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Close Enough for Jazz 

Ron Carter will perform with his trio at the Jazz in the Valley Festival in Kerhonkson the weekend of August 14.
  • Ron Carter will perform with his trio at the Jazz in the Valley Festival in Kerhonkson the weekend of August 14.

Thanks to the legacy of Clearwater and 1969’s original Woodstock festival—the latter of which turns 40 this month—when it comes to musical events the Hudson Valley is largely associated with folk and rock. But jazz, too, has long had its haven in the local landscape, from the big bands that swung the Catskills resorts to the boundary-shattering activities of the Creative Music Studio. And while there are indeed other worthy outdoor summer jazz festivals, at 10 years, Jazz in the Valley, which happens August 14 through 16 in Kerhonksen, is the longest-running such event in the region. And this year the rain-or-shine program boasts a to-die-for lineup of several of the music’s brightest names: keyboardist Les McCann, bassist Ron Carter, pianists Eddie Palmieri and Mulgrew Miller, vocalist Kevin Mahogany, guitarist Russell Malone, and saxophonist Javon Jackson.

“The audience reaction [at last year’s festival] was incredible, very engaged, ” says Jackson, a tenor man who rose to prominence as a member of the legendary Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and has performed in connection with Behind the Beat, the festival’s educational component that brings music to local schools. “[The band wasn’t] sure what to expect and the enthusiasm was just off the charts.” In his current band Jackson works with yet another jazz legend, the great McCann, whose career stretches from his time as a hip hard bop pianist in the early 1960s to his move to organ and a run of big-selling soul-jazz LPs the ’70s. “[Performing with McCann] has been a great opportunity,” Jackson says. “He’s been very supportive of my playing and he’s a quirky eccentric, like I am—we like to take the music in many different directions.”

Carter first became widely known as one fifth of Miles Davis’s revered quintet, playing with the iconic trumpeter from 1963 to ’68. Since then, he’s worked almost constantly, it seems, leading his own groups, collaborating with other artists, and developing his reputation as one of the world’s most influential bassists. Besides being a venerated bandleader, Palmieri is one of Latin jazz’s foremost pianists, a player whose technique fuses salsa and Afro-Cuban sounds with bebop and post bop styles. Miller, another ex-Jazz Messenger, shares Palmieri’s bop influences and has performed with Betty Carter, Tony Williams, and other greats. In addition to making several well-received solo albums, the Albany-born Malone has been a sideman to Jimmy Smith, Harry Connick Jr., and, most recently, Diana Krall. With his rich, deep-timbred voice, the fittingly named Mahogany readily brings to mind the great Joe Williams. Besides leading his own big band, the singer guested on dates by the late Elvin Jones.

Held on the lawn of the Hudson Valley Resort & Spa, the annual afternoon series presents its exceptional artists against the breathtaking backdrop of the Shawangunk Mountains and the Hudson River, and continues to grow in stature with each season. Past performers include Randy Weston, Roy Hargrove, Stefon Harris, Jimmy Heath, the late Oscar Brown Jr., and Ahmad Jamal, whose “Picture Perfect” was specially commissioned for the festival.

Jazz in the Valley takes place August 14 through 16 at the Hudson Valley Resort & Spa in Kerhonkson. (845) 384-6350; www.transartinc.org.

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