Jeff Tamarkin has been a prolific music journalist and editor for some four decades. He has written for dozens of publications including Billboard, Newsweek, Playbill, Relix, Creem, Mojo and the New York Daily News, and has written liner notes for more than 80 CDs. Most recently, he served as the Associate Editor of JazzTimes Magazine for eight years. For his Fest Five, Jeff chose to concentrate exclusively on female solo artists and groups led by women.
Cécile McLorin Salvant & the Aaron Diehl Trio
Simply put, Cécile McLorin Salvant is the most exciting new female jazz vocalist in a generation, a legitimate heiress to the legacies of Ella, Sarah, Nina and the other icons of the golden age of jazz singing. She is utterly captivating onstage, her delivery filled with surprising and thrilling turns, her range and phrasing astounding, her charisma off the charts. Cécile’s band, led by the gifted pianist Aaron Diehl, provides terrific accompaniment. If I had to restrict myself to seeing one set at Summer Fest, this would be the one.
Melissa Aldana, originally from Chile, is one of the brightest young saxophonists and composers on the contemporary jazz scene. A first-place winner at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, she balances impeccable technique with equal parts fire and warmth. She’s been compared to such greats as Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins but is clearly developing a saxophone language of her own.
Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom
Drummer/composer Allison Miller and her Boom Tic Boom band have been playing together for several years, and in that time they’ve developed an intuitiveness that has allowed them to create an immediately distinguishable sound of their own. Allison and BTB tell vivid stories with their music, and for their recent release, Otis Was a Polar Bear, each of the musicians helped to shape the music’s direction. In concert, Miller and crew take the music to another level all together.
The Royal Bopsters
The Royal Bopsters are a vocal quartet—two women, two men—that at once harkens back to such innovators as the great Lambert, Hendricks and Ross and brings that classic brand of vocalese and harmony singing into the present. Their recent debut album featured the four vocalists—Amy London, Holli Ross, Dylan Pramuk and Darmon Meader—joined by several vocal legends such as Jon Hendricks and the late Mark Murphy, but live, in concert, is where they truly dazzle. Prepare for a demonstration of vocal jazz at its finest.
Impossible to pin down stylistically, Lizz Wright has in the past traversed the worlds of jazz, R&B, blues and pop in her music. But on her most recent album, last year’s Freedom & Surrender, Wright chose to draw primarily from her roots in the church, turning in gospel-informed performances that make for some of her most powerful to date. Wright doesn’t rely on vocal histrionics—she lets the emotion and truth within the songs guide her, and it pays off big time. In concert, Wright is all about dynamics and connection—no one will walk away from her Summer Fest set unmoved.