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Posts Tagged ‘The Arts’

Arts Spotlight: Jazz Ambassador Reuben Jackson

Written by Bill Anderson on . Posted in The Arts

ReubenJackson_credit Stephanie Seguino

Reuben Jackson. Courtesy photo by Stephanie Seguino.

A treasure in our midst, Reuben Jackson, host of VPR’s “Friday Night Jazz,” moved to Vermont in 2011 after 20 years as the curator of the Duke Ellington Collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. As a teenager, he first encountered Vermont in 1974 en route home from a vacation in Montreal, and while, at first, he says he was panic-stricken — “I’d never been stared at before,” — by the time he left, “I was smitten by the state’s beauty.”

He returned to attend Goddard College, and after working in D.C., he came back to Vermont; then in 2012 he took over as host of “Friday Night Jazz.” Calm and equipoised, Jackson’s show reliably presents, as one listener commented online, “an elegantly eclectic mix of textures, tempos and eras.” Each program displays a formidable range, yet never feels forced.

“I try to balance old and new,” Jackson says, “and I love cross-pollinations. I enjoy looking at the relationships between the music, and the evolution of that which continues to influence jazz.”

To read the extended version of this spotlight, see page 16 in the Summer 2015 issue.

The Arts | Autumn 2012

Written by Bill Anderson on . Posted in The Arts

From our Autumn 2012 issue:

Patrick Gym
Sept. 6
It might be a stretch to say that Seth Meyers helped change the course of American history. Still, coming out of the Republican convention in 2008, it seemed that John McCain had found a path to the White House in his dazzling pick for vice-president, Sarah Palin. Then, in short order, Palin was undone by a powerful one-two punch: her own fumbling performances in national media interviews, and the devastating parodies by Tina Fey on “Saturday Night Live.” After the election, one writer went so far as to say that if Palin were to have any serious future on the national stage, she would have to be “de-Feyed,” a fumigation that has yet to happen. Meyers had a big hand in all this behind the scenes, as co-writer of the skits and head writer of the program. Meyers also honed his touch with political satire over five years as Weekend Update anchor on the show, and he is a gifted mimic in his own right, known especially for his take on Sen. John Kerry during the 2004 presidential race. Meyers’ standup comedy act should be a perfect fit for September in an election year.
8 p.m., $27,

Waterfront Park
Sept. 14-15
While she climbs the rungs toward national stardom, Grace Potter has been keeping her ties to Vermont very much alive. A benefit concert last year for Tropical Storm Irene victims was one such event, and another is the Grand Point North Festival, launched in 2011 and now back with an even bigger supporting cast. Among the groups scheduled to perform are The Avett Brothers, Sam Roberts Band, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Galactic, and the festival also retains its Vermont-scene flavor with artists such as Bow Thayer, Gregory Douglass, Bob Wagner and Ryan Power. Lineups vary between Friday and Saturday, but Potter finishes both nights.
Gates open 4 p.m. Sept. 14, 3 p.m. Sept. 15; $65 two-day pass, $45 single-day,

Flynn Mainstage
Oct. 2
Rooted in traditional blues, California native Ben Harper was also looking ahead when he emerged in the mid-’90s, tapping in to a growing audience for meaningful new music that could encompass reggae, rock, world beat, folk and conscious lyrics. A spot opening for the Dave Matthews Band in 2000 took Harper beyond cult status, and since then he has been reliably restless and prolific, recording with such diverse artists as Ringo Starr, Jack Johnson, Pearl Jam, Taj Mahal, Beth Orton, and Blind Boys of Alabama.
8 p.m., $56,

Flynn Mainstage
Oct. 16
At this stage of his career, 53-year-old Morrissey is larger than life. The group that made him famous, The Smiths, is widely viewed as the most influential British indie band of the ’80s, and he is now referred to as “one of the most singular figures in Western popular culture from the last 20 years” (Pitchfork Media) or, simply, “one of the most influential artists of all time” (New Music Express). His highly literate brand of mordant disaffection eludes easy description, but a song title like “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” gives you the idea. Michael Bracewell, writing in the liner notes of “The Best of Morrissey,” says, “One day there will probably be a Faculty of Morrissey Studies in more than one distinguished seat of learning. And, more than probably, Morrissey will make especially sure that he has nothing whatsoever to do with the proceedings.”
8 p.m., $60.75,

Flynn Mainstage
Oct. 19
Towering jazz figures in their own right, pianist Chick Corea and vibraphonist Gary Burton have also made their mark as a duo, constantly refreshing their ideas over four decades of collaboration. Though they tour frequently, they record far less often, but this performance is tied to the newly released album “Hot House,” which features reimagined standards by composers ranging from Tadd Dameron to Bill Evans and Lennon and McCartney. The Harlem String Quartet will also perform, adding chamber jazz textures. All told, manna for discerning ears.
8 p.m., $65,

