The Long Island Winterfest is in full swing at wineries throughout the East End, and will continue through March 18. Since 2006, talented musicians and music enthusiasts have flooded the venues for six consecutive weekends, bringing welcome business to local restaurants, hotels, and shops during the slowest time of the year. Although most of the events are on the North Fork, there has been participation from Wolffer Estate Vineyard in Sagaponack as well. A full calendar can be found at liwinterfest.com.
This is the fourth year Winterfest has featured a jazz theme. Claes Brondal, a 37-year-old musician who lives in Sag Harbor, played the festival, nicknamed “Jazz on the Vine,” last year, and couldn’t believe the attendance. “Wineries becoming music venues, packed for weekends in a row, who knew?” he said last week. “Sometimes you wonder if live music will survive on the East End,” he added, what with competition from such other “noises” as television and computers, and a dearth of good promoters.
Mr. Brondal will be performing this year on March 4, as drummer and leader of his own All That Jazz! All-Star Super Band. The band was born out of Sag Harbor’s Thursday-night East End jam sessions, found at Bay Burger in season and now at Page Cafe. It performed to a packed house at a benefit for the Bay Street Theatre in November. With Grammy Award-winners in the mix, the group includes Ada Rovatti, Morris Goldberg, Jim Campagnola, Rashid Lanie, and Peter Weiss, who will be joined this year by Lew Soloff, a trumpeter, who was invited by his longtime friend Randy Brecker.
The acknowledged father of the popular weekly jam session, Mr. Brondal has succeeded in attracting many talented musicians to the area. They are backed by his Thursday Night Live Band, which features a bassist, a guitarist, and a drummer, who, he said, can play in any style and at almost any level. “Music of the world” is Mr. Brondal’s description of the progressive music and diverse styles that come under the umbrella of jazz. The variations keep the sessions interesting, he said, with music “from the streets of New Orleans to Lincoln Center.”
Mr. Brondal said it was important that jazz, with its roots in Southern black America, not be exclusive to an upscale audience. He makes it a point not to charge for band sessions, instead welcoming donations. Word spreads about the special guests, many of whom are well known and show up unexpectedly. The sessions are recorded, “live to tape,” for WPBB 88.3 FM, by George Howard, an independent producer from Rocking Horse Studios.
Also to be found at this year’s “Jazz on the Vine” is a familiar face from the Monday-night jazz jam session at the Pizza Place in Bridgehampton, Dennis Raffelock, who will be heard on upright bass and vocals on March 10.
“You can’t replace live music,” Mr. Brondal said, speaking of the unity between audiences and musicians. He is very grateful for those who come out to listen, he said. “It is like a two-hour vacation.”