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Live Reviews

2008 Newport Jazz Festival: Finale!

By Published: August 28, 2008
When pressed for trombone influences in jazz, Wesley cites Curtis Fuller and JJ Johnson, then continues: "There are so many...Wycliffe Gordon, he's the finest trombone player." Wesley names more, including Steve Turre and Kevin Eubanks. "I realize I'm safe in my genre of funky music because I didn't develop enough to compete with those guys." When thinking about his work as a jazz musician, Wesley stated, "I don't know where it would have led to, but I might have been a Kevin Eubanks. Funky music is big. I didn't know it was going to get as big as it did."

And Wesley knows funky music. His charismatic stage presence helped heighten Soulive's performance to an all-out party.

With Soulive's conclusion of "Bobby Byrd," Wesley returned to the mic. In a display of showmanship, Wesley encouraged the crowd: "Lemme hear you—We're gonna have a house party!" The organ trio, embellished by sax and trombone, tore up the Wesley original, "House Party," bringing the audience to a seemingly impossible level of enthusiasm. As the humorous funk number built to its peak, Wesley managed to push the audience even further, bringing on unified shouts of "Aint no party like a P- Funk party cause a P-Funk party don't stop!" When the driving beat finally ceased, the audience's volume was a deafening.

"When I do [a] show, I do all kinds of genres of music," Wesley said, "I try to make people glad they bought a ticket."

Soulive showed no signs of slowing down. With the audience in full bore, the band went into "Gimme Some More." Organist Neal Evans' funky rendition on the bottom parts would have made any bassist proud. After Wesley's interesting trombone work, Evans took over, playing a scorching, dynamic and richly layered organ solo.

The band pressed on with a relentless energy. Breaking into "Jesus Children/Stay," the soulful singer Anthony Hamilton took to the stage, teasing the audience with call and response vocals. In a dizzying frenzy, the music sped up, slowed down, and then raced forward again—hammering away at the captivating runs for which the band is known.

After a brief exit, Soulive returned for an encore, playing "Tighten Up," the funk standard written by Archie Bell and the Drells. Again, Neal Evans' organ steered the band, repeating bass phrasings while providing layers of embellishment. One by one, each musician took a solo, pushing and driving the music, before finally bringing the party to a screaming close.

Off in the distance, the saxophone work of Sonny Rollins shrieked and wailed on the main stage. Forty-five minutes later it was over—Newport had come to a close. All that was left were memories. While each and every person who attended will take away his or her own unique memories, Fred Wesley shares what he thinks will be some of his: "I'll take away my performance and I'll take away what I'm hearing—Dave Holland, Herbie Hancock, and Sonny Rollins."

The rest of us will take away your performance too, Fred.

Photo Credit

Michael Weintrob


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