Tag Archives: newport jazz festival

Yes, I Went To The Newport Jazz Festival

I haven’t been Lamenting in several months, I’ve been Tumbling. So, it’s fair that lots of people asked if I went to the Newport Jazz Festival last weekend. Indeed, I did.

10 Best Things About the NJF, Day One

10 Best Things About the NJF, Day Two

Check John Hollenbeck’s Claudia Quintet + 1 

Al Di Meola’s Rad Rhap

One of our flashiest fusion guitarists, Al Di Meola regularly wows audiences with the kind of speedy runs that make fans stand up and woof. But he’s also capable of subtler moments, and for years his ongoing World Sinfonia project has incorporated a wealth of sounds from around the planet. Di Meola is an Astor Piazzolla buff, and the Argentine tango master’s pieces get a good shaking in the guitarist’s hands. Those venturing to see him at the Newport Jazz Festival on Saturday (with guest Gonzalo Rubalcaba) are sure to hear pieces from the impressive new Pursuit of the Radical Rhapsody(Telarc), a mélange that brings North Africa and flamenco into the mix. And somehow the guitarist makes “Strawberry Fields Forever” suit his global perspective as well.

Here’s the DownBeat review.

Top Five Moments of the Newport Jazz Festival 2010

Fun weekend. Here are a few of the moments that refuse to leave my mind.

Matt Wilson’s Bubbles:

We all know he’s one of those “pure imagination” cats, but the drummer was truly on his game at a show that kicked-off Sunday morning’s action. He’s usually got a wild card up his sleeve, and in this case it was a kid’s bubble-making machine that was supposed to add some visual fun to his spin on a  Carl Sandburg poem.  It was too windy and the soapy spheres weren’t shooting out, and as his double quartet provided some truly luminous sounds, he rolled with the flow and silently mouthed a message to the audience: “Imagine bubbles.” It was a cinch to do so. Wilson always makes everything ultra vivid.

Brian Blade’s Drama:

I stood behind the drummer and looked into the crowd. One guy was biting his nails, another fidgeting in his seat. Powering David Binney’s Third Occasion ensemble, Blade turned a wealth of rhythmic subtleties into a surge of sound that was always in flux. When a cymbal crash finally punctuated a passage, it was borderline frightening.

Matt Shipp’s Focus:

The pianist is often locked into his keys when he’s on stage, and this was no different. But his slippery storm of notes, forever moving from register to register, was a study in daring, and his mates – bassist Joe Morris and saxophonist Marshall Allen – got all the inspiration they needed from his rumbling volcano approach.

George Wein Calls “The Mooche”:

“We’ve played it before, but we never rehearsed it,’ said the impressario/pianist during a gig with his Newport All Stars, and the somewhat informal romp through Ellington’s jewel took shape moment by moment, with a gaggle of horns – everyone from Harry Allen to Randy Sandke to Anat Cohen – finding a harmony to use on the head and some elbow room to stretch a bit.  Melodies like this generate goose bumps, and the group’s easy-going attitude was key to the vibe.

Dave Douglas Has A Hankering:

Nothing new about jazz bandleaders doing non-jazz tunes, but some covers fit better than others. The trumpeter’s Brass Ecstasy ensemble seemed wonderfully built for a saunter through Hank Williams‘ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” and as the leader starting telling us about the moon going behind a cloud, I swear I heard Marcus Rojas‘s tuba making like a forlorn steel guitar.

Newport Jazz: Listen On NPR

Missed the Fest? No You Didn’t!

Top Five Micro Moments at the Newport Festival

 It was a fun weekend, and a well-balanced program. Here’s a handful of images that stuck in my head.

1. Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo begin their rather intimate duet on the site’s smallest stage with “Just You, Just Me.” As they’re just starting to unpack the theme’s improv options, maybe a minute and a half into the performance, a security dude strides into the front row and VERY loudly moves away listeners squatted there. “Everybody’s gotta go!, C’mon! C’mon!” The artists look askance from the stage – basically in disbelief that this guy’s yelling as they’re playing. When he finally catches on to their queries, Mr Security has a classic comeback: “Oh, I thought you guys were just practicing…” Yes, his walkie-talkie went off during a poignant moment a bit later in the set.

2. The harmonium solo that Jon Cowherd offered the throng who came to see Brian Blade’s Fellowship Band. It was both fleeting and entrancing, and its arrival and departure illustrated the kind of fluidity the ensemble is striving for. Saxophonist Myron Walden was soloing in a very gospelish manner, and his boss was egging him on from the Amen Corner, which just happened to be located behind his drums. As the music sighed, Cowherd’s keybs bubbled up. It harked to the buoyant Ravi Shankar piece Rudresh Mahanthappa and his Indo-Pak Coalition floated through on that stage to start the day.

3. Dave King’s perpetual grin and raised eyebrows as he itched and slapped and nudged and kicked and interrogated and cajoled and sweet-talked his drum set during the first three tunes of The Bad Plus’ set.  Some drummers – Steve McCall, Billy Higgins – have a look of public amazement as ideas go coursing through their noggins. King’s part of this crew. What he’s thinking, a forever fluid process, is revealed on his face for all to see.

4. The interlocking of front line and rhythm section during the Vandermark 5’s dedication to Bertolt Brecht, “Spiel.” The Chicago saxophone titan’s quintet plays quite a bit, and though the intricate arrangements they design for themselves are rigorous to say the least, they keep that shit tight. Cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm spun circles through his mates, and the knotty music tied and untied itself several times. George Wein sat up close on the stage, and Ken Vandermark thanked him for showing up to their gig, which he said was their first American festival invitation.

5. There’s a tie for the final item. Can’t tell if it was the crowd reaction when Steven Bernstein did the math regarding how many strings it takes for his Millennial Territory Orchestra to be considered a true orchestra (“on the bass four, on the violin four, on the guitar six – 14, that’s a chamber orchestra right there,” he quipped). The audience was utterly tickled. Equaling that were the bystanders’ looks at Joe Lovano when the saxophonist started dancing alone to Miguel Zenon’s swirl of plena and post-bop. Lovano’s never been shy about grooving on stage, but he was really digging the stuff in the back of the room and the fans that recognized him were really digging the way he was dervishing.

Listen to lots of the weekend’s music at A Blog Supreme.

Nate Chinen’s got a few fun shots of the action out front and backstage.

Steve Greenlee offers his thoughts in the Boston Globe.

Jon Garelick examines the weekend, and George Wein’s comeback.

Newport Is Now

From Justin Faulkner’s splash to Billy Hart’s sensitivity to Greg Hutchinson’s syncopation, there were lots of great drumming moments yesterday at Fort Adams. Looks like that’s going to be the case today, too. Roy Haynes (above), Brian Blade, and Dave King are set to do business this afternoon. Here’s the line-up. Get some tweets.

Here’s the ProJo review.

Here are live streams of the shows via NPR

Jazz On A Summer’s Day

Sun’s out. Smart move for New Englanders to grab a couple fistfulls of improv. George Wein’s CareFusion Jazz Festival 55 is going to be fun. Today boasts Vijay Iyer (above clip), Claudia Acuna, Branford Marsalis, Josh Redman, Esperanza Spalding, Christian McBride, Ken Vandermark and several others.

Here’s the ProJo review 

Here are photos and live streams of the shows from NPR