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Live Reviews

Saratoga Jazz Fest Shines

By Published: March 12, 2004
On Day Two, Joe Lovano wailed. And wailed again. His nonet may have been the hit of the fest. It swung like mad and the solos were great, especially the leader, who rocked back and forth as he spewed out everything from Coleman Hawkins through Coltrane. His tone is enticing and his technique was astounding. Whether swinging or moving “out” the group poured out emotion and tight ensemble playing. It’s no wonder he has gained such critical acclaim. And he has fun. He shows it too, which adds to the proceedings.

Sandoval’s set included works like “Rhythm of Our World” and “Hot House,” from the Hot House CD of 1998, but also tunes from his new Americana that touches on modern songs from the likes of Sting, Steve Wonder and others. His trumpet soared to the stratosphere, as is his nature, and the set was typically exciting and high-energy. Sandoval is all over the trumpet range and his enthusiasm is infectious. He never mails one in. Another trumpeter, Roy Hargrove, just seems to improve. His band, propelled by Willie Jones III, was crisp, hot and driving, as is his playing. His pure tone and sparkling technique seem to be growing, as is his sense of adventure. Indeed, he will be a voice for a long time.

It’s tough to catch every act on both stages, but the Jamie Baum Group sounded hot and progressive in a brief listen. The leader’s flute was solid and her mates on brass were experimental. Guitarist Richard Leo Johnson, a touted guitar wizard, was boring in a solo set. It was “look what I can do,” but it said nothing and his sound is bland. Speed kills ... a set of music.

Of the bands enlisted, allegedly, to bring folks in, Gladys Knight, Boney James and George Benson just don’t cut it. Knight’s Las Vegas revue was pitiful in its excesses. The rest. Well, my mother said if you don’t have anything nice to say ...

Overall, the Saratoga jazz festival proved to be a remarkable event and here’s hoping there’s many more. Consider it as a vacation spot next summer at the end of June.

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