at the very first Lake George Jazz Festival, on a bill with Nick Brignola, Henry Threadgill, and Kilimanjaro. 22 years later, at “seventy-seven-and-a-half years old”, she brings the music to life in a style that is vital, bright, and - yes - sexy. Jordan has a cabaret singer's gift for nuance that would get lost in a large festival setting, but was perfect for the grotto-like atmosphere of Shepard Park.

She made us laugh at her own expense many times: After the opener “Humdrum Blues”, she said, “I recorded that in 1962, back when I was young and foolish!” She also introed “If I Should Lose You” by telling us, “I'm a bebop freak and a Charlie Parker freak. He was my idol… and still is!” And while she joked about her past battles with the bottle, she was dead serious during “The Crossing”, a gospel-laced meditation on the power of recovery. It was a beautiful, brave moment, and had to motivate some of the people that surrounded Jordan long after her set was over.

YOU GOTTA HAVE FUN (Part 2): The official theme of LG Jazz 06 may have been “Connection and Renewal”, but Dave Valentin preceded “Eclipse” with an unofficial motto: “Have a good time… Come for the ride.” There's such a positive energy to the award-winning flautist's music that you feel a glow the moment he starts to play. That feeling doubled up in the middle of “We'll Be Together Again” (dedicated to two major losses, Ray Barretto and Hilton Ruiz) when he stepped offstage and away from the mic, and started walking back and forth at the foot of the amphitheatre, serenading the front row with a long, beautiful solo. If he'd tried that at Freihofer's, security would have clobbered him.

Although credited in the program, conga player Milton Cardona was a no-show. Unlike Osby's MIA act, this turned out to be a plus, in that it gave drummer Robbie Ameen more room to create, and highlighted the percussive aesthetic of Bill O'Connell, Valentin's longtime musical foil. Although large pieces of the set were devoted to music from Valentin's almost-released new CD Come Fly With Me (High Note), there was plenty of room for old favorites, including a singalong encore of “Oye Como Va”.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The primary benefactors of LG Jazz are John & Marilyn Breyo, who generously stepped up again to commit money to next year's festival. Even with that good start, it's still just a start. It's unknown whether the New York State Music Fund will become a permanent fixture; after all, so many things “inexplicably” disappear after an election. Whatever happens, the Lake George Jazz Weekend will remain a unique, relaxing moment in a time of increasing, unceasing predictability. And that's the way an outdoor concert season should end.

J HUNTER is a former announcer/producer for radio stations in the Capital Region and the Bay Area, including KSJS/San Jose (where he was Assistant Music Director/Jazz programming), Q104 WQBK/Albany, and WSSV/Saratoga. He has also written music and theatre reviews for the Glens Falls Chronicle. He currently resides in Clifton Park.