Endea Owens, in all likelihood the break-out artist of the year, kicks off the 39th annual “Jazz at the Lake” in Shepard Park on Friday, September 15 at 6 pm.
Daniel Kelly, the composer and musician who curates the festival, expects her impact upon the world will be similar to that of Samara Joy, the vocalist who performed at last year’s “Jazz at the Lake” and whose star has since risen even higher.
“Presenting artists who are just about to explode and find wider recognition – that’s something my mentor and predecessor initiated,” said Kelly, referring to Paul Pines, the poet who curated the festival from 1984 to 2008. “The goal is always to present the best artists available to a Lake George audience – and today, before they become unaffordable.”
Endea Owens, a bassist whose first album, “Feel Good Music” was released September 3, is, as of now, best-known as a member of Stay Human, the Jon Batiste-led house band for The Stephen Colbert Show.
“I love the positivity that radiates from within her, whether as a band leader or when playing with Jon Batiste, who is also a really positive figure,” said Kelly. “You hear this in her music.”
Owens and the members of her band, named The Cookout, are all conservatory-trained musicians, but that does not make their music anything less than soulful or heartfelt, said Kelly.
“Music is not about a musician’s background, training or resume; those are not things I listen for,” said Kelly
“I’m listening to the notes and to what lies behind the notes: energy, passion, dedication.”
Since graduating from Julliard in 2018, Owens has toured and performed with Wynton Marsalis, Jennifer Holliday, Diana Ross, Rhonda Ross and Solange, as well as with Jon Batiste.
In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, the Detroit-raised artist established the Community Cookout, a non-profit organization to provide meals and music to underserved neighborhoods in New York City. To date, the organization has helped feed roughly 3,000 New Yorkers and has hosted more than a dozen free concerts.
“That’s another thing I love about her: offering nutrition through food, while, at the same time, all the things that she can provide as a performing artist, which are also important,” said Kelly.
Kelly said he selected Owens to be the festival’s opening act because “I like getting the weekend off on a celebratory note. That’s really exciting.”
“Jazz at the Lake” runs through Sunday, September 17.
Saturday’s performances start at 1 pm with the epitome of bimusicality: Naya Baaz, the group led by guitarist Rez Abbasi and sitar player Josh Feinberg. The group’s debut album, “Charm,” was released in May.
“They’re pairing Indian and jazz music in a new and exciting way, bringing melodies and rhythms influenced by the music of India into the language of jazz,” said Kelly.
Saturday’s line-up continues with the Aubrey Johnson Group, the Jared Schonig Quintet and at 8 pm, Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, a band of female Cuban musicians led by Canadian saxophonist and “Jazz at the Lake” alumna Jane Bunnett.
“That will be a great band for Saturday night: full of energy and excitement,” said Kelly.
Sunday’s performances open with percussionist Duduka Da Fonseca & Quarteto Universal and closes after the 5 pm performance of Emilio Solla and the Tango Jazz Orchestra.
At 3 pm, “Connected,” led by Richie Goods and Chien Chien Lu, takes the stage.
According to Daniel Kelly, Connected was formed by the bass player and percussionist to promote unity and compassion in the face of contemporary racial violence.
“This year, especially, everyone will find something to connect with,” said Kelly. “If you’re in Shepard Park for the entire weekend, you will experience a wide range of styles that will take you on a musical journey.”
“Jazz at the Lake,” a free festival organized by the Lake George Arts Project, is sponsored by Kenneth and Susan Gruskin and the Gruskin Group and supported by the Town of Lake George, the Village of Lake George, the New York State Council on the Arts, among others, including the members of the Lake George Arts Project.