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Festival Review: Miami Beach Jazz Festival

By Chris Bowie posted Nov 27, 2013 at 03:29 PM

Wondering what Chris Bowie thought of the Miami Beach Jazz Festival ? Look no further

I walked into the Fillmore on Miami Beach a blank slate of expectations, awaiting my eyes and ears to be witness to the excellence of live jazz. Nearly five hours later, after the conclusion of the festival, my auditory and visual senses were not only witness to awe - inspiring performances, but were also inundated with frustration over the festival’s technical issues.

           Unfortunately, the festival’s most severe offense to the audience involved almost everything that was not the jazz artists themselves. Throughout the evening I found myself smiling, leaning forward in my seat, and tapping my foot to music that reinforced my desire to become a jazz musician. From Michelle Coltrane to the Brass - A - Holics, every artist’s jazz style was to be admired - their personality and emotions infecting the music, which in turn infected the audience. This was continually marred, however, by the exceedingly long setup times in between artists and on - stage technical difficulties that detracted from the environment that the artist’s sought to create. Although a certain amount of leniency can be given because the festival was only in its inaugural year, tangible losses were evident as a result of some of the festival’s rough edges.

            Chuck Bergeron and the South Florida finished the night with a high intensity set that served as another reminder that Miami is blessed with the talents of jazz trumpet players, especially those of Brian Lynch and John Daversa. Very few ensembles, as compared to the SFJO, can claim to swing as hard or produce a wall of sound that can nearly knock someone off their feet. Coupled with the virtuosic improvisational technique of the trumpet section, the group breached the barrier into sublime excellence. However, few eyes and ears were witnesses to this performance - I would give a generous estimate about 30 - 50 people. Audience members took advantage of the long break times in between artists to exit the venue, instead of presumably using the bathroom or purchasing refreshments. Microphone problems through multiple sets, including an elongated difficulty during Michelle Coltrane’s set, did not help to keep people in their seats. Probably the most damning effect of the continued difficulties was the resulting effect of a few artists rushing the end of their sets, often leaving me with an almost unfinished impression of some groups. The SFJO only performed three tunes, leaving me almost crying out for more.

            Technical issues aside, the Miami Beach Jazz Festival has the potential to become one of the world’s premier jazz festivals, akin to the the Montreaux or Newport Jazz Festivals. If I was to return in a few years time, I have little doubt that the festival will surpass my every expectation musically and technically, and be on the way to earning its well - deserved place among those more well known festivals. Despite the concert’s shortcomings, enjoyment of the event was palpable by the audience as artists such as the Markus Gottschlich Quartet proved that the is nothing quite like the performance of live jazz music. Ultimately, I am proud to have attended what may become the next Nice or Newport Jazz Festival and I am am already looking forward to next year’s event - hopefully sands the technical difficulties the next time around.

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