The Coolest Jazz in the State--Right Here in Elizabethtown

How lucky is the Lake Champlain Valley?

Unbelievably. We may live 5 hours or so from NYC but we are always learning of a new talent who has decided to settle in this quiet and picturesque valley.

For about a year now, I have been hearing about one such resident--composer/trumpeter, Taylor Haskins.

According to his website, Mr. Haskins is being hailed as one of the most original new voices on the trumpet today. Downbeat magazine declared him one of '25 Trumpets for the Future', stating that Taylor displays "a probing, adroit lyricism and a gift for complex, imaginative composition."  As a sideman, Taylor won a Grammy award in 2005 working with Dave Holland on the album “Overtime.” The credits and kudos go on and on.

I am overdue with a blog on Mr. Haskins. I have tried to catch him in performance in Elizabethtown or Westport several times before but between my schedule and outdoor rainouts, with no success.

Nothing can stop me today. I am at The Hand House for the afternoon “Piano by Nature” concert featuring the Taylor Haskins Quartet.

I arrive this afternoon to find the organizers preparing bowls of snacks for the children who have been invited to attend the concert for free today.

As the audience gathers, I notice at least a dozen young ones among the crowd and am excited that they will be introduced to jazz this afternoon. And not just any jazz. This is a world-class ensemble and world-class jazz music. I was in Greenwich Village a couple of weeks ago wandering around and sampling jazz clubs, and what I hear today in Elizabethtown, NY is superior to the strains emanating from any of the clubs in NYC on that Friday night.

It is a transcending experience for performers and audience alike. Looking at the faces and body motions of the performers, it is evident that they are transported by the music they create and the same can be said of the audience.

We are treated to original music by Mr. Haskins as well as compositions from other greats like John Coltrane, Clifford Brown, and Wayne Shorter. In fact, mid-way through, Mr. Haskins explains, “I like to hide my masterpieces behind the Monets, Picassos, and Matisses.” He keeps his banter short and to the point, but his compositions and musicianship speak volumes.

One of his original pieces is a tribute called, “Ballad of Michael Jackson.” It has a  sort of ominous, almost stealthy line to it and it is during this strain that some of the youngsters decide to creep back into the concert room after a little break, which couldn’t have worked out better if it had been rehearsed.

The quartet is comprised of a pianist, an upright bass player, a percussionist, and trumpet player. Taylor Haskins surprises us with some variations on his instrument by occasionally playing what looks like a double muted trumpet and an instrument that I have to research. It is some sort of mouth keyboard which is called a melodica.

It is a “WOW” event and anyone who loves jazz should go out their way to find out where and when Mr. Haskins will next be performing in or out of the area.

“Piano by Nature” has more events on tap at The Hand House for the 2013-2014 season. Click on the web site for a full schedule.

For more events in the Lake Champlain Region click here.

Kathleen Recchia has been enjoying the arts in the Adirondack for about 20 years—both as observer and participant (acting, directing, and producing). She also enjoys cross-country skiing, swimming, juggling, and hosting visitors to the area at her bed & breakfast in Jay.


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