45th Antibes Jazz Festival
July 21, 2005
Throwing In The Towel...
The Antibes Jazz Festival must rank as one of the oldest and most famous jazz festivals in the world. It's certainly well represented on record with classic performances from the likes of Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Archie Shepp and the Keith Jarrett Trio, which brings us to our current review.
I'm a fan of the Keith Jarrett Trio, how could you not be (unless your surname is Mehldau), for their musicality, complete instrumental proficiency, integrity and extraordinarily well-developed listening ability, both to eachother and to the music within. The music recording industry, and even the small corner of it that is represented by jazz, can be crass, vulgar and stupid at its worst. At its best, it can yield the enduring musical greatness of the Keith Jarrett Trio. It is with this in mind that I regretfully admit I left the Keith Jarrett Trio performance at the 45th Antibes Jazz Festival on July 21 with a rather unpleasant after taste. Why? Certainly not because of the performance, which included such indestructible and always changing standards (in the Trio's hands) as "Budo", "I"m A Fool To Want You", "But Not For Me" and "All The Things You Are". High invention, true spontaneity, great listening, delicacy, sensitivity, attack, form, swing and surprise - it was all there. The problem for me, and I think many of the audience members (mostly French by my estimation), was Jarrett's reaction at the end of the concert, after several people had taken "Flash Photography". The Trio left the stage, looking annoyed, and the French MC came on asking for "No Flash Photography". Finally they came back, to very warm applause, only for Jarrett to raise his arms to bring the audience to silence and say (as a parent to a naughty child), "That's nice. Now stay like that". They then performed a ballad as an encore, received more warm and genuine applause and began to leave the stage. At this point, someone took another "Flash photograph". Jarrett and DeJohnette looked really annoyed and as the three walked off Jarrett suddenly turned, walked quickly to the piano, picked up his white face towel and threw it despairingly into the air and then made a dejected, frustrated exit. The feeling I had was that the audience was simply a necessary annoyance for the artists on stageor perhaps the flash photographers in the stands simply ruined it for one and all. Either way, this balmy evening on the lovely Cote D'Azur was a mixed bag of emotion for both artist and audience alike.
July 22, 2005
For The Sheer Love Of It...
By comparison with Jarrett the night before, Sonny Rollins could hardly have been more generous and communicative. 75 years old and yet still filled with a sheer love of music and an almost tireless technique and fertile musical imagination. It's true his band doesn't play at his level but rather offer a setting in which the Master can best apply his craft. Bob Cranshaw, the veteran bassist whose name has graced many distinguished records over the years, plucked happily away on electric bass, although at one point his notes could hardly be separated from the other bass frequencies pounding out of the speakers, a problem that took some time for the on stage audio engineers to rectify. Rollins' programme was a mixture of mid tempo, jaunty Calypso numbers with some steaming tenor solos, famous tunes close to Rollins' heart such as "In A Sentimental Mood", "Doxy" and "Tenor Madness" (2nd Encore) and some extended pieces that acted as a showcase for the soloists more than the skill of its composer. Clifton Anderson seemed more comfortable playing bop or hard bop but also offered sonically pleasant backing to some of Rollins' musings. During the first two numbers, about twenty photographers snapped away in a mad frenzy and several television cameras were there to capture the concert for French television. Rollins' love of his craft was infectious and filled the air with a combination of open-mouthed awe and genuine good will. A musician to savour and a night to remember.