On two consecutive Saturdays every summer, the Caramoor Festival, a predominantly classical series, pauses to make room for all-day jazz programs. Held on the beautiful acreage of the Caramoor estate in Katonah, these all-jazz Saturdays always yield surprises thanks to the imaginative programming of producer Jim Luce. Following the first of the two Saturday events (featuring Rodney Kendrick, James Carter, Ron Carter, Phil Woods and Marian McPartland), August 10th began with the cerebral sounds of tenor saxophonist Mark Turner. Pianist Aaron Goldberg did a marvelous job filling in for guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, who had an unforeseen conflict. But Turner's regular rhythm partners, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Nasheet Waits, were on hand. The set included a reworked "Myron's World", the recorded version of which ends on an ethereal vamp in G major; here, in a subtle and eye-opening twist, the vamp became an interlude wonderful music of Reid Anderson was also quite satisfying. But Turner's horn was difficult to hear at times, and the ineffable quality of his music didn't always come through outdoors. Next was something a bit more tried and true: Louis Hayes' Cannonball Legacy Band, with Vincent Herring on alto, Riley Mullins on trumpet, Rick Germanson on piano, Gerald Cannon on bass, and the esteemed leader on drums. Herring served as the emcee, sharing candid stories almost too candid about his personal connection to the music of Cannonball and Nat. He introduced the finale, "Work Song", by confessing that he grew sick to death of the tune while playing it every night in Nat Adderley's band. But Herring's solos revealed none of that ambivalence; he dug in with the rest of the group on this and other hard bop classics, like "Dat Dere", "Naturally", and "Jeanine". Charles McPherson followed with a quartet set, backed by Michael Weiss on piano, John Webber on bass, and Chuck McPherson on drums. The master altoist played a handful of swinging originals, as well as a fast take of "Billie's Bounce" and two contrasting Smile". The first ballad found McPherson in an aggressive, sheets-of-sound mode fitting when one recalls the frustration expressed in the song's lyrics. The wistful second ballad brought out the rounder side of his tone and closed the set beautifully. The after-dinner program began with a rapturous duo performance by pianist Benny Green and guitarist Russell Malone. This is truly one of the exalted partnerships in mainstream jazz; the two stole everyone's breath with their effortlessly synchronized speed and heartbreaking intimacy. Unfortunately, Gonzalo Rubalcaba had a lot of trouble holding the crowd after this. He miscalculated by starting with three airy solo pieces, the last of which was an uneventful "Giant Steps". By the time drummer Ignacio Berroa came on board for the far more impressive duo numbers, at least a third of the crowd had scurried for their cars. Even Rubalcaba couldn't ignore the exodus, but he soldiered on and played well. Still, audience impatience made for an unsettling end to an otherwise picturesque evening.
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This interview first appeared in the September 2002 issue of All About Jazz: New York.