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- Lakecia Benjamin
Saxophonist and bandleader Lakecia Benjamin
will guest curate the 2023 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, according to an announcement from the Flynn
on Tuesday. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, the BDJF will run from June 7 to 11, half the length of its usual 10-day run.
A rising star in the world of modern jazz, Benjamin performed at the 2022 festival, playing a rousing set at Burlington's Waterfront Park. Having recently released the critically acclaimed album Phoenix
, which includes guest appearances by saxophonist Wayne Shorter
and activist Angela Davis
, Benjamin is one of the hottest names in the genre at the moment. Following in the steps of last year's BDJF guest curator, Michael Mwenso
, Benjamin is excited to take her turn.
"It is a special honor for me to join the Burlington Jazz festival for its 40th anniversary," Benjamin said in a press release. "I want to honor the legacy of this music while looking at the future. 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."
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The Flynn and Benjamin also announced two headliners.
First up is vocalist Samara Joy
, who earlier this month became only the second jazz artist ever to win a Best New Artist Grammy Award. Joy has been turning heads and bending ears with a voice that has been compared to one of her idols, Sarah Vaughan
. Which is fitting, as Vaughan headlined the very first Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, in 1984. Joy opens the festival on the Flynn Main Stage on Wednesday, June 7. Benjamin and her band, Phoenix, will join Joy.
"We are proud to partner with such a powerful and talented artist," said Flynn executive director Jay Wahl
of Benjamin. "Lakecia is one of the best new music leaders in our country. The energy she will inject into this festival will be extraordinary."
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Additionally, local indie soul singer-songwriter Myra Flynn
will make her Flynn Main Stage debut on Sunday, June 11. She'll be joined by the Lake Champlain Mass Choir
to perform a new show called "Roar of the Queen." The performance also serves as release party for Flynn's forthcoming album.
Over its four decades, the jazz fest has traditionally run for 10 days in late May and early June. In its initial announcement on Tuesday, the Flynn offered no explanation for why the 40th anniversary edition of the festival has been shortened by half.
"The festival is a bit shorter," Wahl admitted in an email. "But mostly because we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to open with Samara. We know we can put on a rich, impactful festival for Burlington in five days. I look forward to announcing and sharing with everyone our very robust lineup in April with lots of can’t-miss free shows as always."
Asked what conditions led to the shorter festival, Wahl offered a pragmatic response.
"I’d say there are a varying number of reasons for this, not the least of which is the unforgiving and unpredictable post pandemic festival landscape," he explained in a follow-up email. "To put it simply, things are different now [than] they were before and we must make tough, but necessary adjustments in order to continue to offer the same level of artistic experiences that everyone has come to expect from The Flynn."
Wahl expressed confidence that the Flynn can make the most of the new, five-day festival format. He pointed to last year's free George Clinton show at Waterfront Park as an example of doubling down "on our commitment for wide access."
"We're investing more — not less — resources into the festival in order to make the arts available for all," he wrote.
Tickets for the Samara Joy and Myra Flynn shows are on sale now for Flynn members now and will be available to the public on March 3. The full lineup for the 2023 Burlington Discover Jazz Festival will be announced on April 18. For more information, visit flynnvt.org