Beating the wintertime blues with hot jazz

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A jazz explosion is set to detonate on Valentine’s Day, so if free concerts held at East End vineyards sound like your type of thing, start marking up your social calendar.

Arriving just in time for Valentine’s Day is the musical series, “Jazz on the Vine.” For the next six weeks, the winter blahs will be a thing of the past.

Most of the concerts will be held at North Fork wineries and a few other venues. On the South Fork, concerts are being held at Wölffer Estate vineyard in Sagaponack and the Southampton Inn in Southampton.

This is the second year “Jazz on the Vine” has been the theme for the annual “Winterfest” event. This year, the series was extended from four weekends to six based on popular demand and winery requests. Even so, the musical selection committee had to turn away more than 80 groups who wanted to perform.

Organizers are predicting heavy attendance this year as last year’s series brought standing-room-only crowds.

“I think we have the makings of an annual music festival,” said EEAC executive director Patricia Snyder. “We had a couple from Bermuda come for last year’s ‘Jazz on the Vine.’ People come from New York City, Queens and all over Long Island. It goes way beyond a local event.”

One of main reasons for the series’ success is the star power. “Jazz on the Vine” features national, international and regional acts. To name a few, the David Amram Quartet is on the line-up, as is the legendary Teddy Charles and the Grammy award-winning Bakithi Kumalo Quartet. Additionally, Beledo and Quartet from Uruguay are performing. So are the Rhythmic Prophecies Quartet, who have played for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the award-winning Shenole Latimer Quartet.

The variety of jazz genre types is also varied. There will be smooth jazz, progressive jazz and New Orleans jazz. Funk, chill, bossa nova and swing are also on the line-up. And vocalists will croon favorites from the American Songbook, contemporary jazz, traditional jazz and jazz fused with blues, Latin, Afro-Cuban, Flamenco and Gypsy music.

“We have every type of jazz in the world. We have all the classic forms and everything in between,” said Steve Bard, a volunteer who helped recommend and compile jazz band selections. “The fact that we have 68 concerts blows my mind … Every weekend there’s great music. You don’t want to miss it.”

Plenty of area jazz musicians also made the cut. Jazz couple Jane Hastay and Peter Martin Weiss of East Hampton will perform on March 8 at The Tasting Room in Peconic. The Sunnyland Jazz Band, which performs frequently at Le Chef in Southampton, will jazz up the tasting room of Duck Walk North in Southold on February 15. Ranny Reeve, an East End jazz staple, will perform on March 8 at Castello di Borghese winery in Cutchogue.

Additionally, there are 26 wineries and seven restaurants or hotels hosting the concerts, including Oso restaurant at The Southampton Inn, which is hosting J Trio on February 28.

Concerts are typically held on weekend afternoons with a few shows scheduled at night.

This year, visual arts are part of the fun. Southampton artist Sibylle-Maria Pfaffenbichler and her jazz-inspired paintings of people dancing will be on display at the Roseline Dimon Gallery at the Jamesport Manor Inn. Also on view will be abstract images by John Randolph. On February 22, the inn will host the guitar and jazz duo Serenade at 3 p.m. to open the art exhibition.

In addition, area businesses are offering discounts and special stay-and-play packages to encourage people to come to the North Fork and stay there. At its heart, “Winterfest” is about giving area businesses a boost during a time of year they could use one.

Steve Bates, Long Island Wine Council executive director, reported that winery members had an increase of sales between 20 and 200 percent during last year’s “Jazz on the Vine.”

“The theme of jazz works very well,” Mr. Bates said. “A lot of jazz lovers love wine and a lot of wine lovers love jazz. It’s a winning combination for everyone: the visitors, the musicians and our member wineries.”

With economic times as they are, “Jazz on the Vine” presents an opportunity for Long Island residents to have a quick getaway without blowing the bank, said Long Island Culture and Wine Visitors Bureau marketing director Kristin Matejka. She said that “Winterfest” is a winning combination of agri-tourism and cultural tourism that allows people to experience great jazz and bucolic views in one fell swoop.

“People can have a great mini-vacation on one tank of gas,” she said. “People have the chance to have an affordable and unique experience in their backyard.”

Ultimately, it’s the joining of the performing arts, the visual arts and the community that makes “Winterfest” an undertaking worth doing, said Ms. Snyder.

“It’s been proven that the arts have a positive impact on the economy and make communities stronger,” she said. “We had all these organizations and local politicians working together on ‘Winterfest.’ We all share a common goal and a shared vision … The series was an enormous success last year, I think this year’s going to be even better.”

“Jazz on the Vine” will be held from Saturday, February 14, through Sunday, March 22, at East End wineries, restaurants and hotels. For a full schedule and information on deals, events and discounts, visit www.liwinterfest.com.

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