Art, Pop Coexist at Freihofer Jazz Fest/Party
N’Dour’s band provided strong rhythm and emotion over World Beat music, with the leader’s impassioned singing. The Pancho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band, with fewer vocals, had just as many folks dancing in the aisles, exhibiting why they are one of the top Latin jazz bands in existence at this time. Fun and funky.
Vocally, Parris was the superb, taking different and delightful directions on songs like “Do Nuthin’ Till You Hear from Me,” “Green Dolphin Street,” "Lush Life," “Never Let Me Go.” She did “Georgia” in honor of Ray Charles, who was originally scheduled to be at the fest. Cincotti’s take on “You Don’t Know Me” was also a nod to Brother Ray. The youngster displayed a slick style on songs like “I Changed the Rules” but still has a way to go to live up to the hype. He’s a decent pianist too. Doug Wamble’s vocals were right from Louisiana, sticking mostly to blues with a marked bayou accent, augmented by his slick guitar work and fat tone. Diane Reeves was disappointing, despite emerging as one of the top jazz singers in recent years. Her set meandered too much and many of the songs selected were not her best, though her reworking of "morning Has Broken" is intriguing. She has a beautiful voice, but she's done better work.
As usually, the gazebo stage came through with some strong talent from the “relatively unknown” realm. Sarah Morrow’s band, that included Jeff Ballard on drums, swung like mad. And Morrow — the first female instrumentalist to be hired by Ray Charles, WAILED. Her work on the slide trombone was first-rate, bluesy, swinging, blaring and bold, all to the delight of the crowd. On Monk’s “Well You Needn’t” she left the stage and blared to different sections of the crowd. It was musical and fun. The Robert Glasper Trio got it all started on Saturday with a fine set of mainstream jazz. A good improviser with sweet chops, he performed mostly his own work, once of which “One for ’Grew” was a nod to the great pianist Mulgrew Miller.
For pure crowd-pleasing effect, there was George Benson and Boney James. Benson is a great guitarist, but more on display was his pop songs from the Breezin album and other songs of that ilk. James, in the mold of David Sanborn, but without the distinct tone and with less of a sense of adventure, also had fans dancing, as did the Koz band. I suppose that’s what some of it’s about. So the fest once again maintained its artistic highlights, along with its commercial highlights and the marriage continues to work.