Caramoor Jazz Festival Provides Great Music
Elling's group was its usual stellar self. The singer, pianist Laurence Hobgood, bassist Rob Amster and drummer Frank Parker are always on the same page, tight and crisp. Elling began with "Stardust," and with his strong and supple voice, and subtle musical turns of a phrases, he captured the audience right from the start with the classic ballad. "The Sleepers," which uses the poetry of Walt Whitman, was another dreamy ballad and he pulled out the funky "In the Winelight" the earthy, enchanting "Easy Living" and the intriguing "The Man up in the Air" from his band's bag . "Bye, Bye Blackbird" isn't in the band book per se, but in his inimitable, improvisational style Elling took off, bounding, skipping, swinging. Changing key and twisting the melody. Hip and hipper. Then in stepped Lovano, blowing the blues away. He harmonized with the singer, traded riffs back and forth; Elling scatting and Lovano walkin', talkin', barkin' and burnin'. Excellent musicians melding in the moment. Invigorating stuff.
The Peter Malinverni Trio opened the set fest and set the bar high for the rest. This developing pianist has a beautiful touch and is a creative composer. With Leroy Williams on drums and Dennis Irwin on bass, they presented sumptuous trio music that had style and creativity and taste.
Guitarist John Abercrombie brought along Mark Feldman on violin, Adam Nussbaum on drums and Marc Johnson on bass for a heady set of improvisation. Abercrombie's angular and even ethereal playing led the way. He can get just spacey enough, while still staying tethered to the planet. Feldman showed similar qualities, lyrical at times and soaring at others, while Nussbaum and Johnson found expressive ways to give strong and steady support.
The festival is tailor made for a relatively small audience when compared to most others. But its artistic ranking should be toward the top, and with Lovano as its director, don't look for that to sag any time soon.