Rick Parker Collective
Harris Eisenstadt's Canada Day Octet
Nate Wooley Quintet
Mike Baggetta Quartet
Admission is $10 for adults, children are welcome and admitted free.
See the left hand sidebar for Directions to the Urban Meadow Community Garden
A Festival of Reveling, Unhindered by Restraint
Brian Harkin for The New York Times
By NATE CHINEN
Published: June 12, 2012
Mister Softee, a familiar intruder, was easily silenced as the band played on. Still, the moment lingered in the mind awhile, an accidental reminder of what this festival means, and for whom.
Hot Cup Chili Pepper 7 had just barreled through a tune called “Turkey Foot Corner” at the Red Hook Jazz Festival on Sunday afternoon when some outside noise piped up, distracting but altogether fitting. It was the rickety jingle of an ice cream truck parked next to the Urban Meadow community garden in Brooklyn, which adjoins a playground and serves as the festival site.
Now in its fifth year, the Red Hook Jazz Festival exists contentedly on the margins, like its namesake neighborhood and much of the music on its bill. Though it takes place in June, which has been peak jazz festival season in New York for 40 years now, it’s too small a blip to show up on most radars. The festival’s sponsor is a local pizza place, and some of its slight production costs were crowd-sourced online. The mood in the audience was neighborly, with a higher ratio of small children to youngish adults than I’ve seen at any musical event not expressly pitched as a kids’ show.
All of which lent Sunday’s proceedings a warmly ragtag appeal. The lineup favored a strain of post-traditionalism, schooled but not stuffy, wily and joshing. Along with Hot Cup Chili Pepper 7, that description applied especially to Travis Sullivan’s Bjorkestra and the five-piece band known as the Flail.
Bjorkestra held Sunday’s headlining slot and played to its thinnest crowd. (Dinner and bedtime wait for no band.) The group, which plays the music of Björk, the Icelandic art-pop star, appeared in pared-down form, with no trumpets, no trombones and no baritone saxophone.
So along with Mr. Sullivan, its front line featured only his fellow saxophonist Sean Nowell, the set’s strongest soloist, and the vocalist Shayna Steele, a stand-in for the band’s muse. The rhythm section worked smartly, reveling in breakbeats on “Hyperballad” and in electronics on “Unravel.” But without the larger canvas, and despite Ms. Steele’s laudable effort, the music sounded more than ever like the work of a cover band.
Hot Cup Chili Pepper 7 had no problems in that regard. Led by the bassist Moppa Elliott, the group was an expanded edition of his primary band, Mostly Other People Do the Killing, with the addition of Dave Taylor on trombone, Brandon Seabrook on banjo and Ron Stabinsky on piano.
Playing a batch of new pastiches, Mr. Elliott’s cohort often gave the impression of a Dixieland band on amphetamines. “The Shickshinny Shimmy” was a heaving stomp, with a fluttering, strange soprano saxophone solo by Jon Irabagon. “Gum Stump” was a slow-drag blues with extra measures spliced in. There was manic superfluency throughout the set, notably from the trumpeter Peter Evans and from Mr. Seabrook, who attacked his banjo with twitchy insistence, often using a violin bow.
The Flail held an earlier slot, wasting little of its allotted time. With the trumpeter Dan Blankinship and the tenor saxophonist Stephan Moutot up front, along with a fleet-footed rhythm section composed of the pianist Brian Marsella, the bassist Reid Taylor and the drummer Matt Zebroski, it’s a band of impressively sound rapport.
The group’s episodic opener, “Les Arc,” featured some swashbuckling work by Mr. Moutot; next was “We’re Not Out of the Woods Yet,” with a second-line groove and a trenchant essay by Mr. Blankinship. Later there came a version of Thelonious Monk’s “Trinkle Tinkle,” built on a series of clever rhythmic convolutions.
That song proved a good warm-up for Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president, who briefly took the stage to issue a proclamation. “Lemme tell ya,” he began, eyeing the crowd. “This is what makes Brooklyn Brooklyn, it really is.”