Category Archives: Festival

Newport Jazz Fest 2017 – Vijay Iyer Sextet

Listening to the advance of the Vijay Iyer Sextet’s Far From Over (ECM) on the office stereo is one thing. The music is vivid, mysterious, roomy and imposing. Watching the pianist’s new group render the same music on stage via live stream from the Ojai Festival in early June using the family’s big-ass TV screen with audio pumping through an “entertainment” system is another. The action was kinetic, serrated, jostling, ecstatic, rife with creative friction and brimming with intent – volition has never been lacking in the pianist’s work. Meaning, catching this outfit in performance is a must. The alliance between horn players Steve Lehman, Mark Shim and Graham Haynes is fierce; seems like the leader’s arrangements script them discrete blasts of energy as often as they sketch out overt lines of melody. And the saxophonists’ solos are flat out fierce. Riding the industrious maneuvers of an established rhythm section like drummer Tyshawn Sorey, bassist Stephan Crump and Iyer himself, the three horns feel like they’re in a constant state of lift-off. Far From Over’s music gives itself some breathing room; “Wake” is a meditative mist. But the program puts its yen for propulsion up front. From the title track to “Into Action” to “Good On The Ground,” there are plenty of punches being thrown. The leader’s percussive approach to the piano, Sorey’s boom-bap punctuations – it’s a physical situation that you pretty much need to see to get the full hit. Meaning catch you at the Quad Stage at 12:40.

Newport Jazz Festival 2017 Schedule  / Aug 4 – 6

Newport Jazz Fest 2017 – One For All

There’s a pronounced yen for yesteryear in the esteemed sextet’s hard bop lingo, but the vigor of their attack mutes any mustiness. Indeed, the band’s genuflections to late ’50s Blue Note and Prestige joints teem with pithy solos and group precision. Last year’s The Third Decade (Smoke Sessions) finds them in a place of power. Eric Alexander’s animated sax flurries and David Hazeltine’s sage piano forays are tough and lyrical (don’t miss “Frenzy”), and the rhythm section of drummer Joe Farnsworth and bassist John Webber echoes the Jazz Messengers credo: balance passion with poise. To some degree the NYC outfit are keepers of the flame; the deets of this half-century-old vernacular aren’t as prominent as they used to be. So, on seductive piece like “Buddy’s,” the bluesy punch of trombonist Steve Davis and the fierce cackles of trumpeter Jim Rotondi are bolstering one of the most entertaining approaches to swing that jazz ever concocted. They  hit the Quad Stage on Friday.

Newport Jazz Festival 2017 Schedule  / Aug 4 – 6

Newport Jazz Fest 2017 – Henry Threadgill’s Zooid

It’s a peculiar percolation served up by the wily composer’s mid-sized ensemble. From cello to tuba to guitar, every instrument seems to be playing a percussionist’s role – including the 73-year-old Threadgill. His judicious sax pecking and flute blasts may suggest melody, but they also pepper the action with a lithe forward motion that invariably gooses an oddly fetching groove. Bluster is banished on many of Zooid’s performances, and most of their latest album, the Pulitizer Prize-winning In For a Penny, In For a Pound (Pi Recordings) lets a measured approach signify the music’s sense of intricacy and, ultimately, wisdom. Call it a five-level chess game where the pieces are always in play. The band occasionally rises the roof, and the solos bolster the action, but it’s the crazed propulsion that will be bouncing around your head after the dust has settled on Saturday afternoon at their Newport debut.

Newport Jazz Festival 2017