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Jazz Fest's Dream Is Coming True

Tue, 06/20/2023 - 08:56
Jean-Michel Pilc on piano, Francois Moutin on bass, and Ari Hoenig on drums during a previous Hamptons Jazz Festival performance.

The third annual Hamptons Jazz Fest is nearly here, an effort that has brought renowned musicians to the South Fork and increased exposure to an art form that is both uniquely American and open to incorporation and absorption of musical traditions from around the world. 

The latter point will be particularly apparent in this year's lineup. "We're trying to keep it diverse and eclectic," said Claes Brondal, a drummer and executive director of the Jazz Fest. "We try not do any repeats unless they're extraordinary. We're trying to pull in more world and Latin music, so we have Middle Eastern, Jewish, Indian, Brazilian, Afro-Cuban, and Argentinean" music and musicians, as well as "some nice funk and South African music."

"It's a nice mix of straight-ahead and more adventurous jazz," agreed Bill O'Connell, a pianist and the festival's artistic director. "I'm proud that this is our third year of bringing great jazz out to the Hamptons." 

The festival will launch next Thursday at The Church in Sag Harbor. A 5:30 p.m. pre-show reception will be followed at 6:30 with a performance by Nicole Zuraitis with the Dan Pugach Nonet. 

The festival stretches across the South Fork, with venues including the Southampton Arts Center, Main Prospect in Southampton, Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton, the LTV Media Center in Wainscott, the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, and Gosman's Dock in Montauk.

The stage at Gosman's, which 50 years ago next month hosted a concert by Richie Havens and in that era featured jazz icons including Ruth Brown; Percy, Jimmy, and Albert (Tootie) Heath, collectively the Heath Brothers; Lee Konitz, and Toots Thielemans, will see the return of a legend when the drummer Billy Hart performs with Mr. O'Connell's quartet on Aug. 20. Mr. Hart has recorded and performed with artists including Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Shirley Horn, Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith, Stan Getz, and McCoy Tyner, to name just a few. Mr. O'Connell, who lives in Montauk, will also feature the saxophonist Craig Handy in that performance. 

Mr. O'Connell's new release, "Live in Montauk," is a recording of his 2021 concert with Mr. Hart, during which the trumpeter Randy Brecker sat in. Savant Records will release "Live in Montauk" tomorrow. 

Other highlights of this year's Jazz Fest include an Aug. 25 performance by the Harlem Gospel Choir at the Southampton Arts Center. The Charles McPherson Quartet featuring Mr. Brecker, who lives in East Hampton and was the subject of a 2015 profile in The Star, will celebrate the music of Charlie Parker on Aug. 28 at Bay Street Theater. 

But music will fill the air next month as well. The Panamanian bassist Santi Debriano and his Arkestra Bembe will perform at the Southampton Arts Center on July 1 at 7 p.m. The saxophonist Houston Person will perform at Main Prospect on July 6 at 7:30 p.m. Mr. O'Connell will perform as part of LTV's Piano Series on July 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. (that performance and three others in the six-event series are produced in partnership with the festival). The South African bassist Bakithi Kumalo and his band will play on July 29 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Southampton Arts Center, and the Paul Bollenback Quartet will play at Gosman's Dock on July 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. 

In another nod to music from around the world, Sejal Kukadia, one of very few female exponents of the tabla, the principal percussion instrument of Hindustani classical music, will offer a workshop on Aug. 3 from noon to 1:30 p.m. at The Church. From 6:30 to 8:30 that evening, Galeet Dardashti and Divahn will perform at the same venue. Ms. Dardashti is a Middle Eastern vocalist and composer. Ms. Kukadia was profiled in The Star last year. 

Performances will continue into September. A closing party is scheduled for Sept. 19 at the Wamponamon Masonic Temple in Sag Harbor, where jazz performances and jams happen on Tuesday nights throughout the year, with music by the Leila Duclos Quartet featuring Dave Schroeder and Gil Goldstein. 

Most Jazz Fest events are ticketed, with tickets sold through the individual venues' websites. The calendar at links to those sites. "We do keep it at low cost and on a sliding scale," Mr. Brondal said. "For most venues, we have a student/youth discount. We try to keep some free tickets set aside for people who can't afford it."

"There's something for everybody," he said of this year's lineup. "The idea is to make it accessible to all in terms of affordability, but also stylistically." 

"This was the dream," Mr. O'Connell said, "and it's coming true." 

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