[JPL] Fw: NYTimes.com Article: 50 Years Later, Newport Swings With 'Real Jazz'

Tom Reney tr at wfcr.org
Wed Aug 18 10:18:45 EDT 2004

I'm pleased to see a paragraph devoted to the Lincoln Center Jazz
Orchestra's great performance, notwithstanding Wynton Marsalis's absence due
to a lip infection, at Newport on Sunday. LCJO's guests also included the 84
year old Clark Terry, who was featured on "Struttin' With Some Barbecue" and
"St. James Infirmary," and vibist Gary Burton, who performed "Django."  It
was my pleasure to be there to introduce them.  TR

> 50 Years Later, Newport Swings With Real Jazz
> August 17, 2004
> NEWPORT, R.I., Aug. 16 - During its early years, starting
> in 1954, the Newport Jazz Festival was post-beat and
> pre-hippie. The music was probably at its greatest high,
> but its reach and status in American society and the
> marketplace hadn't been properly gauged. The words classic,
> smooth, brunch and cruise were yet to be hooked up to it.
> The first Newports must have been easy to program. Nearly
> everyone who played jazz since the music's beginning was
> living then, and the greater subset of that group was
> performing beautifully. And so the American jazz festival
> was an original but inevitable concept, at least for
> America; one of its founders, George Wein, had in mind
> Tanglewood and Salzburg.
> The symbolic battle, all those years ago, was to make the
> world outside its own cabal take jazz seriously. This could
> more easily happen, it was decided, in a wealthy place that
> forced a certain kind of attention from social elites and
> the media. The jazz record producer and entrepreneur John
> Hammond, at a directors' meeting for the festival in 1955,
> summed up the paradox. His mother was a Vanderbilt, and he
> didn't share the family's presentiments. "We have no
> particular love for Newport," he said. "Yet in one sense of
> the word we have brought democracy to Newport, which was
> the last place in the world where it could have been
> expected to be found in America."
> Dizzy Gillespie, Gerry Mulligan, Lester Young, Lennie
> Tristano and Billie Holiday, among others, played in 1954;
> over the next few years, documenters in print and film
> started to turn what were great moments into much bigger
> American landmarks.
> Fifty years later the Newport festival - it is now called
> the JVC Jazz Festival-Newport - celebrated itself from
> Friday to Sunday in Fort Adams State Park on Newport
> Harbor. It could be argued that jazz, in one form or
> another, has been as much accepted in social and commercial
> life as it ever will be; the only issues left are aesthetic
> ones. This year Mr. Wein decided to leach the smooth jazz
> and pop from the festival and present what he thinks of as
> "real jazz." The festival wasn't going to put on makeup
> anymore.
> With age comes deeper self-reflection. The Lincoln Center
> Jazz Orchestra -minus Wynton Marsalis, sidelined with a lip
> injury - played a version of "Dimenuendo and Crescendo in
> Blue" on Sunday evening. It's a piece that Duke Ellington's
> orchestra played, rather famously, in the 1956 festival.
> This time, James Carter performed as star saxophone
> soloist, filling the role of Paul Gonsalves from that day
> in 1956. Mr. Carter, in a purple suit, played a solo 31
> choruses long, growing frenetic and gnashing and outdoing
> Gonsalves's 28. As a blond woman in the audience
> spontaneously (and thereafter, famously) began dancing
> through the solo all those years ago, stirring up more and
> more of the crowd, another blond woman began to dance near
> the stage in 2004, and the history-minded in the front
> began to roar again, perhaps a little less spontaneously.
> This was only the second Newport festival that Mr. Wein,
> 78, couldn't attend. (It ran from 1954 to 1960, missed
> 1961, re-upped from 1962 to 1971, moved to Manhattan as the
> Newport Jazz Festival-New York, then began again, combining
> jazz with blues, R&B and pop, in 1981.) He had to have an
> operation for scar-tissue blockage in his small intestine a
> week before. Though he made it to a pre-festival gala at
> the Breakers, the Vanderbilt mansion here, he returned home
> to New York for the weekend on doctor's orders.
> What he did in booking the 50th anniversary of Newport
> isn't to be taken lightly: he looked at the business he
> helped nurture and used aesthetic judgments to clean the
> gunk out of it. One suspects that few minded. Smooth jazz
> fans don't dislike real jazz; that animosity only goes the
