Caramoor Jazz Festival 2007
O'Farrill, Hersch and Pope each could close out the program for any festival on their own, so having them as the opening lineup made for a bit of excitement. O'Farrill, a staple at Birdland with his weekly performances at the helm of the Chico O'Farrill Big Band, made seeing him in a small ensemble setting a treat. Hersch, a more-than-capable solo pianist, brings to the format the same delicate expressiveness as his larger ensemble work and is definitely someone to hear. Odean Pope presented his Saxophone Choir: nine saxophones and a rhythm section. The most unique and swinging ensemble arrangement of the festival, Philadelphia-raised tenor Pope sent the crowd on their way to dinner wishing for a second set.
After dinner came the Brad Mehldau Trio, featuring Larry Grenadier (bass) and Jeff Ballard (drums). Even though at this point it is old hat still to compare Mehldau's piano playing to that of his idol Wynton Kelly, the most satisfying aspect lies in something he got out of Kelly. On the first tune of the set, the Oasis hit "Wonderwall," Mehldau's right hand had an expert sense of hesitancy, as if he were resisting all of the filler notes and letting only the real, the most meaningful, ones show through.
Paquito D'Rivera was a fabulous choice to close out the festival. He was joined by Lovano (his only full set of the festival), Alon Yavnal (piano), Cameron Brown (bass) and Francisco Mela (drums). The band busted out with a grooving mambo, D'Rivera proving once and for all that you can indeed swing en clavé. Although it is usually impossible to point out one specific tune as a highlight of an entire festival, a duo between D'Rivera and the Alon Yavnai on a piece by the great Cuban pianist/composer Ernesto Lecuona was certainly up there. Almost sounding like a cross between Chopin, Lieder music and Cuban Son, this through- composed number turned a lot of folks in the audience onto something a little closer to the essence of Cuban music.