Sonny Rollins has a long tradition with New York's outdoorsfrom the famed Williamsburg Bridge woodshedding 49 years ago to his pretty much annual summer concerts of recent years. Rollins has so much music under his belt that he can take the music in most any direction on any given night. Playing a benefit at (and for) Central Park's Summerstage Aug. 6th, just shy of his 78th birthday, the saxophonist displayed both showmanship and finesse and his quintet was there to let him shine. They opened with the light, Latin-tinged "Nice Lady," congas, guitar and muted trombone setting an easy backing for Rollins' solid soloing. That was the mission for the nightRollins pacing, marching, even pirouetting around the stage, his horn soaring while the band served as jetty to still the waves. He didn't say a word to the near-capacity audience until well past the 40-minute mark, when he called "St. Thomas": "I haven't played it in 150 years." They touched on Irving Berlin, Noel Coward and Duke Ellington, the band always solidly anchored by Bob Cranshaw's electric bass and lightly wrapped around the tunes. Guitarist Bobby Broom provided sweet melodic foils as Rollins confidently went wherever he pleased, reducing themes at times to a few well-placed, articulated notes, then delivering them again in double time. The park was theirs, even the people sitting on the lawn outside Rumsey Playfield were in rapt attention.
Susie Ibarra is unusual in the new music world in which she's moved in recent years. She writes delicate, beautiful music, but still represents her years playing hard jazz with David S. Ware and William Parker in her extended use of her drum set and even in the presence of a kit in a chamber setting. On Aug. 10th she presented a new suite for violin, harp, piano and her own percussion at the Museum of Modern Art (scheduled for the museum's Summergarden, it was moved inside by threat of rain). She is still, even in such a setting, first and foremost a drummer, using soft mallets on cymbals, playing repeated motifs, accenting against the wooden rims of her kit with the other end of her sticks, alternating light figures against heavy rolls. But as opposed to employing such tactics in sax-dominated free jazz, here she lightly circled within repeating harp figures played by Bridget Kibbey, inventive piano interpretations by Kathleen SupovÃ© and Jennifer Choi's beautiful violin playing. The new piece, "Summer Fantasy and Folklore," was structured around Ibarra's numbered cues, given by hand gesture to individual players from behind her kit until enough momentum was established for her to let it roll and connect the pieces with her own playing. The rest of the program was filled with a piano solo and violin/piano/drum trios from Ibarra's recent recordings. The road from free jazz to open composition has been a long one for Ibarra, but at MoMA she demonstrated an arrival.
Joel Dorn Tribute
Joel Dorn may be unfamiliar to many jazz people because he made his musical mark behind the scenes, primarily as a producer for Atlantic Records. Witness, then, the allstar lineup that came to p(l)ay him posthumous tribute at Lincoln Center's Damrosch Park Aug. 13th: Roberta Flack, Mose Allison, Jane Monheit, Hugh Masekela, Janice Segal (of Manhattan Transfer), The Persuasions, Dr. John, Cornell Dupree and Les McCann. Dubbed "Keep a Light in the Window" (Dorn's signature codicil), the event was a heart- and soulful celebration of the man who had been a close musical "pardner" to McCann, David "Fathead" Newman, Yusef Lateef and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Showcase numbers included Flack's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," Allison's "I Feel So Good," Monheit's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and Segal's "I'll Be Seeing You" (both duets with guitarist Frank Vignola), Masekela's unaccompanied cameo, The Persuasion's a cappella "Ten Commandments of Love," Dr. John's "April Showers" followed by a blues duet with Dupree and McCann's "Compared to What." There were surprise gems as well: vocalist Leslie Mendelson's pared-down and sensual "Be My Baby," Black Heat's '70s funk sendup "No Time to Burn," Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey's cover of "The Black and Crazy Blues"and a slice of surreality when studio legend Wardell Quezergue rose from his wheelchair to mime-conduct to a recording of Aaron Neville's "Mona Lisa."
Return for Forever