Day Two of the Caramoor Jazz Festival, the finale for the 2005 edition, featured a tribute to Francis Albert Sinatra, who would be turning 90 on Dec. 12. And who better to do it in the luxurious Westchester County, NY, setting than the festival's musical director, paesano and longtime Sinatra fan Joe Lovano. The saxman brought out many of the Manny Albam arrangements from his Grammy-nominated Celebrating Sinatra recording of a few years ago, as well as tossing in other songs associated with the Chairman of the Board, sung by the likes of Judy Silvano (Mrs. Lovano), Tom Lellis and bopper Giacomo Gates. The set on Aug. 6 capped off a day of fine music that also included the superb Bill Charlap Trio, trombonist Steve Turre, Brazilian songstress Luciana Souza, duo of pianist Benny Green and guitarist Russell Malone, and a Berklee College all-star group headed by drummer Francisco Mela, who teaches in the Boston-area school. Across the board, the music was strong at this small, but gallant festival. The event is a delight, beautiful in its setting, relaxing for listeners/picnickers, and artistically rich. Lovano did not have all the strings from the disk he cut in 1996, but two upright bases, violin and cello covered the ground in those arrangements. Kenny Werner was outstanding on piano and the horn section featured the talented Dick Oatts. Silvano was lively, providing soprano vocalizing, as she did on the recording. Among the Celebrating Sinatra were "I'll Never Smile Again, "I've Got You Under My Skin "I'm A Fool to Want You, "Someone to Watch Over Me and a few others.
The larger group started out a bit shaky, mostly due to the mix, but began to gel and pulled the music off in good fashion. Lovano's tenor played Sinatra's voice for most of those segments. But Lovano would never just duplicate those hits. Each had a different texture and feel than Sinatra used. The sound of the tenor sax, however, has some elements in common with Francis A. bold a brassy, full of guts and feeling. His navigation thru "I'm a fool to Want You was played with passion and distinction. Often the beauty of Lovano's pure sound came thru perhaps better than in other music when his musical ideas are racing faster. "Fly Me to the Moon also put his gorgeous sound on display, at a slow tempo that allowed for romance.
Among singers, Lellis showed a jazzy sort of crooning that fit the program well. "It Was A Very Good Year was softly swinging with a Latin tinge and the singer's cool style blended well. He also rendered "Luck Be a Lady (where Werner burned with a creative solo) and played guitar on "Baubles, Bangles and Beads, a nod to the album of Jobim and Sinatra. gates, more of a pure jazz singer, gates tacked some of his vocalese on the end of "I Cover the Waterfront, Swung with ease on "World on a String and was most comfortable with "Pennies from Heaven. His style is far from Sinatra's. but the talented performer was not supposed to imitate. Silvano was featured on "I Could Write a Book, exhibiting an easy, outgoing swinging style. Oatts added strong alto sax statement.
Charlap, whose trio, thankfully, seems to be everywhere these days, was another highlight. The band is tight as can be, with the Washingtonsbassist Peter and drummer Kenny always on the same page as the outstanding pianist. Charlap continues to play the instrument with as much sensitivity and attention to its dynamics as anyone out there. In Bill Evans-like fashion he can be soft as a whisper or swinging swiftly. He lets the music breathe and steers the listener through his stories. Songs included "Somewhere, "Godchild, "Somebody Loves me and "Dream Dancing. "Paper Moon was the slowest, softest rendition one could ever hear, a romantic delight caressed by the drummer's soft brushes and accented by a delicious fat acoustic bass.
Turre joined the trio for his too-short set. Bold and exuberant, the trombonist flew through a few songs dedicated to J.J. Johnson, who, he explained, took the instrument to the next level, as Charlie Parker had done for sax. The highlight was a burner in which Lovano sat in, called "Coffee Pot. The pair took long, steaming bop solos, then locked horns trading 8s, 4s and 2s before a screaming end. Turre has a great sound on that valve 'bone and is a beauifully expressive player. That is a paring of horns that has some potential!