The Five Moments That Defined The 36th Telluride Jazz Festival
by Adam E. Smith
Aug 09, 2012 | 727 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARDI GRAS IN AUGUST? - Beads flew from the Mardi Gras float in the Telluride Jazz Festival's main street parade Sunday, which was New Orleans day at the festival. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)
MARDI GRAS IN AUGUST? - Beads flew from the Mardi Gras float in the Telluride Jazz Festival's main street parade Sunday, which was New Orleans day at the festival. (Photo by Brett Schreckengost)

Saw it:

The essence of collaboration and libations met in Town Park for a trio of thematic days celebrating progressive artistry, vocalic eminence and tribute to sonic innovators. The Telluride Jazz Festival seems to reach beyond the focal borders of sound and venue by supplying accenting activities like regional spirit tastings, town-wide parades and educational programs. It turns out, the push for insulating the music with these peripheral enhancements only boosted the energy of the live performers, and the crowds that showed up to see what they could do. Here is how it all played out.

1. The Funky Meters Rainstorm Set

Uncharacteristic temperance from the local climate, and picturesque sunsets, were the norm until the very last set of the last day. Sunday evening saw dark clouds brewing over the valley as New Orleans royalty The Funky Meters kicked down a statement set of classics. A light drizzle turned into fat drops almost immediately, but rather than run for cover, a sea of poncho-clad patrons let loose the funkadelic gyrations they had been saving all weekend. Egging them on with fan favorites, The Funky Meters’ take on Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman # 12 & 35” floated into a soaring rendition of the classic original “Cissy Strut.” A seamless transition into “Fire On The Bayou” via George Porter Jr.’s bass bombs hinted this set was built for speed and longevity, but it wasn’t until Russell Batiste Jr. dropped the snare intro of “Hey Pocky A-Way” that they truly pushed past the threshold of nostalgia. A welcome visitation to the raw grooving that has defined them and their city for half a century, The Funky Meters put on the set of the weekend to moist crowd that fought precipitation with legendary funk.   

2. The Soul Rebels Get Town Park Jumping

There was not a liquor or wine tasting on Sunday to blame the bouncy crowd and spunky band-to-audience interaction lead by The Soul Rebels. The real culprit was a soulful charisma that shot out from the brass holes of the eight piece from Louisiana. Uplifting cajun anthems “Culture In The Ghetto” and “Unlock Your Mind” displayed reflective depth, while hip-hop sentiments on “504” rapped to an open-minded crowd. Marcus Hubbard, esteemed trumpeter, decided it was time to make Telluride history when he commanded the crowd to break it down - literally. With every single single member of the audience crouched down, the band slowly pulled them up into a horn blasting peak, and the entire park was jumping in sync with the band. A fully choreographed brass band adaptation of Eurythmic’s “Sweet Dreams Are Made of This” served as the perfect bookend to the set.    

3. Marco Benevento Trio Perfect The Weird

A mind like Marco Benevento’s is enigmatic on a good day, and his deep piano compositions that ride the fringe of jazz and experimental rock always seem to overcome anticipatory listener preparation. Keying something as standard as a baby grand, he effortlessly adds slack to the jaw, and when he starts meddling with obscure gadgetry and sampled keyboard effects, the tangible understanding of the prodigy is lost in the bliss that forces into your ear drums. A beautifully clear sky blanketed the peaks surrounding Town Park as Benevento and company sold the new wave of technical jazz to a nearly silent crowd. Seeing him thrive outside of his indie and jam-rock roots on familiar and unknown songs, while still leaving space for his partners to properly texturize the movements, reached into a different spectrum from everything else showcased at the festival.     

4. Supercollider Plays Nice With Friends

Somehow escaping an appearance as a full band on the main stage, the Front Range jazz-rock outfit Supercollider took a purist approach towards collaboration by enlisting some heavy hitters for impromptu sit-ins. First by providing great horn accompaniment during Soulive’s headlining set on Friday, trumpeter Jon Gray and saxophonist Jonathan Stewart gave every reason to follow them to the Elk’s Lodge for their late night show. Patrons weren’t the only ones interested in seeing what they were all about. Marco Benevento and his drummer strolled in with Alan Evans of Soulive, and encouragement from the packed room was rewarded by instrument swapping and endless solos between them and Supercollider. The extended jam session pushed past midnight and all expectations for a nightcap soundtrack. There is something to be said for boogieing to pure improvisation while animals heads grin at you from their spot on the wall.

5. Nosotros

Language barriers, and a resistance to a departure from all things jazz, were no match for the Nosotros boys from New Mexico. Vocal leaders Carlos Fontana and Randy Sanchez jumped back and forth from English to Spanish, leaving most with no clue what they were saying, but once the music started it didn’t seem to matter. The air tight horn section shot over a subliminally funkified rhythm section, and bags full of percussion instruments kept the Latin undertone present throughout. When they weren’t dancing to fluid drum and bass, Fontana and Sanchez showed impeccable vocal range when they belted passionate narratives inspired by their hometown of Las Cruces. As modest as they were exceptional, the guys wore knowing grins when the crowd went nuts for them as they left the stage.

Catch It:

Blind Pilot Makes Their Third Appearance In Telluride at The Sheridan

Since Blind Pilot last made a stop in Telluride, the Oregonians have been reinforcing their live performance by putting miles between some of the country’s biggest stages. Most recently, these indie folk jedis have made benchmark appearances at Lollapalooza, The Newport Folk Festival, and Bonnaroo, while also having shared stages with My Morning Jacket, Band Of Horses, and The Decemberists. All well deserved recognition for a band that started as a duo cruising the West Coast on bicycles, and has become an act that can justify expanding to a cohesive six piece that takes headlining shows to heart. Chart topping records, marque worthy billings, and top-to-bottom critical acclaim can not keep the West Coasters out of the small town venues that started their musical journey in 2008. Prophetically speaking, title track “3 Rounds And A Sound” speaks eerily well of their highly anticipated third appearance in Telluride tonight at The Sheridan Opera House.

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