Music : Vibraphonist, steel drums, and women of jazz at Union Chapel
Photo courtesy of Sheila Baptista, Lewis and Kirk Music
This weekend, the Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs is the setting for the Jazz & Blues Summerfest – two nights featuring a lineup of accomplished musicians performing a variety of musical styles, including jazz, blues, contemporary, Latin, and even some Caribbean sounds provided by a steel drum outfit.
Sheila Baptista, co-founder and president of the Lewis & Kirk Music production company, has been bringing the artists she represents to Vineyard audiences for the past few years. Her New York-based company handles clients with a focus on, in Ms. Baptista's words, "Independent artists, particularly women, who are in the jazz arts and very much ready for the prime time."
Summerfest includes a silent auction of works by New York artists. Part of the proceeds from the auction will go to the Martha's Vineyard Breast Cancer Network. Ms. Baptista, a breast cancer survivor with strong roots to the Island, said, "Having gone through too many rounds of chemo and two surgeries, I could not fathom how you could deal with that while having to travel off-Island." She added, "I've found that music is so therapeutic." Hannah Beecher, director of the benefiting organization, will be on hand to make a brief presentation.
Although her Vineyard festival headliner, vibraphonist Jay Hoggard, is a man, Ms. Baptista originally founded her organization with the intention of helping women get a foothold in the male-dominated world of jazz. Among the artists performing here this weekend is an all-female jazz ensemble, Sage. The six-member band, which has been featured at the Major League Baseball All Star Game and at one of President Obama's inauguration balls, was founded by Ms. Baptista 13 years ago. She was an original member, providing vocals for the band, and she has overseen a number of lineup changes over the years. The current lineup features piano, flute, two saxophones, bass, and drums.
The group, which has just completed its first official recording, delivers a combination of classical, gospel, jazz, and adult contemporary. Sage was part of the Vineyard lineup last year and was well received.
Also appearing here for the second year in row are Andrea & James and The AndJam Band, a husband and wife duo on guitar and flute. The couple have released seven recordings of their jazz fusion original tunes.
Another husband and wife singer/songwriter team, Mimi Jones and Luis Perdomo, will lend their talents to the Thursday night lineup. The bassist and pianist couple, which has enjoyed successful solo careers, will appear with the addition of a saxophonist and drummer. Commented Ms. Baptista of the quartet, "They will be performing a very different style of jazz and Latin and neosoul."
Two unconventional and exciting acts provide some added flair to this year's schedule. The Westchester United Methodist Church Shining Stars Steel Orchestra will open both shows with two distinct sets of Caribbean-infused steel drum music. The nine piece unit, made up of kids from the ages of 14 to 18, has performed all over the East coast including an appearance at the famed Apollo Theater in Harlem. Their vibrant, full sound and youthful energy has garnered an enthusiastic response from audiences.
Festival headliner Jay Hoggard performs on the vibraphone, a percussion instrument played with mallets, which is somewhat similar to a xylophone or marimba with organ-like resonator tubes. Mr. Hoggard is one of the premiere players on the vibraphone. "He performs in every style," said Ms. Baptista, "Jazz, sacred, blues, and contemporary. He is carrying on the legacy of the great Lionel Hampton [legendary jazz vibraphonist and bandleader]. She added, "What he brings to the table is not only academic, but artistic and emotional. Vibraphone is a very complicated instrument, but it's a wonderful sound."
Among the artwork that will be included in the silent auction are a piece by African-art-influenced painter Anton, a piece from Tanzania, a portrait of the band Sage by the artist Shadow, and two portrait sittings valued at $3,000 and $5,000.
Martha's Vineyard Jazz & Blues Festival, Union Chapel, Oak Bluffs. Aug. 31–Sept. 1, 6:30–10 pm. lewisandkirkmusic.com.