Hamptons JazzFest Brings World-Class Musicians to the East End All Summer Long - 27 East

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Hamptons JazzFest Brings World-Class Musicians to the East End All Summer Long

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Hamptons JazzFest board member John Landes speaking at Bay Street Theater during the June 10 kick off party for this year's festival. EMILY WEITZ

Hamptons JazzFest board member John Landes speaking at Bay Street Theater during the June 10 kick off party for this year's festival. EMILY WEITZ

A music performance at the June 10 kick off party for this year's festival at Bay Street Theater. EMILY WEITZ

A music performance at the June 10 kick off party for this year's festival at Bay Street Theater. EMILY WEITZ

A music performance at the June 10 kick off party for this year's festival at Bay Street Theater. EMILY WEITZ

A music performance at the June 10 kick off party for this year's festival at Bay Street Theater. EMILY WEITZ

A music performance at the June 10 kick off party for this year's festival at Bay Street Theater. EMILY WEITZ

A music performance at the June 10 kick off party for this year's festival at Bay Street Theater. EMILY WEITZ

A music performance at the kick off party for this year's Hamptons JazzFest held June 10 at Bay Street Theater. CLAES BRONDAL

A music performance at the kick off party for this year's Hamptons JazzFest held June 10 at Bay Street Theater. CLAES BRONDAL

Emily Weitz on Jun 21, 2024

There’s something that feels timeless about Hamptons JazzFest, like of course it’s always been a part of our summer landscape to sit outside at dusk as world-class musicians swoon on saxophones, trumpets, pianos and percussion.

But the Hamptons JazzFest hasn’t been around forever. In fact, it’s a silver lining of the pandemic: from a time when we were isolated and solitary, a new appreciation of the communal quality of jazz was born.

Claes Brondal, artistic director of the festival, has been nurturing a place for the jazz community on the East End for many years through the Jam Session, which used to meet regularly at the down-home Sag Harbor burger joint Bay Burger and has since transitioned to the moody musical tower at the Masonic Temple, on the second floor of the Whaling Museum (every Tuesday without fail). And that spirit of community, ease and comfort was an integral part of the development of Hamptons JazzFest.

“Jazz is a mindset,” said Brondal. “It’s aligned with community. Any art is a reflection of the world we live in.”

During the pandemic, much of that world went internal, and musicians who depend on live performance and the spontaneity of improvisation had to grapple with their futures. But in many ways, the fear of losing something made the thing all the stronger. As the pandemic waned, an anonymous donor reached out to Brondal to see how they could expand the model of the Jam Session — an evening of jazz bringing world-class musicians from all over the world to the sleepy village of Sag Harbor — into a full-fledged summer festival.

“Our community needs a place to come together,” said Brondal. “The jam Session’s mission is that jazz is the common language for us to gather. So COVID came along and completely blew this sense of community apart. It became an existential crisis. We needed to celebrate coming together as a human race and with the help of an anonymous sponsor, we created Hamptons JazzFest to celebrate live jazz on the East End.”

Last Monday night in the lobby of Bay Street Theater, many of the familiar faces of the jazz community came together to kick off the fourth season of Hamptons JazzFest. Santi Debriano led the quintet on stand-up bass, and he was joined by Misha Tsiganov on piano, Michael Cruse on trumpet, Ray Scro on baritone sax and Claes Brondal on drums. And just like always, the crowd was right there with them.

“The work of a jazz band is to take the audience by the hand and take a leap of faith,” said Brondal. “There’s no pretending up there. We are vulnerable to mistakes and to magic. And there’s no live music without a live audience.”

The audience that the jam session and Hamptons JazzFest have drawn is an attentive one. Morris Goldberg, noted saxophone player who has long been a regular at the jam session, once told me of the East End audience that “it’s like they hang on your every note.”

But Brondal hopes that Hamptons JazzFest continues to widen the reach of jazz beyond the regulars, and he has seen it happening. With venues ranging from the dark cavernous Masonic Temple to the wide open expanse on the lawn of the Southampton Arts Center, from the Parrish Art Museum to Bay Street Theater, Hamptons JazzFest casts a wide net to make opportunities for everyone to experience jazz. And with multiple performances every week of the summer, ranging from the Harlem Gospel Choir at Bay Street Theater on August 5, to Ekep Nkwelle at the Parrish Art Museum on August 16, the possibilities are abundant.

Just as collaboration is key to the making of jazz music, it’s also key to the making of a jazz music festival. Hamptons JazzFest has some heavyweight partners, from Jazz at Lincoln Center, which will be co-producing four events at the Parrish Art Museum, to the legendary Smalls Jazz Club, which will be hosting Smalls Live at the Masonic Temple in Sag Harbor.

It’s about collaboration, and improvisation.

“They key is to play without boundaries,” said Brondal. “To play without fear. To follow a higher calling, and to be in the spirit of the moment. That’s important in playing music as it is in life. I’ve played in many bands where I know where the song starts and where it ends. But being completely open to improvisation is important. If you play authentically, with an open heart and an open mind, you can go anywhere.”

Find out how you can drop in to the creativity and spontaneity at hamptonsjazzfest.org.

Hamptons JazzFest 2024 Schedule:

 

Parrish Art Museum — Presented With Jazz at Lincoln Center, 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, parrishart.org. All concerts 6 p.m.

Friday, July 5: The Summer Camargo Quintet

Friday, August 2: Sean Mason Quintet

Friday, August 16: Ekep Nkwelle

Friday, September 9: Sarah Hanahan Quartet

Southampton Arts Center — The International Art of Jazz, 25 Jobs Lane, Southampton, southamptonartscenter.org. All concerts 7 p.m.

Saturday, July 13: Akiko Tsuruga Quintet - Organ Giants

Saturday, August 3: Rachel Therriem Latin/Jazz Explosion

Saturday, August 31: Ada Rovatti Quintet

Saturday, September 7: Santi Debriano and Arkestra Bembe

Masonic Temple — Presented With The SmallsLIVE Foundation, 200 Main Street, Sag Harbor, masonicmusicseries.com. All concerts 7 p.m.

Saturday, July 6: Spike Wilner Quintet

Saturday, July 20: Peter Bernstein Quartet

Saturday, August 17: Charles Owens Quintet

The Church - 48 Madison Street, Sag Harbor, thechurchsagharbor.org. Concert at 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, August 22: Michael Chroma Nova

Bay Street Theater - 1 Bay Street, Sag Harbor, baystreet.org. 8 p.m.

Monday, August 5: Harlem Gospel Choir performs a Special Tribute to Aretha Franklin

Canoe Place - 239 East Montauk Highway, Hampton Bays, canoeplace.com. Concerts at 8 p.m.

Monday, July 15: Django Festival Allstars

Thursday, August 8: Nnenna Freelon Quartet

LTV Media Center - Solo Piano Concert Series, 75 Industrial Road, Wainscott, ltveh.org. All concerts 6 p.m.

Monday, July 1: Michael Wolff

Monday, July 22: Bill O’Connell

Monday, August 12: Helen Sung

Monday, August 26: Zaccai Curtis

Gosman’s Dock - 500 West Lake Drive, Montauk, gosmans.com. Concerts at 6 p.m.

Sunday, July 28: The Bill O’Connell Latin Jazz All-Stars

Sunday, August 18: Sheryl Bailey Quartet

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