[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 
beautiful location.
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  
concurrently-running stages!
Yours in Music,
Chuck Obuchowski
WWUH Jazz Director
200 Bloomfield Ave.
West Hartford, CT  06117
_http://wwuh.org_ (http://wwuh.org) 
music-tracking Tuesdays, 12-4 pm, Eastern
Improvisation's Resurgence Evident In Newport

August 15, 2006 [ from online edition at _www.ctnow.com/music_ 
(http://www.ctnow.com/music)  ]
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 
group's  disposal.

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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