The fall jazz season is upon us and there are many things to report. Anne Hampton Callaway celebrated the release of her new CD Blues In The Night
with an appearance at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola. Callaway is among the most multi-talented vocalists in recent memory and her show at Dizzy's did not disappoint. Matters commenced with a performance by her rhythm section: Ted Rosenthal on piano, Jay Leonhart on bass and Victor Lewis in drums. I didn't think it was possible for an accompanying trio to eclipse a mighty singer but these three almost pulled it off. They played "Gone With The Wind and not only did they swing stupendously but also achieved a synchronicity I haven't encountered in a long while. I can't wait for these three virtuosi to headline somewhere ASAP.
Callaway was Callaway stunning her audience with the usual series of lefts and rights from all corners of American music. From straight ahead foot stomps ("Swingin' Away The Blues ) to romantic ballads ("Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most ) she set new interpretive standards (especially on the ballads). A great Bill Mays samba arrangement of Cole Porter's "It's All Right With Me revealed her penchant for revisionist thought and her leap into Sondheim's "No One Is Alone had the audience wondering if she might next try a Puccini aria. She scatted brilliantly, she pattered perspicaciously and she even retrieved an old vaudeville routine by playing and singing a disparate lyrics donated by the crowd. She certainly is the whole package and I wouldn't be surprised to see her performing soon in other Lincoln Center venues totally unrelated to jazz, cabaret or Tin Pan Alley.
Once again, I was gratified to see Brazilian immortal Hermeto Pascoal honored at a tribute. There is no greater genius who has been less celebrated than Pascoal; only three times in the past fifteen years has his music been featured in concert here. This time Pascoal could not make the journey from Brazil (he recently turned 70) but his music was presented by Jovino Santos Netoa steller pianst/composer who was in Pascoal's band from 1977 to 1992. Neto divided the program at Merkin Hall into 2 partsthe first half containing smaller works such as "Sertao Alagoana, "Nem Um Talvez and "Roseando. This exquisite music was played by Neto, west coaster Mike Marshall, Argentinean Oscar Feldman, and Cuban Paquito D'Rivera. As it turned out, this part of the show advanced Pascoal's cause more than the second half. Neto and D'Rivera highlighted first half with delightful dialogues and improvisational gems. The second half featured Bronx drummer Bobby Sanabria and his big band playing "Brasil Universo, "Obrigado, Mestre and other Pascoal compositions but the band lacked the cohesiveness necessary to depict the music properly.
That Pascoal needs greater exposure is a huge understatement. His greatness is perhaps best understood in light of a famous quotation from Miles Davis who referred to him as "the most impressive musician in the world.
Back at Dizzy's later in this busy first month of the new jazz season I caught Paolista chanteuse Eliane Elias and her group. I remember writing one of Eliane's first reviews over fifteen years ago when she first arrived in Gotham from Sao Paolo. Since then she has enjoyed a comfortable career with her smoky vocalizing and accessible pianism appealing to fans everywhere who worship the legacy of Brazilian music. Bassist Marc Johnson made this visit especially worthwhile providing intriguing contrapuntal ideas. Her Brazilian rhythm section supplied all the energy Eliane needed as she traded choruses happily. Her single note lines have increased in interest through the years but she continues to be very careful with her tried and true performance values.
At Rose Hall, Wynton Marsalis presided over a retrospective of the Louis Armstrong "Hot Fives and Hot Sevens recordings from the 1920s. The concert featured multi-instrumentalist Wycliffe Gordon (who also sang and scatted Armstrong standards) clarinetist Victor Goines (whose clarinet simply soared) and banjoist Don Vappie along with Jazz at Lincoln regulars. The group of 8 musicians performed Armstrong's music with aplomb and, because the arranging and research was top notch, added a new sense of sophistication to the old recordings. True to the mission of Jazz at Lincoln Center, the repertorializing of classic jazz to educate contemporary audiences remains a pivotal ingredient in the development of the music.