Multi-stage concert programs have the virtue of showcasing a number of acts across a variety of platforms at the same time. This virtue also has a drawback, especially when intriguing performances overlap, causing audiences to make a decision to see one in its entirety or split the time and perhaps miss a specifically good moment; it’s a bit like going for a one-dish meal or opting for tapas.
The Lewiston Jazz Festival provides multiple venues and concurrent performances that make the effort of strolling the blocks between the Main Stage and the Rising Star Stage a worthwhile one. If nothing else, one should consider the beneficial exercise involved, especially if you’ve arrived as the first acts take the stage and stay until the last notes fade into the evening.
Saturday’s sonic offerings were varied, with different size lineups and sub-genres from cabaret to Dixieland, from soulful organ trios to big bands, and all spread across five different stages.
The Main Stage was the obvious focus of the festival and that’s where vocalist/saxophonist Curtis Stigers, the headliner for the evening, led his talented band through a setlist touching both the past (“That’s Alright Mama”) and slightly more recent material, including “Things Have Changed,” a tune Stigers introduced by saying “…and now for something every jazz fan yearns for, a Bob Dylan song.”
Stigers has made two appearances in Lewiston, only the second major artist to do so (Gap Mangione was the other). But if you only spent what was an undeniably interesting evening listening to Stigers’ band, you would have missed the young and energetic saxophonist Lynn Ligammari and her group over at the Rising Star Stage, where a few audience members were dancing to rock-tinged adaptations of Grant Green and Kenny Garrett tunes.
If you locked into Big City Horns, the first band to take the Main Stage, you might have enjoyed their Vegas/Reno/convention approach to “Route 66” and “It Don’t Mean A Thing,” but you’d have missed guitarist Ralph Fava leading his ad hoc quartet through some interesting changes at the Frontier House Stage and the young Frontstreet Men, a keyboard/guitar/drums trio with a bright future ahead of them, who were playing at the DiCamillo Bakery Courtyard Stage.
Cabaret singers Cheryl Ferris and Laurie Bordonaro fronted bands at the Lewiston Peace Garden Courtyard Stage, while more traditional jazz chanteuses Mary McMahon and Barbara Jean sang at other venues.
While local musicians like Bobby Jones, Dan Hull, Wayne Moose, and Dave Schiavone hit the stages multiple times as support and/or leaders, the most interesting thing about the festival as a whole was the introduction of young players like vibraphonist Alec Dube, pianist Harry Graser, and the raucous NOLA/Dixieland stylings of the Fredtown Stompers.
This is not to say that local legends like bassist Sabu Adeyola, Wendell Rivera’s Latin Jazz Ensemble, and the tightly focused arrangements of the Ladies First Big Band were anything less than stellar. These folks proved they could be considered in a national jazz conversation.
But, and this bears repeating, it was the talented younger players who brought hope for the future to the music.
If you only hung out in one place at the festival, you missed all of that.