By Jamie Larson
Hudson Hall at the Historic Hudson Opera House
has been breathlessly expanding its programming since reopening and relaunching last year, lofting high its immaculately restored performance hall as its figurehead. Even now, during Hudson’s (less and less off) off-season, the Hall is about to put on an ambitious three-day jazz extravaganza sure to please aficionados and casual music lovers looking for something to break up the winter doldrums.
The inaugural Hudson Jazz Festival
will run from February 16-18 and features an impressive lineup of performances by musicians from around the globe, films, workshops and more. The truly international event has been curated by Hudson’s own renowned jazz pianist, Armen Donelian
, and every evening will be headlined by the likes of Sheila Jordan and Dominique Eade, The Ara Dinkjian Quartet and Quarteto Moderno.
You know it’s going to be good when the event has already garnered notice from living legend Sonny Rollins.
“The Hudson Jazz Festival has been a long time in the making,” Rollins said. “I first moved to Germantown in 1971 and I became a contributor to the Hudson Opera House (now Hudson Hall) when it opened in 1992. And here we are in 2018, and I’m proud to support the Hudson Jazz Festival because it enriches our community and makes it a better place to live.”
Holding the festival at this unconventional and chilly time of year makes the event stand out even more. It also gives the busy performers a unique chance to share a stage at a time when they can be the center of attention.
“I see this festival as a rare opportunity both to raise regional jazz awareness as well as to reward loyal jazz fans with a first-rate presentation," said Donelian. “We are extremely proud to grace this beautiful venue with an exceptional lineup of world-class performers.”
This is also the first major event hosted at Hudson Hall since Tambra Dillon officially took over as sole executive director of the organization at the beginning of the year. She had been co-director for a few years and has a mile-long resume, but this festival is still no small undertaking for her first turn at the wheel. But like any good captain, she’s always quick to give the credit to her small but exceedingly able crew.
“I’m really excited that Armen has put together a program where there is really something for everyone,” said Dillon. “We are featuring some all time greats and some things that go beyond the jazz spectrum. Our staff has really stepped up and made the impossible possible. We are trying to create a program that stitches together the main stage and the community. It’s so important that we balance that.”
The festival kicks off Friday evening, Feb. 16 with The Ara Dinkjian Quartet, an instrumental collaboration rooted in Turkish, Armenian and Macedonian Roma; headed by world-renowned oud player Dinkjian; and featuring award-winning clarinetist Ismail Lumanovski. Donelian will open for the quartet with a solo piano set of Armenian-inspired romances.
On Saturday, Feb. 17, “jazz matriarch” Sheila Jordan and vocalist, composer, lyricist and instrumental arranger Dominique Eade close the evening, following an afternoon of jazz solo piano immersion with “the Picasso of Jazz piano” JoAnne Brackeen, along with critically acclaimed NYC jazz scene favorite Aaron Goldberg, and young lion James Francies. Festival audiences can then enjoy a free screening of Night Bird Song
, director Stephanie Castillo’s award-winning portrait of the life and premature loss of the great American jazz talent Thomas Chapin.
Students are invited to a multi-generational hands-on jazz improvisation workshop on Sunday morning taught by Donelian and saxophonist Marc Mommaas, co-founders of Hudson Jazzworks. The festival then comes to a fiery close at mid-afternoon with the wild and spontaneous Quarteto Moderno.
Hudson Jazz Festival
Friday, Feb. 16 – Sunday, Feb. 18
327 Warren St., Hudson, NY
Tickets start at $25, with weekend passes available for $90, which include priority entry and seating to every performance. For online ticket purchasing, check the website or call (518) 822-1438.