Artemis ready to cure post-pandemic crowd with music at Jazz Fest


Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival returns this weekend after the COVID-19 stain wiped out what would have been its 43rd edition last summer. Still feeling the effect of the pandemic, the 43rd Saturday and Sunday festival will be shortened, with safety rules in place and guidelines being followed. But the quality of the music remains at the top.

One of the bright groups that will be featured will be the all-female group Artemis, which will perform on Sunday. The group was formed only a few years ago, largely made up of women talented enough to have their own group. But opportunity and luck brought them together and a special bond was formed. They decided it shouldn’t be broken.

As Artemis rose – with rave reviews and concerts piling up – the coronavirus disrupted them and the music world darkened. The Saratoga Springs show will be the group’s first appearance since closing. It is not taken for granted.

“Music has always been a healing force,” Artemis pianist and music director Renee Rosnes said in early June from her New Jersey home. “And it can also be a kind of advocacy for change in the world. We are seeing a lot of things happening right now (in the world). … I think music has probably kept a lot of people sane. Because it’s a way to feel connected when you are listening.

“We all need it more than ever right now and being able to perform live again in front of a live audience will be great for all of us, musicians and audiences alike. “

In the group with Rosnes are trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover, bassist Noriko Ueda and drummer Allison Miller. Original saxophone member Melissa Aldana is gone. The group is rolling.

“We are delighted that a young tenor saxophonist named Nicole Glover is joining us,” said Rosnes. “She’s been in New York for a while and she truly is one of the most amazing musicians I’ve heard in a long time.” This will be Glover’s second concert, with the first being in January 2020 before closing.

Rosnes (who happens to be married to another excellent jazz pianist, Bill Charlap) has performed with a large number of jazz stars. She has fierce energy and a keen sense of swing. She plays delicately as easily as she burns with intensity. These are traits his group mates also share. Jensen is a superb trumpeter with a solid resume, including playing in some of the best big bands in jazz. Miller leads his own band, Boom Tic Boom, and performs with other jazz artists and pop groups like Ani DiFranco. Ueda is a newcomer from Japan.

The all-female jazz group is anything but new. The name comes from Greek mythology. Artemis was the goddess of the hunt, an explorer and protector of young children. Jansen came up with the name, which is also the title of his debut album on Blue Note Records. The seed was planted in 2017 when Rosnes assembled an all-female group to celebrate International Women’s Day at a concert in Paris. The group not only impressed music lovers but also the musicians themselves.

The debut album has nine cuts, with members contributing originals. There are also re-imaginations of “Fool on the Hill” by The Beatles and “The Sidewinder” by Lee Morgan. Rosnes takes care of the arrangement a lot.

Rosnes said the group’s rehearsals were scheduled for mid-June, the first time to perform together in more than a year. But the proximity of Artemis will not be defeated by a virus.

“There is a natural chemistry that was there from the start. We have been in contact with each other to talk. From time to time, we join with each other through Zoom to do interviews with various people, ”said Rosnes. “When we get together to play again, it will be like riding a bike. Once you’re there, you don’t forget. It will be a natural connection. I have no concerns about this.

After the festival’s first performance in France, a small tour was organized in the summer of 2017. Rosnes said he heard many comments during the tour from people about the inspiration of the band and the music. “Not just women. Every kind.

Then they collectively decided to continue and the first CD was developed. “The chemistry was so palpable. It only deepened. Plus, we love spending time together. I think there is a group sound … We all have different musical personalities, but when we play together, we are a team.

Artemis is already working on a second album. Rosnes said festival-goers can expect tracks from the debut CD, but there could be a few new things.

Meanwhile, during the pandemic, Rosnes made a recording that included stellar players like saxophonist Chris Potter and bassist Christian McBride. Miller made an album with singer Carmen Staaf and Jensen was busy at the Manhattan School of Music where she was acting associate dean and director of the jazz arts program.

But “nothing has changed the fact that we’re still going to be a long-lived band,” Rosnes said. “We have had so much work canceled. But we already have a lot of new work and new commitments coming up. There are concerts until the end of the year and a European tour scheduled for early 2022, before returning to the United States for an appearance at the Kennedy Center and performances on the West Coast.

“So we have a lot of work ahead and we can’t wait to get there,” she said. “It will be good to be together again and hit the road again.”

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