Town Hall Theater
Nov. 9
Late-blooming Iris DeMent was in her 30s in 1992 when she released her first record, “Infamous Angel,” a collection of songs so spare that music writer Gil Asakawa said they “already sound like Smoky Mountain traditionals.” Over the course of her career she has sung duets with artists such as John Prine, Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle, who were drawn to the timeless purity of her sound. “Her voice is clear and homey, with a high mountain twang and the slightest touch of country ornament; her lyrics rarely use a three-syllable word,” said the New York Times. “With that plainness, DeMent distills love, heartbreak, disillusionment and humor in songs that go straight for the heartstrings.”
7:30 p.m., $27,

Flynn Mainstage
Nov. 28
Shaolin monks date back 1,500 years in China, but as mainstream entertainment, they started in the ’70s with the TV series “Kung Fu.” Since then, Shaolin has been an object of fascination in movies, cartoons, video games and more. Rather than confront this commercialization in a fight to the death, the Shaolin hierarchy decided to embrace it, and now oversees their own theatrical troupes of preternaturally focused ambassadors. The result for audiences is a blend of believe-it-or-not physical stunts, eye-popping acrobatics, martial arts prowess and Cirque du Soleil-style stage spectacle.
7 p.m., $46,


• Dar Williams, an institution on the New England folk scene, performs a seated show Sept. 14 at the Higher Ground Ballroom in South Burlington.

• Henry Rollins, former frontman for L.A. hardcore band Black Flag, now has a multifaceted career as a radio DJ, actor and political satirist/activist. His spoken-word show “Capitalism” stops Oct. 26 at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier.

• Visit artists in their workplaces during the autumn version of Open Studio Weekend, statewide Oct. 6-7.

• The annual Made in Vermont Music Festival of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra makes numerous stops around the state: Sept. 21, Johnson; Sept. 22, Vergennes; Sept. 23, Derby Line; Sept. 27, Lyndonville; Sept. 28, Bellows Falls; Sept. 29, Randolph; Sept. 30, St. Albans; Oct. 1, Castleton.

• Book notes: The Burlington Book Festival runs Sept. 21-23; the Brattleboro Literary Festival is scheduled for Oct. 14-16. Check their websites for full schedules.

• Rutland’s “Art in the Park” takes place Oct. 6-7 at Main Street Park.

• Grammy-winning klezmer modernists The Klezmatics play Oct. 13 at the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre.

• The 8th annual Plymouth Folk and Blues Concerts take place at the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch, Sept. 1-2. Performers include Lowell Thompson and Alastair Moock.

• Focused on the environment and human rights, the Vermont International Film Festival takes place Oct. 19-28 in Burlington.

• The 20th annual Art Hop turns Burlington’s Pine Street corridor into a two-day whirl of gallery going, live music and other creative economy happenings, Sept. 7-8.

• “The Vermont Barn,” a photography exhibit by Alan Nyiri of Poultney, runs Sept. 8 to Oct. 23 at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester.

• Polka-driven parody king “Weird Al” Yankovic plays the Flynn Center in Burlington, Oct. 20.

Please note:
• Schedules subject to change.
• Other events available at
• To sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter that contains updated entertainment suggestions, visit

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The Arts | Summer 2012

Written by Bill Anderson on . Posted in The Arts

Chatting while the artist performs? Egregious. But a confab before the concert, with the star right there to take questions? Now we’re talking. One of the delights of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival is its “meet-the-artist” series, the remarkably intimate and informal discussions, usually held at 5:30 p.m. in the artsy confines of FlynnSpace. Grammy-winning jazz critic Bob Blumenthal hosts the talk-show style format, interviewing the musicians and fielding audience inquires. This year, some of the headliners scheduled at “meet-the-artist” sessions, which are free and open to the public, include Donny McCaslin, Dianne Reeves, Lee Konitz and Christian McBride. For more on the festival (June 1–10), which also includes performers such as Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Cliff, Vijay Iyer and more, visit

May 26 – 27
One of the jewels of the Vermont arts scene, Open Studio Weekend offers the chance to see hundreds of Vermont artisans practicing their craft in their real workspaces. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the event, which thrives as the perfect excuse to ramble around Vermont and revel in its ceaselessly creative character. Maps widely available, or visit

Midway Lawn at Champlain Valley Expo
Essex Junction
June 15

Is Michael Franti really 45 years old? It hardly seems possible, but there it is: Born in Oakland in 1967, he emerged in the late ’80s and has been leading Spearhead since 1994. A rare combination of talents, Franti has succeeded, according to the allmusic guide,  “through his use of his own raw power — charisma, sex appeal and sense of social justice — and he carries out in his music a community-generated passion in much the same way as Gil Scott-Heron or Marvin Gaye.” Franti’s soulful gumbo pulls in a wide range of influences, from rap to jazz, but his popularity only seems to grow, perhaps because, as he told Rolling Stone magazine recently, “the way people collect music through the Internet has broadened their taste.” After a summer tour that stops in Vermont, Franti plans to release a new studio album with Spearhead this fall.

