Afternoon Lineup Gave Hardcore Fans Treat

by Laura Silvius, Syracuse.Com
June 29, 2008

Local jazz fans braved oppressive humidity, scattered showers and sometimes chilling wind at the JGB Syracuse Jazz Fest to see bands from all over the world.

The hardcore fans not only arrived early for the second day of the festival, but came with lawn chairs, umbrellas, and coolers, ready to endure any weather for the sake of the afternoon lineup, which included The Steelheads, The Moutin Reunion Quartet, and Bill Evans' Soulgrass.

The Steelheads, directed by James Coviak, took the Main Stage at 3:10 and enchanted the audience with their percussion-based repertoire.

The band used steel drums and pans, most made from oil barrels, and supplemented their Caribbean sound with the groovy stylings of Dred Scott on the piano and occasional vocal accompaniment from Pia Broden. The songs began light and unassuming, but as each musician joined in the sound morphed into a captivating symphony.

The Moutin Reunion Quartet, formed by twin brothers Francois and Louis Moutin, balanced the soft, slow sounds of the saxophone and piano, by Rick Margitza and Pierre de Bethmann, with upbeat undertones on the upright bass by Francois and drums by Louis, leaving the listener free to follow whichever rhythm they chose to hear.

The "Twin's Duet," the second number in the set list, consisted of only the two brothers playing and feeding off of each other in what they called an improvisation of a John Coltrane medley.

Louis struck the drums and cymbals with his hands instead of sticks, while Francois' fingers moved so swiftly and skillfully over the bass strings that at times you could barely see them. As a unit, the quartet created jazz that captured the beats of Henry Mancini and were just as irresistible.

Bill Evans' Soulgrass coupled the essential jazz instruments (bass and drums) with a banjo and violin to make a cross between jazz legend Miles Davis (whom Evans toured and recorded with) and local band the Tipp Hillbillies.

The resulting fusion of pop rhythms, jazz sounds and bluegrass undercurrents energized the growing crowd.

Evans, who played the saxophone, was in fine form, but violinist Christian Howes also demonstrated his great talent during his solos, adding something that made this band stand out from the afternoon lineup.