This year, from June 7-11, the Flynn celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, sponsored by the New England Federal Credit Union. At its core, the festival is about providing our entire community the opportunity to share great music together. There are free shows all across Burlington, from Church Street to the Waterfront, and even a nightly jam session at Big Joe’s at the Vermont Comedy Club. Lakecia Benjamin, this year’s curator, leads the way by inviting some of the most exciting artists to perform, honoring the festival’s amazing legacy while looking forward to the next 40 years of jazz. The future is here.
The very first festival in 1984 featured the legendary singer Sarah Vaughan, who for many is the quintessential jazz voice of the 20th century. As we look to the future at who will carry that mantle for the next generation, we are thrilled to open with singer Samara Joy, the recently crowned best new artist at the 2023 Grammy Awards. But that’s just the beginning. Artists like Georgia Anne Muldrow, Samora Pinderhughes, and Sampa the Great are at the vanguard of this shapeshifting art form. And we’re humbled to welcome icons Dee Dee Bridgewater, Sun Ra Arkestra, and even local sax hero Joe Moore—who played the very first jazz festival in 1984. Nearly 40 high schools bands from across the state are playing on Church Street. And in the spirit of looking to the future of Jazz we are partnering with both the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Jazz at Lincoln Center for some very special programs to showcase emerging musicians and composers. But hold on there’s still more: Vermont’s own music queen Myra Flynn will headline the festival’s closing day with an all-star local lineup at the Flynn featuring the Lake Champlain Mass Choir, Mike Gordon, Dave Grippo, and Nick Cassarino. There’s so much to love. You won’t want to miss any of it. See you at the festival.
Banner artwork above created by Vermont artist Raphaella Brice as part of a special commission for the 40th Burlington Discover Jazz Festival.
Last year, the Vermont Comedy Club was taken over every night and became the after-hours jazz club Big Joe’s in honor of “Big Joe” Burrell. This year, as part of a special partnership between the Flynn and Jazz at Lincoln Center, Jazz At Lincoln Center Late Night Residency at Big Joe’s at the Vermont Comedy Club presents some of the best emerging jazz artists in the country every night. And each evening culminates in an open jam session where local and visiting musicians can sit in together and play into the night and early morning.
We are thrilled to welcome alto saxophonist, bandleader, and educator Lakecia Benjamin as this year’s festival curator. She played the waterfront stage at the 2022 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, opening for George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Now she's helping us shape a momentous 40th anniversary celebration for the festival, and looking forward to the future of the artform in Burlington and beyond.
Benjamin’s electric presence and fiery sax work has shared stages with several legendary artists, including Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, The Roots, and Macy Gray. She melds the vintage sounds of James Brown, Maceo Parker, Sly and the Family Stone, and the Meters with soaring, dance-floor rhythms. Benjamin’s grooves take the classic vibe to a whole new level, with sultry alto saxophone creating something special on every cut—smoldering late-night ambiance, forceful jazz intensity, or tight funk multi-horn harmonies. Lakecia's last album, Pursuance, was a journey throug the works of John and Alice Coltrane. In recent days, Lakecia Benjamin has graced the cover of some of the biggest jazz magazines around, including DownBeat and Jazzwise, hot on the heels of her acclaimed new star-studded album, Phoenix. She is a white-hot rising star in the jazz world right now, and Phoenix makes this clear, with high-profile contributions from Georgia Anne Muldrow, Patrice Rushen, Angela Davis, Wayne Shorter, and more.
“I am honored to have been chosen as curator for the 2023 Burlington Jazz Festival,” said Lakecia Benjamin. “It is a special honor for me because this is the festival's 40th anniversary. One of the things that I am choosing to do is to honor the legacy of this music while at the same time looking at the future of jazz: paying homage to legendary jazz figures, honoring the generation of heroes and teachers who shaped my playing, and enlisting the help of my peers to ensure the future of jazz as a vital and shapeshifting art form. With the help of the Flynn team, as well as community partners, we are putting together an exciting festival that celebrates the past 40 years of jazz in Burlington while looking ahead to the possibilities for the next 40.”