In late March Steve and I met friends in Beaufort SC and heard three concerts at the 25th annual Savannah Music Festival, an hour away in Georgia. We had traveled with two of the couples eight years ago in Ireland and visited them in Charlotte last year. Country, blues and jazz aren’t my usual choices, but my ears welcomed new sounds and found the virtuosity of the artists quite impressive. My favorite was the Piano Showdown featuring jazz piano greats Cyrus Chestnut and Marcus Roberts, with newcomers Aaron Diehl and Christian Sands adding their fresh insights to standards like Body and Soul, Perdido, and Stompin’ at the Savoy. Solos and duos in various pairings presented works by Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington and Oscar Peterson–zillions of notes!. I’ve taken courses in jazz and found it to be extremely mentally challenging. It requires years of immersion to become facile with rhythmic and harmonic improvisations. Hearing Roberts and Chestnut playing The Old Rugged Cross was a delight.
Gospel music inflected the Bluegrass concert by Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, but I thought they were upstaged by Sierra Hull‘s opening set. She had studied at Berklee School of Music in Boston and played the mandolin even better than Skaggs. She also teaches mandolin, so of course, she had my heart. I’ll listen for more music by Sierra Hull. Blues musician Taj Mahal pioneered in broadening his genre to include world music, but his concert failed to be compelling–we left after just three numbers. The Festival goes on for three weeks; I missed a concert by my favorite String Quartet, the Dover, who once did an internship at Rice. Next year we’ll plan to hear a wider range of music. Best of all was sharing wine and good food with old friends and traveling companions and meeting new friends of theirs. Life is good.