Umbria Jazz Winter in Orvieto 2006-2007
Of the group's fairly new repertoire that would mature throughout the weekmuch written specifically for debuting this tourMoutin's "MRC" (Minor Rhythm Changes) and Soloff's "Istanbul" stuck out as vehicles that accentuated the band's up-tempo strengths, particularly because they featured Hart's prowess behind the kit, making his influence felt on the ensemble. Creating various complex and dynamic rhythmic multi-textural patterns under, around, and over his bandmates, the drummer pounded his kit at times with both sticks in one hand and, in essence, "soloed" throughout each piece, raising the level of interplay and interlocking particularly with the similarly rhythmic forces of Locke's vibes (somewhat in early experimental Dave Pike mode circa MPS-era) and Moutin's big toned, creative pizzicato playing on upright bass.
Soloff in awe and/or with pride stood to the side while creative musical tension mounted (in his own words, Soloff joked, "I make sure I don't have to play because I always make sure to have the greatest musicians I possibly can around me"). When the momentum summoned him to join in, he soared over the musical rumblings. Much of the remainder of the original material composed by the members of this group for this occasion unfortunately didn't reach such heights, as it was the energeticnot balladic piecesperformed that suited this group's strengths and potential.
Clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Ken Peplowski brought a bi-coastal American group of three from the East (guitarist Howard Alden, pianist Ted Rosenthal, and himself) and two from the West (drummer Joe La Barbera and bassist Chuck Berghofer from L.A.). With two time slots each day to perform at the Palazzo Dei Sette (aka "The Meeting Point"), the sextet played straight-ahead swinging selections such as Cannonball Adderley's "Wabash" (featuring the leader on both reeds) and "Pow Wow" (guitarist Joe Puma's composition which borrows from the changes and song title of the better-known "Cherokee"). Peplowski is a fine player on both instruments, but he particularly shines on clarinet, and one afternoon's encore of an untitled blues in F showcased what a well- versed giant on the instrument he has been for several decades. Now he's the logical inheritor to the instrument's well-documented heritage, which most recently lost one of its greatest practitioners in the legendary Kenny Davern.
Trumpeter and flugelhornist Roy Hargrove borrowed back the Gerald Clayton trio from vocalist Gambarini and added altoist Justin Robinson for his quintet concerts. Karriem Riggins fiercely propelled the ensemble, though his ride cymbal's amplification started out rather faint at the group's big showcase at Teatro Mancinelli. The ensemble's double horn frontline recalled as much Miles and Cannonball's harmonic excursions as it did the even more venturesome Sonny Simmons and Barbara Donald. Robinson sped through Riggins' violent rhythms, reflecting a debt to Kenny Garrett's work with "Tain" Watts. Robinson's performance alongside Hargrove provided an intriguing contrast in that Garrett has never really had such a relationship with trumpeters in his own bands or recordings after having worked with Miles (other than perhaps his one- time boss Woody Shaw, who appeared on Garrett's debut recording as leader). On flugelhorn, Hargrove demonstrated he has achieved a strong, yet sensitively lyrical, tone and voice on the instrument, rivaling today's best on the warmer brass instrument. His hard driving mid-to-up-tempo hard bop-influenced sets of primarily original material were unquestionably received with utmost enthusiasm from one sold-out concert to the next.
In addition to Hargrove and Peplowski's quintets and Soloff's quartet, Joel Frahm (one of NYC's best-kept secrets as a regular at Greenwich Village's Bar Next Door) led a bonafide international late-hours jam band consisting of Australian pianist Aaron Choulai and fellow tenor saxophonists Daniele Scannapieco and Max Ionata (both Italian) at the Palazzo Dei Sette with sets around 1 am, excepting New Year's at 2 am. The late hours would find many other musicians of the festival gathering to egg on the soloists and band, a comforting sight to witness and unquestionably inspiring for the musicians on the bandstand (particularly after New Year's with Billy Hart and Roy Hargrove taking to the stage).