Two years ago, there was a changing of the guard in Charleston, S.C, as Spoleto Festival USA brought jazz to the forefront of its 40th-anniversary celebrations. With Wells Fargo jazz director Michael Grofsorean replaced by jazz advisor Larry Blumenfeld, the lineup turned noticeably toward domestic and New World performers, a trend that’s continued since.
Blumenfeld’s programming this year expanded Spoleto’s stylistic range as well, departing from its customary straight-ahead groove. With Jon Batiste and the Dap-Kings, we moved into the pop music realm. At the other end of the spectrum, the Artifacts ensemble’s tribute to AACM repertoire, spearheaded by Nicole Mitchell, and the set by Trio 3 & Vijay Iyer threw the doors wide open to off-the-rails experimental jazz. Wells Fargo hung in with their sponsorship, but they didn’t increase the number of jazz concerts to accommodate Blumenfeld’s push. Seven remained the magic number, leaving the Fred Hersch Trio, Jazzmeia Horn, the Chucho Valdés Quartet, and Craig Taborn in the mainstream, a definite shift in the balance.