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Live Review: Savannah Music Festival 2019

Swinging and singing highlights at the fest's Jazz Week

Daymé Arocena
Daymé Arocena performs at the 2019 Savannah Music Festival (photo: Elizabeth Leitzell)

Call it the Jazz at Lincoln Center influence, but the Savannah Music Festival’s annual Jazz Week (March 29-April 5) had a bit more of an educational tinge this year. Not only was the Jazz at Lincoln Center Youth Big Band one of 12 finalists in the annual Swing Central playoffs, SMF’s nationwide high school big band competition, but some of the jazz headliners also took an overtly pedagogical approach to their sets at the Charles H. Morris Center.

Warming up for Kat Edmonson on Sunday afternoon, pianist Jon Cleary offered a personal primer on New Orleans piano style, with pithy disquisitions on—and evocations of—Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, and Mac Rebennack. The following evening, Chris Pattishall and his quintet crossed the frontier into jazz piano with a full-length presentation of Mary Lou Williams’ Zodiac Suite. On the second half of that bill, Aaron Diehl dipped into Dick Hyman’s Jazz Etudes in the Styles of Jazz Masters with his trio, a foretaste of a complete traversal that would cap his solo set the following afternoon.

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