Caramoor Jazz Festival
August 5, 2006
Week two of this year's Caramoor Jazz Festival was billed as "Enduring Spirits and conceived as a tribute to Miles Davis and John Coltrane. But Kirk Lightsey, who flew in from Paris, offered an exuberant set of solo piano in honor of the recently departed John Hicks. Thanks to the festival's new Fazioli grand, Lightsey practically floated on air, beginning with ornate musings on "More Than You Know. He swung hard on "In Your Own Sweet Way, negotiated the bright 5/4 meter of his original "Heaven Dance, found glowing abstraction in Tony Williams' "Pee Wee and brought aboard Joe Lovano, Artistic Director of Caramoor Jazz, for lucid duets on Billy Strayhorn's "Passion Flower and Wayne Shorter's "Fee Fi Fo Fum. In a moving finish, Lightsey invited Hicks' widow, Elise Wood-Hicks, to play flute on "Naima's Love Song, one of Hicks' evergreen works.
Next, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt made his Caramoor debut with Frank Locrasto on piano and Rhodes, Richie Goods on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. This, one supposes, was the "Miles portion of the day, but Pelt steered his own course with original music from his latest MaxJazz release, Identity, playing trumpet and fluegelhorn. "You didn't bring us up here for nothing, exclaimed Pelt in the midst of a challenging set that included the mid-tempo "Reinvention, the ¾ ballads "Eddie's Story and "Eye of the Beholder and the surging Rhodes showcase "Suspicion.
In a dramatic departure, Steve Kuhn closed the afternoon with his strings project, as heard on his 2004 ECM release Promises Kept. With conductor Carlos Franzetti, bassist David Finck and a 12-piece string ensemble, Kuhn in fact played the entire album (out of sequence), taking full advantage of the fabulous piano. Deep shades of blue and aching lyricism, even foreboding, filled the tent, although "Pastorale ushered in some atypical brightness. The music was heavily written, more so than a typical jazz set. But Kuhn was supple, never rigid, skating in and around the detailed arrangements.
Following a dinner break and pre-concert talk with Ashley Kahn, author of The House That Trane Built, McCoy Tyner conjured the spirit of Coltrane and Impulse Records with his touring septet, featuring the likes of Dave Liebman and Wallace Roney. Highlights included Curtis Fuller's cooking "A La Mode, Tyner's bossa-tinged "Angelina and a solo piano interlude, "For All We Know. Then Joe Lovano leapt from the wings to take half a dozen flawless choruses on "Blues on the Corner, Turre brought down the house with his conch-shell solo on the church-inspired "Happy Days, and Tyner, after all these years, articulated new insights on "Impressions, stepping back from the charged tempo to muse in dreamy half-time.