Stratton Mountain Ski Resort
June 21-24
Tapping into what it calls “the surging cultural importance of a conscious lifestyle,” Wanderlust Vermont returns to Stratton for a second year. The idea for the festival was hatched by a New York couple — he a music industry honcho, she a yoga studio owner — who saw the possibilities of a Bonnaroo-style event enriched by the subculture of yoga. Music and yoga have been gradually drawing closer in recent years, with celebrity instructors releasing mix CDs of ambient electronica, so Wanderlust takes it to the ultimate level with a multi-day immersion that offers yoga in a mountain setting, meditation hikes, kids’ programs, organic food, lectures, art, performers such as hoop dancer Shakti Sunfire and reggae star Ziggy Marley, and DJs spinning after midnight. For a certain type, it’s utopia.

June 22-23
A relatively new event in Vermont — it began last year — the Woodstock Digital Media Festival leans heavily on education and networking opportunities but boasts a strong arts component. An exhibition at Artistree Gallery gets the festival rolling on opening night, and a panel is scheduled the next day on “Issues in Digital Media Art.” Participants in the festival include Annie Correal of the online storytelling platform Cowbird, and Dan Archer, a “comics journalist” who, the festival says, was the first such artist to be awarded the John S. Knight Fellowship for Professional Journalists at Stanford University. Various locations around Woodstock. Most content free; paywall (ticket required) at the Saturday night soiree.

2012 Season
When Tropical Storm Irene struck on Aug. 28, the Weston Playhouse was hit hard: an estimated eight feet of water roared into the basement, the orchestra pit was flooded and damage totaled about $500,000. The next day, mirroring events across the state, volunteers emerged en masse, without being asked, to begin the cleanup. By September, some of the theater’s friends in New York put together a highly successful benefit concert in Manhattan, and the playhouse had turned the corner in a remarkable recovery. On June 26, the esteemed summer theater open its 76th season with “The Hound of the Baskervilles,” one of seven productions this season. Resident producing director Steve Stettler, reflecting in the Burlington Free Press, called the outpouring of support for the Weston “evidence of the sense of community, the appreciation of art as a quality of life, and the ‘can-do’ individualism that we love about this state.”

Through Oct. 28
Renowned for its sturdy collections of premodern Americana, the Shelburne Museum also has a cheeky streak that admires a good Flash Gordon puzzle as much as a Colonial-era quilt. There’s always room for pop culture, in other words, and this year the new exhibit that puts the ephemeral on a pedestal is called “Time Machines: Robots, Rockets and Steampunk.” The idea is to look back to the golden age of sci-fi, roughly the ’30s through the ’50s, when “travel into space happened only within the realm of the imagination.” Steampunk, an aesthetic trend inspired by the sci-fi visions of Jules Verne, began in the ’80s as cult fantasy literature and then dispersed into art, fashion, set design and other hipster redoubts.

In a Vermont vein, the museum’s other new pop-cult offering is “Snow Mobiles: Sleighs to Sleds,” focusing on the progression of motorized snow travel. Many of the vintage vehicles are on loan from members of the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers, and the machines hark back to the beginning, when snowmobiles were conceived of as workhorses rather than the recreational and racing steeds they have largely become.

There are more new goings-on for 2012, and then there is the museum itself — 39 buildings on 45 beautiful acres, an eccentric wonderland that has to be experienced to be believed. As Edward Rothstein wrote last year in the New York Times: “Each building incubates another set of obsessions. The effect is unrelenting, lovely, perverse. I know of no other museum like the Shelburne. It doesn’t tell you what to think; it doesn’t present a systematic survey. It simply shows you things. And you gasp, again and again, because you are never allowed to settle into familiar expectations.”

“Time Machines” opens June 16. For other exhibitions, events and admission information, visit

• Folk-pop artist Sarah McLachlan, a multiple Grammy Award winner, performs with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, June 24 at the Shelburne Museum.
• The Bennington Museum opens “Rockwell Kent’s ‘Egypt’: Shadow and Light in Vermont.” The exhibit focuses on the painter’s work done between 1919 and 1925 on a property in Arlington he called “Egypt.” June 9 – Oct. 30.
• Artisans and farmers join forces throughout the Champlain Islands for the Open Farm and Studio Tour, July 14 – 15.
• The Valley Stage Music Festival has quietly built a following in Huntington. This will be the seventh year for the event, which offers roots music, most of it during the daytime, in a beautiful natural setting. Aug. 4.
• Art, food, farms, forestry and Vermont culture in general intermingle at the inaugural Celebrate Vermont Festival, running Aug. 23 – 26 in Stowe.
• Big-name music stars are part of the package at the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival, Aug. 9-12 in Burlington; the Champlain Valley Fair, Aug. 25 – Sept. 3 in Essex Junction; and the Vermont State Fair, Aug. 31- Sept. 9 in Rutland. Visit their websites as announcements are made through the summer.

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