Lewiston Jazz Festival draws crowds for two days of music

Original article by Garaud MacTaggart, Buffalo News

Based on the sheer number of folks who attended both days of this year’s Lewiston Jazz Festival, held Friday and Saturday, and the multitude of events available for the crowds to revel in, it appears all the hard work that the staff and their associates have put into this project was rewarded handsomely.

An abundance of music stages and musicians were on hand. Food vendors lined both sides of Center Street and festival programmers even included a “classic” car show for automotive fans to ogle, but there were other things which added to the overall flavor of weekend.

There was a Jazz Mass at St. Peter’s Church featuring Bobby Militello on flute and sax and members of the St. Joseph University Church Contemporary Music Ensemble. The pastor, David G. LiPuma, introduced the proceedings by welcoming people to “just another Saturday afternoon Mass,” a remark that garnered peals of laughter from the standing-room-only crowd.

Phil Aguglia, band director at Kenmore East High School and board chair of Music is Art, brought some of his music students to the festival. These high schoolers set up shop in a courtyard just off the main drag and worked with younger kids by letting them handle the instruments and showing them how to make sounds and music. A few hours later, the same students who were teaching were on stage playing in a big band and running through some charts.

And there was plenty of music to be heard.

The Main Stage was the putative centerpiece of the event and the players populating it on Saturday were plenty talented. Dave Kayne led the Western New York Jazz Orchestra through some of his inventive arrangements; Rich Thompson and Charles Pillow played a pleasant set; clarinetist Sal Andolina led a quintet through parts of the Benny Goodman catalog, and the festival headliner, Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band, provided the perfect topper for the evening.

Crowds were stacked up in front of the Frontier House Porch all weekend. Highlights include the work of “It’s Kenny’s Fault” – an ad hoc group led by Dan Hull and featuring Kayne, saxophonist Kenny Kuriscak, pianist Bobby Jones, and bassist Jack Kulp – and Phil DiRe’s pickup group which held its own with a sizable audience despite playing at the same time as Sanchez.

The Rising Star Stage was the spot where up and coming talent got a chance to shine. This is where the Eastman Student Band rocked it, young tenor player Elliot Scozzaro proved to be a name worth looking out for, DeAnn DiMeo Tompkins displayed an impressively varied repertoire to go along with an impressive voice, and John Lehning’s quartet made a solid case for themselves.

Over in the little nook known as the Lewiston Peace Garden, smaller ensembles were the bill of fare where two trios, one led by Carina and Vincent James Mastrantonio and the other by Dave Scott, were pleasant diversions.

There were more musicians playing than just those mentioned and all of them served up tunes to at least part of the massive crowds flooding Lewiston’s downtown. All the players had audiences and all the attendees heard good stuff. That pretty much sums up this year’s festival. Kinda makes one hungry for next year’s offerings.