> other way. (Anyway, smooth jazz has its own festivals;
> there's one this weekend at Rumsey Playfield in Central
> Park.) The same middle-aged New England summer crowd came,
> as well as a lot more critics, and some younger
> college-radio types attuned to the Sunday night finale of
> Ornette Coleman and the Wayne Shorter-Herbie Hancock-Dave
> Holland-Brian Blade band.
> Ticket sales seemed to support Mr. Wein's decision. The
> festival nearly sold out on Saturday, which means filling
> the 10,000 legal limit of Fort Adams State Park. Sunday's
> program was better, but a dire weather forecast - the
> festival narrowly avoided the storm path - limited the
> ticket sales to a little over 5,000. (Friday night's
> warm-up show by Harry Connick Jr. at the Newport Casino
> grounds was nearly drowned in rain.)
> There were three areas for the 36 weekend performances in
> the park: a main stage, an alternate stage and, for the
> first time, a solo-piano stage, generally packed. The two
> complete sets I heard there, Mulgrew Miller's and Jason
> Moran's, were as good as anything all weekend. Mr. Miller's
> playing is a kind of perfection of the traditional postwar
> jazz language, and hearing it alone makes the point even
> stronger; there are no extreme gestures in dynamics,
> arrangement or repertory. It's like meditation with
> fantastic swing rhythm.
> Mr. Moran's set went the other way, with lots of
> conceptualizing and no bebop. (He favors early stride-piano
> at the moment.) He played "Straight Outta Istanbul," a
> transcription of a woman speaking in Turkish, which he
> played over the tape recording of the woman - including the
> melodic beeping of her cellphone, also transcribed. Then he
> moved to a New Orleans rhythm for the next song, starting
> out clean, bringing forth a melody from it and making the
> rhythm bleed into dense tone clusters.
> There were many history lessons on the main stage. Chico
> Hamilton, in his early 80's now, gave little demonstrations
> on the history of swing drumming in a solo performance.
> Dave Brubeck, with his quartet, played the sort of thing
> that made him famous in the 50's. An ad-hoc quartet paid
> tribute to John Coltrane, with McCoy Tyner, Michael
> Brecker, Ravi Coltrane, Christian McBride and Roy Haynes;
> I've seen dozens of performances trying the same thing, but
> few so good. An orchestra led by the trumpeter Jon Faddis
> played a strong set of music by Gillespie, Parker, Basie
> and Goodman. (As a rule, big bands went down perfectly in
> this setting.) Barry Harris led a set of Thelonious Monk
> music at the beginning of the festival, while the pianist
> Cedar Walton and others redid the music of Art Blakey's
> Jazz Messengers.
> On the second stage Lee Konitz, who played in the first
> festival 50 years ago, teamed up with Roy Hargrove, with
> unspectacular results; Ravi Coltrane played a hard-driving
> set; Dave Douglas presented a quartet called "Vacation
> Blues," with the trombonist Roswell Rudd, playing Herbie
> Nichols music and some originals; and Mr. Connick came back
> to play his instrumental music, tight and percussive and
> serious, with a quartet including the drummer Jeff Watts.
> Percy Heath, the only other 50-year veteran of the
> festival, performed a typically lovely, easygoing set with
> the Heath Brothers.
> Mr. Coleman's new quartet, with the two bassists Tony
> Falanga and Greg Cohen and Denardo Coleman on drums, blazed
> with a power and urgency they had scaled back in the more
> acoustically challenged Carnegie Hall in June. The set of
> new material confidently sailed by, with a time-stopping
> "Lonely Woman" as a closer. And the Hancock-Shorter group
> improved on its performance in New York earlier this
> summer, too. If that show contained more wild, bleeding
> moments, particularly from Mr. Shorter, this one had no
> slackness; it felt like a working band, and the way the
> musicians shifted around freely through vamps and pieces
> from their past, shoring each other up with rhythm and
> melody, was a lesson in group communication.
> Both final groups made music of complicated, flowing
> coordination, with growing and receding dynamics, as if the
> songs were living organisms. Jazz will continue being proud
> of its achievements, and rightfully so, but these wriggling
> performances, battling against self-consciousness, were
> just the right balance against the weight of history.
> ---------------------------------

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