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Son Volt Kicks Off Rhythm & Roots Festival on Friday, Aug 30

It’s sometimes hard to reconcile the dire and doleful in Jay Farrar’s voice. The Son Volt boss centers his songs on the emotional attractions of desperation, and the forlorn vibe of his vocals has come to define most his narratives. You can hear it in his early work with Uncle Tupelo, and it’s like a low-hanging fog on “Ten Second News” and “Tear Stained Eye” from 1995’s Trace, an album that’s earned iconic status in the alt-country world. For most of the last quarter century Farrar’s anguish has been applied to romance. But politically he knows when a pot is boiling over, and has no problem citing the dangers of the spill. That’s never been plainer than it is on his band’s ninth album, this year’s Union (Transmit Sound), a disc that applies his signature melancholy to lament the scourge of the Trump era and the punishing atmosphere of its endless atrocities. As it moves from citing the tears in Lady Liberty’s eyes to evidencing the administration’s current crimes against immigrants, Union becomes the most broadside-centric title in the band’s discography. But while it encourages #resistors to “make the fur fly” in response to Team Koch chicanery, Moscow Mitch heartlessness and other fiendish GOP maneuvers, I’d love to see Son Volt launch proactive indictments rather than rhetorical queries such as the plaintive “reality winner, what have you done?.” Farrar knows the impact of anthems. As more shit hits bigger fans in the upcoming months, here’s to the singer clocking a rally cry of inspiring proportions. Perhaps the most  inviting part about SV’s Rhythm & Roots Fest Friday night set, is the sparkle of the band’s strings – the guitars of Mark Spencer, Chris Frame and Farrar will bring some extra radiance to their magic hour set on the Rhythm Stage. And of course we shouldn’t forget, Son Volt ain’t lacking for some of that Crazy Horse muscle, and whenever they choose to hit the gas on a rocker, that signature melancholy receives plenty of liftoff. Twang, too. R&RF 2019 might be a wise time for them to dust off that nifty version of “Looking At The World Through a Windshield” that they clocked in their early days.

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Pros know that the annual fest’s kickoff afternoon usually boasts a certain je ne sais quoi (that’s pidgin cajun, y’all) . The optimistic vibe of arrival is in the air.  Old pals pop through the gate. The whole place is welcoming. So claim that vacay day you deserve and claim your Friday. The Travelin’ McCoury’s will be rollin through the Dead’s “Cumberland Blues,” the Pine Leaf Boys will be turning Ninigret Park into Eunice North, David Greely, Courtney Granger and Steve Riley will be tipping the hat to Dewey Balfa, and Chubby Carrier will be dropping his very strong chank-a-chank science. Has it really be 365 days since last we danced?

August 30-Sept 1 – Charlestown, Rhode Island

Rhythm & Roots

Weekend Schedule Break Out

No Longer Mountains in Action

Tia Fuller Wants to See The Bad Plus and Dianne Reeves at the Newport Jazz Festival

Today begins the Newport Jazz FestI asked a handful of participating artists who they wanted to catch if they had the chance to spend the full weekend. Saxophonist Tia Fuller chose The Bad Plus.

 

My first choice is the Bad Plus, simply because I haven’t heard the configuration with Orrin Evans. He was one of the first people to give me gigs when I moved to New York. I played with his big band. He’s worked in my band. I’m curious about the flair he’s going to bring to the table. He and I are Aries, a fire sign. I know that whatever situation he’s in, he’s going to be authentic, full-spirited, and very real. Orrin is like a brother of mine. Even though he’s around my age, he’s been on the scene and played with a lot of the masters, and he’s taught me the ins and out of being a bandleader. Things that have stuck with me. To me, he’s a master.

I also want to see Dianne Reeves. Every time I hear her play … man … she just commands the stage with her voice, her musicianship. The sound and the control. I was on tour with her with Terri Lyne Carrington and the Mosaic Project. Hands down, whenever I’m seeing Dianne, I’m learning something. On top of that, we’re both from Colorado. She’s always been a household name, a local legend, and it was a dream come true to have her on my last album. And seeing a black woman who has sustained her career over decades and stayed on top—that’s something I’m really looking at these days. Because it’s not easy.

The Bad Plus plays Newport today. Here’s the full schedule.

Tia Fuller’s Diamond Cut plays today at Newport.

The Bad Plus

Dianne Reeves

MORE ARTISTS CHOOSING WHO THEY’D LIKE TO CATCH AT NEWPORT 2019

JazzTimes Newport preview podcast

Dave King Would Love To Catch Ralph Peterson at the Newport Jazz Fest

Today begins the Newport Jazz FestI asked a handful of participating artists who they wanted to catch if they had the chance to spend the full weekend. Dave King, drummer extraordinaire chose Ralph Peterson, drummer extraordinaire. 

