Hobart Book Village hosts jazz weekend; mulls festival

Above: Victor Mullen and John Mahoney install the art for their Jazz Soiree exhibit weekend at Liberty Rock Books. Photo via the Hobart Book Village Facebook page.

The Hobart Book Village will hold a Jazz Soiree and Sale from Friday, July 31 to Sunday, August 2, featuring live jazz music, jazz workshops, a free screening of Ken Burns' film "Jazz" and the sale of a private collection of over 2,000 Jazz LP and 400 plus CD's. All events are free, and all are welcomed. 

Friday night’s opening reception will feature live performances, including one by guitarist Dan McCarthy. Saturday’s performers will be giving semi-formal musicians’ workshops throughout the afternoon; the lineup will include John Hvasta and Vladimir Smirnoff on drums, Paul Durgala on alto sax, Rich Mollin and John Richards on bass and Dennis Turechek on acoustic guitar.  On Sunday, background music for the sale will be furnished by a screening of the Ken Burns film “Jazz.”     

All that jazz will coincide with an exhibit opening of artist Victor Mullen’s landscapes, a watercolor series entitled "Views from My Homes Over 40 Years: New York ... Maine ... Puerto Rico." Mullen is a jazz lover and former Walton Central School art teacher. And all weekend long, all six Hobart booksellers will be offering 20% off of all music-related works in their inventories.

The Watershed Post spoke to Book Village store owners and soiree organizers Don Dales and John Mahoney about the event and what it means to be a book village.

Watershed Post: So how did Hobart even get to be a Book Village?

Don Dales: There’s a small village in Wales, Hay-on-Wye, where forty years ago an American named Richard Booth opened a bookstore and encouraged others to do so. That became the world’s first book village. There are like 29 bookstores in a tiny village with under 300 people, smaller than Hobart; it’s been so successful they had to build parking lots for the busses from London.

That was the inspiration. The initial push came from Linda Wilson of Bibliobarn, which is now in Margaretville. I got a couple of bookstores open and sold them, and now that we have six, it’s a tourist attraction. And it works when you develop critical mass. This is the third year we’ve held a Festival of Women Writers; it drew 25 authors and 150 participants. Town was hopping!

John Mahoney: Being a book village allows us to have a lot of fun; even in wintertime, we have a monthly lecture series that helps everyone fight off cabin fever. We’re the only book village east of the Mississippi, and I think we’re the biggest one in the United States. We’ve been written up in the New York Times, and I still have people come in and say they just found the article—travelers from other countries, people from right nearby. The concept has such proven value as a tourist trap in Europe that the government helps subsidize it, and everybody benefits.

WP: And now you’re celebrating jazz.

DD: Liberty Rock Books was lucky enough to get a collection from a jazz man, now in his 90s, who’s been collecting for 70 years. They anticipated a major sale and we said, “Let’s enlarge this to a jazz soiree.” Friday night we’ll have an opening reception with wine and cheese and music from jazz guitarist Dan McCarthy. We’ll also be having the opening for Victor Mullen’s artworks, wonderful luminous watercolor landscapes he created in Maine, in Puerto Rico, and here at his place on Gun House Hill Road. Victor is also a big jazz fan, so his work is a perfect fit for this.

JM: The collector wants to stay anonymous, but I can tell you he played four types of clarinet and sax proficiently and just recently sold his instruments for a good bit of money. His day job was as a professor of history and politics at a college down in Westchester, and he once ran for state level office and lost.

DD: What we’d like to do is get an annual jazz festival going around here. There are a surprising number of jazz musicians and serious jazz lovers hidden in these woods. Rich Mollin, for example, who will be playing bass and giving a workshop, teaches jazz at SUNY Oneonta and runs the Davenport Center for the Arts. John Hvasta, the drummer, and John Richards, who plays bass, have been friends for forty years—they’ll be showing up late Saturday afternoon.

JM: With any luck, this will help us continue to ferret the jazz folks out. I went to a jazz event in Stamford yesterday (from Stamford's Friends of Music) that was very well attended; they had the Julliard Jazz Ensemble, with a terrific vibraphone player and a classically trained pianist. We’re just getting started with our networking on this, but it’s going to be fun.

The Hobart Village Jazz Soiree. Reception: Friday, July 31, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Workshops: 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1. Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Liberty Rock Books, 678 Main St, Hobart. All events are free. 607-538-1760. hobartbookvillage.com.