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Live Reviews

Tanglewood Jazz Festival 2007

By Published: September 10, 2007

Gambarini and Jones have a duet CD, You Are There, apparently still awaiting distribution in the U.S., but available in Europe. The pair went through a number of jazz numbers like "You Are There," "Lush Life," "My One and Only Love" and "Come Sunday," finishing with her trademark version of "Sunny Side of the Street." As always, Jones was stately and elegant, able to caress a melody or swing in an understated style so as not to infringe on the singer. He's a class act, pure and simple. Gambarini's instrument is one of the finest, and she's finally getting overdue recognition. Her sound is luscious and her timing is dead on, no matter what swirl she might take with phrasing or scatting. Somehow, the set seemed to lack just a bit of sparkle, whether she was holding back too much or he was. Nonetheless, this pairing is a fine one and the music is memorable.

McPartland's live taping was like sitting in the living room listening to two fine musicians dish the dirt and play some. Rosnes (who we learned had recently married the superb pianist Bill Charlap) has excellent technique and a style that always makes her interesting to hear. "Con Alma" and "Green Chimneys" were among her impressive highlights. And McPartland, when called upon, still carries a tune with a great feel and approach. During the interviews, McPartland always displays a dry wit. She told of how her parents didn't want her to lead the infamous lifestyle of jazz musicians, fearing she would marry a musician "and live in an attic (...two, three). Which of course I did." Asked for an anecdote about her 28 years with Piano Jazz, she laid out a somewhat bawdy tale with mild—but hilarious—expletives that will likely not see NPR airwaves. Just Marian being Marian, as they say.

One set was devoted to Brazilian music, not particularly mixed with jazz, but more genuine, right from the source, as played expertly by guitarist Lubambo, along with pianist Cesar Camargo Mariano. They were eventually joined by singer Leny Andrade, a colleague of Antonio Carlos Jobim and a woman known as the "queen of bossa nova" in her native land. The trio had all the feel and finesse one would expect from experts in that idiom.

The opening night of the fest is traditionally Latin flavored, but this year it also featured the African music of Hugh Masekela. His band put together Afro rhythms with bits of funk and jazz and soul to an extraordinary result—fascinating and joyful. "Lady," a Fela Kuti composition, was a half-comical story apparently about women, but poignant songs like "Stimela" dedicated to migrant workers and those in tedious labor jobs that bring hardship and little joy, and "Mandela," celebrating the release of the anti- apatheid leader, depicted Masekela's work in protest of dictators and oppression that has been a hallmark of his life. Along with a good sound on flugelhorn, he demonstrated a strong and vibrant vocal style that was part melodic, perhaps part tribal chant—expressive and even theatrical. In "Stimela" his voice sounded like the train that workers dreaded to take, as it took them to the mines of Johannesburg from which they may not ever return. He could get bass tones, high tones and all manner of feelings in between. Saxophonist Morris Goldberg helped with the vocals and also played a mean horn.

Pancho Sanchez played just about everything, from salsa to jazz to funk to soul and mixed and matched where he saw fit. It all had the Latin percussion beneath it, the conga player's calling card, of course. "Shiny Stockings" was given the Brazilian feel. Other songs were deeper in the Latin groove, with timbales, bongos and congas providing the motion, and the band often singing or chanting phrases in Spanish. He even turned vocalist for "Raise Your hand," a raucous, funky rendition of the title cut to his latest CD.

Jamal can always be counted on to play jazz that's slick, yet sophisticated in an understated way. He even brought saxophonist Jimmy Heath out for good measure. With the wonderful drummer Idris Muhammad steering the rhythm, the band was in sweet form. His fest-closing offerings included "Paris After Midnight," a new composition called "Papilion," and perhaps his biggest hit, "Poinciana," from his huge Live at the Pershing recording many years ago that has continued to bear fruit. Jamal's playing is still an inspiration.

The cafe slot showcased singers like Sachal Vasandani, Mina Agossi from France and Chiara Civello from Italy. Each had a unique style that used jazz as a base and branched out. Vasandani did classics and songs from his popular Eyes Wide Open CD, including his catchy composition "Please, Mr. Oglivy," and a nice arrangement of "A Flower is a Lovesome Thing." Good stuff and a bright future, it appears.

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