 

“Ralph Peterson was a real source of inspiration for me coming up, when I first heard the Fo’tet music in the ’80s—those records on Blue Note. I saw him once back then when I was 18, and it completely changed my molecular structure. It was like coming face to face with someone who possessed this first-circle relationship to swing, but at the same time played with an avant-garde quality and a punk-rock forcefulness. Outside stuff, abstract divisionism, the whole thing was like, whoa. I was a devotee and sort of student of Eric Gravatt when I was in high school, and I studied every move and saw him play in a club in Minneapolis every week, and he had that presence and a deep relationship to swinging. And when I saw Ralph for the first time, I thought he was a continuation of a certain type of tradition that I hadn’t seen in a while. I loved the avant garde, and I also loved a lot of the neo-jazz movements of the ’80s, the Wynton bands, the Branford bands. But Ralph brought this dangerous element to that whole thing. Then I saw him with Bill Frisell and Don Byron when they did that Tuskegee Experiments album at the Walker Arts Center, and it’s one of those things I’ll never forget.

I finally had a chance to meet Ralph about a year ago when he came to see the Bad Plus in Boston, and I talked to him for a sec and was able to intimate just how important he was for me. The whole trajectory of Ralph Peterson—he makes great records, leads great bands, puts together great music. He’s a sizable force on the instrument and it’s important to acknowledge that he’s still out there crushing it. Having a vibraphone in the band, the odd instrumentation, that Ornettology record. I always check in on him for my own good. Obviously it’s not a huge revelation that people should be checking in on Ralph Peterson, but when I saw that he was playing at Newport I was excited. [If this Newport band is his Art Blakey tribute project] it makes sense, because talk about someone who’s a bridge to all that: a bandleader with a sizable personality who plays with a huge presence and a deep sense of swing. If Ralph’s set up next to you, well … hahahaha … I don’t know anyone that’s gonna hang on that level.”

The Bad Plus with Dave King plays Newport today. Here’s the full schedule.

Ralph Peterson

The Bad Plus 

MORE ARTISTS CHOOSING WHO THEY’D LIKE TO CATCH AT NEWPORT 2019

JazzTimes Newport preview podcast

Matana Roberts Talks Sun Ra – Newport Jazz Fest 2019

Under the guidance of Marshall Allen, Sun Ra’s Arkestra brings its runaway verve to the Newport Jazz Fest on Friday morning. They take the stage early, 11:40 am, so make sure you don’t dilly dally on the way to Fort Adams. 

I asked a handful of participating Newport Jazz artists who they wanted to catch if they had the chance, and Matana Roberts chose Team Ra. 

“If I had to pick only one band to see from what really is an incredible festival lineup, I’d have to pick the Sun Ra Arkestra, hands down. Every time I have seen them live, time stops, and my imagination soars for days on end … My father was a huge fan of Sun Ra. I grew up constantly hearing about the amazing “Ra.” Ra this, Ra that, Ra all the time—sandwiched between the Art Ensemble, David Murray, and the later recordings of John and Alice Coltrane. A favorite story of his was when he took his prom date to the Jazz Showcase in Chicago. There were strict curfew laws at that time, but the Arkestra just kept playing even after the proprietor turned off the lights and the power. The tradition of that band has always been about a certain kind of presence of experience, and honestly from what I can tell, not much has changed. I love them.”

Matana Roberts plays Newport on Sunday. Here’s the full schedule.

Matana Roberts music

MORE ARTISTS CHOOSING WHO THEY’D LIKE TO CATCH AT NEWPORT 2019

JazzTimes Newport preview podcast

Air At Moers, Air With Studs – Music + Interview

 

Henry Threadgill, Steve McCall, Fred Hopkins speaking with Studs Turkel

Anat Cohen Tentet Triple Helix (Anzic)

Few musical ploys are as riveting as intricacy, especially when the ensemble at hand is sizable. But without a wealth of eloquence in play, elaboration can be its own worst enemy, a knot of tangles void of emotion. Anat Cohen knows this, and though her Tentet’s second album boasts some truly formidable cross-weaves, there’s seldom a moment when poise doesn’t carry the day, sentiment is given the short shrift, and squad goals don’t thrive on collective fluency.

Much of the grace that guides these victories has to do with what the leader has deemed the group’s “flexible” nature. Like the Gil Evans-led ensemble on ‘Sketches of Spain,’ or Ellington’s troupe on “A Tone Parallel to Harlem,” listeners never hear the mechanics of the work at hand, just the resultant art floating through the air. This applies to all the tunes – from Astor Piazzolla’s “Milonga Del Angel to Stan Kenton’s “Lonesome Train” – but especially the program’s centerpiece, a Carnegie Hall and Chicago Symphony Center commission penned by Musical Director Obed Lev-Ari that gives the album its title. 

The three sections of “Triple Helix” are varied in disposition. Though the clarinetist is out front, the band’s level of interplay is wiley; the score steers them away from all things obvious. Fragged echoes of “The Rite of Spring” and “Rhapsody in Blue” flash by, but former Tel Aviv schoolmates Lev-Ari and Cohen deliver a uniquely affecting work whose dramatic aspects are given lots of room to reveal themselves – even though a phrase from “Turkey In the Straw” pops up.

That flexibility thing shows up in the album’s other pieces, too. The bouncy “Footsteps & Smiles” is a crowd-pleasing fanfare, detailed and swinging. “Miri” allows Cohen to wax bittersweet; “La Llorona” augments that feel, and throws in a bit of spookiness, too. By the time Triple Helix is done, it’s hard to decide if its victory rests on stylistic breadth or the deep rewards of partnership. Probably both.

JazzTimes

Anat Cohen

Anzic Records