For over a decade the Labor Day weekend in Easton has reverberated to the sound of Jazz at the Avalon Theatre. Happily, the tradition was continued this year after Covid 19 silenced the live festival in 2020.
Now under the management of the Avalon Foundation with the new Avalon Jazz Club and the magnificent venues of the outside Stoltz Pavilion and the Avalon theatre, the festival featured world class musicians playing a variety of Jazz styles.
Bria Skonberg, the Canadian trumpet virtuoso and her band played two different sets at the Pavilion on the Friday evening. This meteoric rising star with her golden voice and masterful trumpet playing blew the top off the tent with her highly accomplished entertainment skills and an eclectic program including Cole Porter, the Beatles, Sonny and Cher and her own beautiful soulful and bluesy “So is the Day”. The musicianship of her band was exceptional and special praise should be given to the pianist and keyboard player Mathis Picard the 25 year old Juilliard trained composer, producer and band leader in his own right.
Saturday night of the festival the Avalon Theatre was the venue of the namesake of the festival the unique Monty “I don’t read music I use radar” Alexander and his band.
The first set featured Monty on piano with his longtime ex-Duke Ellington bass player JJ Shakur and our very own local Chuck Redd on drums. The program included old favorites from Nat King Cole, Count Basie and Sinatra and then a tribute to Django Reinhardt featuring Chuck Redd playing outstanding vibraphone solos. This set was exciting and skillfully executed with Monty’s legendary piano work and calypsos. The second set lost some pace and direction with what started out as a moving tribute to our military and Monty’s brother Larry’smilitary service but then morphed into an excess of Larry’s vocals and a surfeit of the Master’s piano playing.
The festival always brings a surprise bonus and the Sunday Tidewater Jazz Brunch was the venue for the really talented Hot Club of Baltimore led by guitarist Michael Harris with bassist Blake Meister and guitarist Connor Holdridge who performed some up tempo numbers also featuring a medley of Django Reinhardt tunes including “Limehouse Blues”. The music was the perfect complement to the sunshine and the Tidewater’s superb crabcakes and Bloody Marys.
The finale of the festival in the Avalon Theatre featured the highly accomplished MD born Pete and Will Anderson on saxes, clarinets, and flutes with accompanying trumpet, piano and bass.
The talented twins demonstrated their absolute mastery of this array of instruments playing a nicely balanced set of iconic standards including Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo”, Richard Rogers “Favorite Things” and the wonderfully bluesy “St James Infirmary” by Cab Calloway.
This was a great ending to the festival which as part of the Avalon Foundation Jazz Club annual program promises to keep Easton on the map in providing world class jazz concerts in great venues.