A Big Band jump start to the M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest

Into every M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest a little rain must fall.

So it seems sometimes in the history of this big party to celebrate good music and hopefully fine times in Central New York. On the first night of the 33rd edition of the summer event on the campus of Onondaga Community College, the precipitation came down as if cued from the weather gods, the umbrellas and jacket hoods went up and the music rolled out.

Band one plays on.

Band one plays on.

Then the rain stopped, the umbrellas and hoods went down … and the music continued to roll on. Repeat the process multiple times as the four acts performed. Five thousand or so fans arrived through the night to appreciate the free-admission fest nevertheless.

The City of Syracuse Parks & Rec Stan Colella Big Band.

The City of Syracuse Parks & Rec Stan Colella All-Stars.

The cool kids in the City of Syracuse Parks & Rec All-Stars kicked off the fest with a hopping set that displayed that the future of America’s music is in good hands around these parts.

“Let’s count down. Five-four-three-two-one: Jazz Fest is under way,” MC Tim Fox of WSYR-9 said with pride and enthusiasm.

Then director Joe Carello lets these young folks carry the set with well-chosen charts for solos and collaborative effort. A mix of scholastic and college musicians, they merged their sounds well on “The Boneyard,” “The Funky Cha-Cha,” “A Night at the Blue Note” and more.

It was fun to play Who’s the Rising Star? But really, it doesn’t matter. They all win, because their love for the sound was obvious, happy people playing time-tested music for family, friends and those that will always care and cherish it.

Before “Dizzy’s Atmosphere,” Carello told the crowd, “At no time will their fingers ever leave their horns.” And everybody smiled. And then before “Moten’s Swing,” he told of how after their set at the Hearth at Greenpoint, one senior resident came up to him and said, “You have no idea how much joy this has brought my heart today.” The director’s voice cracked with emotion at the mere thought. Yes, indeed.

Click on any gallery photo for a description. Click and hold on the photo at right for an enlarged slide show.

For 30 years, trumpet player Charlie Bertini brought his AppleJazz collective to the stage in Cortland County. But when that run ended in June 2014, jazz fest founder and executive director Frank Malfitano jumped on the chance to bring the array of Central New York all-stars to this event.

The phrases new chapter and reborn were thrown about as Bertini led trombonist John Alred, saxophonist Terry Meyers, guitarist Mark Doyle, bassist Ronnie France, keyboardist Andy Calabrese and drummer Dave “Hollywood” Hanlon — Bertini’s introductory nickname there — out for the set.

They’ll play anywhere for pay, Bertini joked.

Oh, how they can play, showing how great jazz players can catch chemistry in a flash and make it ignite like the best lab work. And then make it last.

Meyers is the band leader of The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, and so he guided the ensemble through a sweet, so sweet version of “Georgia On My Mind.”

Then two vocalists came out for their turns fronting great moments.

Joe Whiting, decades a partner with Doyle, was hip and warm with “Route 66” Louis Jordan’s “I’m Going to Move to the Outskirts of Town,” an R&B classic he and his old cohort had recorded in a previous incarnation.

Ronnie Leigh, sleek and suave, had his sweet way with “I Love Being Here with You,” a trademark “Bye Bye Blackird” and Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

In between, the band AppleJazzified Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” in a sneaky cool way.

Buckwheat Zydeco does his thing on the accordion.

Buckwheat Zydeco does his thing on the accordion.

Stanley Dural Jr. knows how to lead a party.

Buckwheat Zydeco, as he’s been called through the decades, brings his rollicking band to the stage, grabs his accordion, and plays. Sings. Dances. It’s contagious, what with the born-in-Lafayette, La., sound aided by the washboard and guitar and trumpet and bass and drums.

Buckwheat Zydeco spread cheer and good humor. “If you can’t dance, do like I do. Dance anwyay,” he told the crowd. And: “If you can’t sing, do like I do. Sing anyway.”

Oh, he can sing and dance, all right.

“Whatcha Gonna Do?” proved that from the start.

He also knew how to get the crowd to shout “Bayou” along with him in big voice.

And for an extra treat, Buckwheat Zydeco moved to the Hammond B-3 organ for what he called “a little Zydeco jazz.” He made it swing, and it was sweet and then hot. He went there again for the encore of Bob Marley’s “Peace Love Happiness,” and the standing, dancing crowd felt all three.

This Fireworks interlude was brought to you by Price Chopper.

This Fireworks interlude was brought to you by Price Chopper.

Before the headliner, The Price Chopper Fireworks were sent into the sky over the left corner of the stage. This gave the stage crew the time needed to set up all the chairs and stands and other equipment needed for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis.

Th leader in the back row.

Th leader in the back row.

Yes, Wynton Marsalis is the biggest name, but he came to lead this great big band from the back row.

No matter. His charisma played well, on trumpet and in his between song explanations and introductions. And, really, no matter. The rest of his cast had plenty of talent and swagger as well.

On Count Basie’s 1938 goodie “Braggin’ in Brass,” they made their intruments to at us, to us, with us.

Chris Crenshaw and Walter Blanford really worked it. Crenshaw, a trombonist of the finest cut, can sing, too. And compose, with “Beard in the Block.” As can bassist Carlos Henriquez, in “Two-Three’s Adventure.”

The aura was huge, a listening experience.

It was all so sweet, and swinging, and special.

There’s more to come with day two today, with Notefied at 5 p.m., The Upstate Burners at 6, Lake Street Dive at 7:45 and the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, closing the fest with a set at 9:30 p.m.

Here’s a gallery of other sights:

Here are four videos I shot with my iPhone 6 from the fourth row of the VIP seating section.

Here’s the link to my review of Aretha Franklin on day two.

Have you had a student in your family study a musical instrument, and if so, which one and what style of music did they prefer? Which photo is your favorite and why? Which video is your favorite and why?

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28 thoughts on “A Big Band jump start to the M&T Syracuse Jazz Fest

  1. This looks like so much fun! I particularly liked the AppleJazz video! It is pretty early in the morning here, but that made me want to be sitting in a dimly lit hole in the wall bar with a martini in hand.

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  2. Mark, I love the titles of some of those songs you listed. Wow, you are true fans to be there in rain. You are a man to admire. “Come hell or high water” you will be there!!
    Wynton is due to play with the Columbus Picnic with the Pops soon, too. I had great fortune to hear him awhile back. I like listening to jazzy horns or sax in songs, Mark. “Chicago” group really ties good singing with its horn section. Oh, Kenny G. Is good, too. My girlfriend Anna and I have decided to skip the live bands at Jazz and Rib fest. I guess we are worn out from work. I do believe live bands would rejuvenate us. So, maybe can still persuade her ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Looks like a great show!
    The Mister played trumpet for about half his life. He doesn’t play now. Still, we both love jazz and big band. I like the last video best, although that Buckwheat Zydeco seems to give off phenomenal energy!

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  4. I liked the Zydeco video best – energy level. So cool that you guys have such a great festival there. Looks like a wonderful time – even if there was a bit of rain. ๐Ÿ˜€

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  5. Aretha? Get out of town! Yea for you!!
    My son went to New Orleans just recently for the Jazz and Blues fest. He loved it! He played the trumpet in his younger years.
    Neat videos!

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  6. worth every raindrop, any day. love live jazz at outdoor festivals the best, and i must say, your camera work is really showing your style these days.

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  7. What a fantastic festival, the music videos are great, Applejazz music took me back to times of the 50s, not that I would remember those days, just the music that came out of the post war days, and it’s great to see The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra on parade.
    What an experience.

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