[JPL] Newport: Sunday review
CObuchow at aol.com
CObuchow at aol.com
Wed Aug 16 15:19:17 EDT 2006
Greetings JPLers, from the long-lost (and still searching) Chuck Obuchowski,
of WWUH in West Hartford, CT.
Decided I'd share my Hartford Courant review of Sunday's Newport Jazz
program with you, to complement the impressions of our esteemed colleagues Tom,
Eric and Steve. It was a splendid day to experience music outdoors at such a
This piece isn't one of my better efforts, but at least it will provide a
few more details and perspectives about the event. Apologies to Andy Bey and
Savion Glover, whose excellent sets were certainly deserving of mention ...
alas, sleep deprivation and deadlines squelched my best intentions. Not to
mention trying to catch as much music as possible between three
Yours in Music,
WWUH Jazz Director
200 Bloomfield Ave.
West Hartford, CT 06117
music-tracking Tuesdays, 12-4 pm, Eastern
Improvisation's Resurgence Evident In Newport
August 15, 2006 [ from online edition at _www.ctnow.com/music_
By CHUCK OBUCHOWSKI, SPECIAL TO THE COURANT
The long-lived Newport Jazz Festival has come to be viewed by many fans as a
bellwether for the state of jazz in the U.S. If true, then Sunday's JVC
festival performances at Fort Adams State Park signaled that the music's center
is shifting to the left once again.
Over the past 25 years, a renewed interest in jazz traditions - while
healthy from an educational standpoint - has sometimes stifled innovation.
Fortunately for the music's future, a younger generation of improvisers has begun
rekindling the spontaneity that ignites much of the most vital jazz. That
generation was well represented at Newport Sunday.
Piano-bass-drum trios of Hiromi, Avishai Cohen and the Bad Plus each
presented new jazz directions, carefully melding challenging improvisations with
foot-stomping entertainment. Trumpeters Chris Botti and Christian Scott
integrated modern rock and R&B elements into their crowd-pleasing sets.
Multi-reed player Marty Ehrlich led the most inventive ensemble of the
afternoon, anchored by the young rhythm team of drummer Allison Miller and bassist
Ben Allison. Although confined to the small Waterside Stage, the sextet's
enthralling arrangements of Ehrlich compositions drew a more enthusiastic
response than several of the day's main-stage events.
The 51-year-old New York resident was already an established player by the
time the neotraditionalists captured the limelight 20 years ago. Ehrlich grew
up in St. Louis, where he developed his creative musical concepts during the
early 1970s as a member of the Black Artists Group. On Sunday, he honored the
late Malinke Elliot, one of BAG's founders, with the punchy "Malinke's
The piece demonstrated the sextet's strengths, collectively and
individually. Ehrlich (on alto saxophone), tuba master Howard Johnson, trumpeter James
Zollar, pianist James Weidman and drummer Miller all took exciting solos; each
was woven expertly into the fabric of the whole composition.
Ehrlich's writing offers a refreshing balance of structure and freedom. Both
his composing and improvising revealed a respect for tradition as well as a
spirited sense of adventure. His clarinet-playing was every bit as
accomplished as his alto sax work. And his interaction with Johnson (on both baritone
sax and tuba), Zollar and Weidman (on melodica) provided some of Sunday's most
inspired improvisations on any of the Newport stages.
Christian Scott, whose debut recording, "Rewind That" was issued earlier
this year, generated lots of excitement and an overflow crowd at the Waterside
Stage as one of the day's opening acts. The New Orleanian's band featured two
of Connecticut's favorite young jazz talents, bassist Luques Curtis and
keyboardist Zaccai Curtis. The brothers, from Bloomfield, have been impressing
state listeners for years with their own band, Insight.
Scott owes a debt to latter-day Miles Davis, both in compositional style and
performance. But the young trumpeter has also fused ideas from his Berklee
College education with hip-hop and pop rhythms to give his music a unique
sound. Also notable during Sunday's set were the extroverted guitar stylings of
Matthew Stevens, who was able and willing to connect his admiration for John
McLaughlin to Scott's Miles-isms.
Another young improviser - and fellow Berklee grad - who gave the Newport
audience notice that the times-they-are-a-changin' was keyboardist Hiromi. This
native of Japan attacked her instruments with a flamboyant intensity that
recalled the wild approach of progressive-rocker Keith Emerson. During her solo
on "Return of the Kung-Fu Champion," a homage to Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan,
she leapt and stomped at her synthesizer as she musically emulated her
heroes' martial-arts prowess. Elsewhere, her style was tempered somewhat with the
sensitivity and respect for nuance she learned from mentor and one-time
producer Ahmad Jamal.
Hiromi's trio focused on original music from her latest release, "Spiral,"
issued in January on Telarc Records. Israeli bassist Avishai Cohen's threesome
also concentrated on new compositions. Their recent disc, "Continuo,"
highlights the bassist's fascination with a variety of world music influences, most
prominently folk themes of the Middle East. The former Chick Corea sideman
strapped on his electric bass to conclude the set with an ecstatic, funkified
version of classic Ellingtonia: "Caravan."
It has been 15 years since saxophonist and flutist James Carter began
receiving international jazz attention. That puts him in with the retro-jazz
generation, but Carter has managed to develop his own sound while still honoring
the tradition. His organ trio wowed the Pavillion Stage crowd with its fresh
approach to this time-honored nightclub-band concept. Organist Gerard Gibbs also
doubled on synthesizer, vastly expanding the instrumental sounds at the
Young players were not the only ones to make their marks at Sunday's JVC
Newport Festival. Legendary figures like Dave Brubeck and Dr. John also visited
the main stage. And a classic jam-style band assembled just for the occasion
was overseen by Newport Jazz Festival founder George Wein at the piano. The
Newport All-Stars also featured fellow octogenarian Frank Wess on tenor sax
and flute, plus five other jazz veterans. Their material included Ellington
classics like "Johnny Come Lately" and "What We're Here For." While the
All-Stars didn't draw the crowds that the younger artists did, these gentlemen proved
that the best jazz exists beyond history, in the very moment it is being
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