Newport Jazz Festival Fort Adams State Park Newport, RI August 3-5, 2012
While countless jazz festivals have sprung up in all corners of the world, droves of people still flock to the one that's considered the granddaddy of them all. The Newport Jazz Festival has been a testament to the power, possibilities and pure entertainment values inherent in jazz for more than half a century. It sprung to life as a byproduct of high society, but it's evolved into a joyous gathering with egalitarian offerings and audiences. Jazz impresario George Wein
created a blueprint for the world to follow when he put together this one-of-a-kind, once-a-year gathering of the greats, and every jazz festival owes a small part of its existence to Wein and Newport.
The 2012 edition of the festival opened with a NOLA-infused Friday night gala, featuring pianist/singer Dr. John
& Doublewide provided a Crescent City aftershock, as they opened things up on the large Fort Stage with their own modern jazz spin on the New Orleans sound, but the tide quickly turned when guitarist Bill Frisell
project. While the guitarist has rarely, if ever, been accused of catering to populist tastes, he had a massive audience singing along to classic Beatles tunes and nodding their heads in approval. The overly polite All We Are Saying... (Savoy, 2011) didn't properly prepare the crowd for the highly interactive and occasionally psychedelic mélange that Frisell brought forth. Highlights included "Across The Universe, ""Come Together" and "In My Life," but in all honesty, nothing in this set was short of marvelous.
While the Fort Stage attracted the largest crowds, fans flocked to the smaller Harbor Stage and/or Quad Stage to see some killer ensembles at play in more intimate settings; gaining some tent-covered relief from the oppressive heat and humidity that held sway over the first day was a bonus. Bassist Christian McBride
's springy bottom end helped to drive the band, as both musicians tapped into a seemingly endless reservoir of energy. Those who've heard some of Baron's sideman dates of late may have thought he was mellowing with age, but his playing at Newport said otherwise. Madcap fills, strong grooves and machine gun snare drum tantrums popped up frequently. Pianist Lawrence Fields carried himself in low key fashion, delivering manicured yet probing piano lines that contrasted nicely with the fiery horn work of the two leaders.
The final Harbor Stage act on Saturday proved to be one of the most memorable of the weekend, with three of the most important clarinetists in jazz joining together as one. George Wein made a rare appearance at the microphone, explaining that he'd been trying to get Anat Cohen
numbers in the set. Each player took their own solo turn and offered something different in their work. Christopher, who literally and figuratively stood apart from Peplowski and Cohen with his New Orleans melting pot mentality and throwback sound, performed his own "Tande Sak Fe Loraj Gwonde (Listen To The One Who Makes The Thunder Roar)." Peplowski and guitarist Howard Alden