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Rockport Jazz Festival 2015

Spectacular sounds -- and sights -- in Massachusetts

Anat Cohen performs at the 2015 Rockport Jazz Festival
The Joey Alexander Trio, featuring bassist Dan Chmielinski and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr., performs at the 2015 Rockport Jazz Festival
Joey Alexander performs at the 2015 Rockport Jazz Festival

The arty seaside town of Rockport, about an hour north of Boston on Massachusetts’ Cape Ann, hosted its fourth annual Rockport Jazz Festival this past weekend, with performances by six Newport-worthy headliners in separate shows over four days at the exquisite 5-year-old, 330-seat Shalin Liu Performance Center. The Shalin Liu looks relatively unassuming from Main Street-one could mistake it for a spiffy new B&B-but inside it’s state-of-the-art, renowned regionally for its excellent acoustics and the spectacular view of Rockport Harbor.

At Newport, the audience faces the main stage and the musicians get the view. At Rockport that’s reversed, and it produced a couple of memorable moments during the three festival performances I saw. As 12-year-old piano prodigy Joey Alexander and his trio played his Spanish-tinged tune “City Light” on Saturday afternoon, three paddle boarders inched their way tranquilly through the water in the distance behind. The next day, guitarist Julian Lage was startled as a seagull suddenly shot past the window, yet he somehow continued his solo on his trio’s “Stop, Go, Start” without missing a beat. The curtains were drawn on the ocean view for Anat Cohen’s performance with her quartet that night, for which she apologized, explaining it was done for acoustical reasons.

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