August 21st, 2014
Jazz Festival Displays the Power of Music
Ray Watkins, a local musician, was the Master of Ceremonies for the Pavilion segment of the Jazz in the Valley event that was held at Waryas Park on the Poughkeepsie Waterfront.
POUGHKEEPSIE - It was born in the United States. Its deep, rich historical roots, along with intense and melodic sounds combine to make it one of the most revered music genres. Jazz once again has made its presence known, right here in the Hudson Valley. And what better time to celebrate its beauty than amid an outdoor, breathtaking backdrop, The Poughkeepsie Waterfront, surrounded by the Mid-Hudson Bridge and the Walkway Over the Hudson?
Sunday afternoon visitors were treated to an all-day affair devoted to jazz at the 14th Annual Jazz in the Valley. Two venues were offered: one free of charge, under the Pavilion, featuring three acts of local, up-and-coming talent; the other, a little further down, under a tent, required purchased tickets. Here, guests could listen in on over 30 world-class jazz musicians. Since the year 2000 the popular event has been in motion thanks to TRANSART, along with a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts. Sunday marked the fourth year the event has been at the Poughkeepsie location; previously it was held at The Hudson Valley Resort and Spa in Kerhonkson.
“This is just a great location here in Poughkeepsie,” said Greer Smith, President of TRANSART and the Producer of Jazz in the Valley. “We now have room to really grow; we are close to the train station and are surrounded by beautiful scenery as we celbrate the message of Jazz and Art Blakey today.”
Blakey, the mastermind drummer behind the Jazz Messengers, one of the most important and influential ensembles in jazz history, was a huge catalyst for bringing jazz into the modern era, pioneering bebop and hard bop sounds that continue to shape today’s music scene. That scene includes one of the Hudson Valley’s own, Mike Torsone. The life-long Poughkeepsie resident, whose group, “Michael T. Band,” was voted the Best Jazz Band in the Hudson Valley for three staright years by Hudson Valley Magazine, had the honor of being the first act at Jazz in the Valley Sunday. Making his fourth appearance at the Event, Torsone cannot overlook its unique appeal.
“This is one of the premium spots to play in, with beautiful scenery, really what the Hudson Valley is all about,” said Torsone, who was joined under the tent on stage by World class drummer, Adam Mussbaum along with two other noted musicians. “I wanted to give a cross-section of some of the great jazz organ classics with my own personal stuff today; this is just such a great event, and I really hope it continues to grow.”
That growth was already evident in the ensemble of talent on hand Sunday. Among the headlined musicians were; Kenyatta Beasley, Melba Joyce, Javon Jackson, Eddie Henderson, Lewis Nash, Gary Bartz, George Cables and Buster Williams. In addition to their lengthy experience and world-wide appearances, they performed alongside such legends as; Sonny Rollins, Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennet, Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson. Nearby, under the Pavilion, talents also resided in the likes of: the Poughkeepsie Jazz Project, Ben Basile Quartet and Mancheeste Malloy. Regardless of the prestige of the performer, the mission of the day was unwavering.
“Jazz was born right here in America, so we are trying to bring more awareness of this art form here to the Hudson Valley,” said Ray Watkins, a local musician, who volunteered as Master of Ceremonies at the Pavilion venue. “Any time we can showcase talent on all levels it’s wonderful; it’s great to see the tradition of jazz being carried on.”