VJC hosts fifth annual Solo Jazz Piano Festival

A weekend filled with concerts, educational opportunities that celebrate the breadth and depth of solo jazz piano

BRATTLEBORO — Six extraordinary artists - Craig Taborn, Kris Davis, Elio Villafranca, Harvey Diamond, Hidemi Akaiwa, and Camila Cortina - will come together on Friday and Saturday, April 23 and 24, for the Vermont Jazz Center's fifth annual Solo Jazz Piano Festival.

These six venerated artists, representing a wide variety of piano styles, will pour their hearts into their performances and communicate their unique ideas in master classes, and it will all be livestreamed at and

For music lovers who want to dig deep into the piano's unique capacity to convey a broad range of sounds, textures, and rich harmonic options, this instrument gives artists an unparalleled medium to express feelings, concepts, and emotions through its unmatched versatility.

With this diverse and talented set of pianists, the festival aims to illustrate the critical role that the piano played in the establishment of jazz as an art form during the past century.

The piano has continued to influence jazz's development at every harmonic turn.

This year in particular, the Solo Jazz Piano Festival emphasizes the development of the use of the piano in more-modern styles: the Cuban-influenced styles of Villafranca and Cortina and the structured but free approaches of Davis and Taborn that demonstrate the significance of personal and place-based music as opposed to popular or commercial styles.

These musicians are balanced by Harvey Diamond's dedication to swing and the Great American Songbook.

Each artist brings their own technique, personality, and vision to the instrument and coaxes from it a unique sound.

All told, this year's Festival promises to be of extremely high quality. It will give listeners a view of the periphery of solo piano styles while still connecting to the heart and soul of jazz and an investigation of aesthetics.

As a microcosm of jazz, the solo piano idiom provides a fascinating and authentic lens through which to listen to understand jazz's broader picture.

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This year's festival will be its second as a virtual event, due to pandemic restrictions. Although these artists will perform in-house, their evening performances and daytime master classes will be livestreamed. No in-house audience will be present.

The master classes will discuss the artists' concepts, inspirations, and methods of preparation. Listeners can look forward to hearing the artists' colorful narratives as they discuss their careers and exciting interactions within the jazz world.

In the question-and-answer session, online attendees are invited to ask the four headliners questions of personal and universal interest.

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This year's headliners - Davis, Diamond, Taborn, and Villafranca - will come to Vermont to perform and teach live from the VJC's stage using its world-class-quality Steinway Model D concert grand.

Initiated in 2017, the festival was inspired by the donation of the piano by the McKenzie Family Charitable Trust.

This instrument, initially owned by the virtuoso concert pianist Lorin Hollander, was fully rebuilt by technician William Ballard upon its arrival at VJC.

Two international emerging artists, Hidemi Akaiwa and Camila Cortina, will present their livestreamed sets from Berklee College of Music. I will also interview both pianists after their respective sets.

Past festival performers have included some of the top living artists from the music's history, including Stanley Cowell, Christian Sands, Helen Sung, Joanne Brackeen, Yoko Miwa, George Cables, Kenny Werner, Kirk Lightsey, Harold Danko, Miro Sprague, Amina Figarova, David Berkman, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Orrin Evans, Shamie Royston, and others.

Tickets for the festival are valued at $95 for the entire weekend or $20 per concert. The VJC is offering the entire festival free, to invite all who wish to attend to feel free to do so, but we are also inviting all of those who can to donate generously to the Fest in support of live music and education.

If it is within your means, please donate. Your contribution will go directly towards sustaining the Vermont Jazz Center's mission of providing access to top-quality jazz music to all - as well as fair employment to jazz musicians.

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