Cold doesn’t taint jazz festival
I found out the hard way that the Park City summer is teetering on the brink of fall at the jazz festival at Deer Valley Saturday night.
It wasn’t as bad as Friday, however. I missed the thunderstorms and the golf ball-sized hail that Kris Severson, the executive director for the Park City Jazz Foundation, talked about when introducing Kirk Whalum.
Nonetheless, I came unprepared. I wore my t-shirt, shorts and sandals proudly. However, I coveted other jazz-fans’ fleeces, beanie hats and jeans. I thought about buying a $50 sweatshirt from the Deer Valley resort, but I toughed it out.
The chill, however, didn’t overshadow the quality of jazz music that night, nor the enjoyment of my first visit to a Deer Valley concert. The music rang clear and true like the cold ski resort air.
I’m not a jazz aficionado. I would declare myself indifferent to the jazz scene. But Saturday made me a fan.
I came late. I missed the Caribbean Jazz project. I wanted to compare them to Whalum and Gerald Albright who play a more Memphis Tenn. style of jazz. I wanted to hear the cultural difference in sound.
I stepped through the gates just as the Caribbean Jazz Project left the stage. It was a transition time. I checked out the Larry H. Miller Ford GT and the other vendors before Jeff Coffin and the Park City Super Band, a collection of talented high school musicians, took the Michelob Stage to warm me up for Whalum.
They started playing and I was surprised they were in high school. I’ve heard high school jazz before and this sounded professional. My initial thought was, ‘These guys are as good as any.’ I especially liked "Blue Rondo." I am currently looking for a copy of that song.
I was into the band when Jeff Coffin stood up with his alto-sax and raised the so called "roof." He was introduced and he shook his Adam’s apple-long goatee at the crowd.
I never heard of this musician before but should have. The saxophonist, composer and member of the Grammy-winning Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, really jammed. He improvised with a unique style and at one point grabbed two saxophones at a time and played a small duet with himself. That inspired a chuckle and a sense of awe from me and the crowd.
The act went about 10 minutes over into Whalum’s time on the main Fidelity Stage. Whalum suddenly appeared on stage with Coffin and improved with him and the high schoolers. That was the feel-good event of the night. It’s something the kids will remember.
Severson said Whalum was feeling the vibe and couldn’t resist joining them on stage. Coffin and Wahlum went back and forth in a quasi-sax duel. Coffin held the note longer and seemed to come out victorious.
Soon Whalum and Albright were introduced on the Fidelity Stage. I was interested now to see the difference between the high school all-star band and Whalum and his band.
There was no comparison.
The high school music was entertaining and excellent, but there’s something different about professional musicians.
Whalum and Albright played "Overworked and Underpaid" to start their performance. The duo saxophonists blanketed the crowd with their clean, clear music. Each note was in tune. The band started and stopped in unison. The articulation of the notes was impressive.
The music fit the mountain backdrop. It was a pleasing and satisfying mixture of nature and jazz. After the first song, Whalum spoke to the crowd, he said, "I don’t know how politically correct it is, but I give thanks to the Lord for playing in this beautiful place."
It was my first experience at Deer Valley, and my first real jazz experience, neither will be my last.
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The Park City Ice Arena is expected to temporarily close later in 2021 to allow crews to replace the ice surface and perform other maintenance work, one of a series of projects City Hall plans to outline at an upcoming open house. It will be an in-person event.