31st Annual Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland
31st Annual Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland
April 15-25, 2010
In its 31st offing, the Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland followed a familiar yet engaging formula. One that, over the years, has made it the largest music festival in Ohio and the largest educational jazz festival in the country. The clinics and workshops for local musicians, as well as performances by local high school and college bands, remained intermixed with shows by international stars. And throughout its 11-day run, while offering at least a taste of all that jazz has to offer, the festival still maintained a distinct Cleveland flavor.
April 16: Happy Birthday Henry Mancini!
A bit of luck befell the festival this year. After previously scheduled Broadway singer Vanessa Williams canceled in January, organizers picked up singer Monica Mancini's tribute show to her late father. As fate would have it, Friday also happened to be the 86th anniversary of Mancini's birth. So the night at the Allen Theatre was touted as a birthday celebration for one of Cleveland's famous native sons.
The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra got things underway. Led by emerging trumpeter Sean Jones, the band favored upbeat swing versions of a variety of Mancini compositions, including "Cheryl's Theme" from the film Sunset, the title song from Breakfast at Tiffany's and the dreamy, majestic "Theme From Mr. Lucky." A list of jazz stars new and old were trotted out to spark the music and crowd alike. Jones traded solos with local sax star and orchestra member Howie Smith on the opening number, then brought out another rising young trumpeter from Cleveland, Dominick Farinacci, who lent his flugelhorn to the second piece. Pianist Mulgrew Miller and saxophonist Ted Nash entered for "Lujon" and carried the ballad down moody, rain-soaked streets. Miller exercised an impossibly supple touch on the keys, pouring forth choruses of milky favor. Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon came on for "Breakfast at Tiffany's," but didn't really get groovin' till a few tunes later (with a charging statement that squeaked, pitched, rolled and growled), following on the heels of clarinetist Paquito D'Rivera, who thrilled the audience with his woodwind gymnastics and gregarious personality. Guitarist Royce Campbell, who played in Mancini's band for 19 years, entered for "Dreamsville," and stayed on for most of the night, occasionally picking (or thumbing) out vibrant, Wes Montgomery-like solos.
Monica Mancini's pianist Mamiko Kitaura and the singer's husband, drummer Gregg Field, joined the band after the intermission, leading the orchestra through the Pink Panther theme, while the animated feline pranced on the screen behind the musicians, before giving way to clips from several of the famous Inspector Clouseau movies. Mancini herself came on to sing "It Better Be Tonight." And with a full, able voice, she continued to run through a number of her father's hits, including "Two for the Road," which featured D'Rivera's clarinet, "Charade," "Dear Heart," "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Moon River." But the highlight was a wild rendition of Henry Mancini's surging, iconic theme from the Peter Gunn TV show, which allowed all the aforementioned guests ample room to strut their wares. It provided a rousing blast to an otherwise nice, if overly sentimental, tribute from daughter to father.
April 17: Women In Jazz
After missing last year's installment of the festival's long-running Women in Jazz series, singer Evelyn Wright was back in fine form at this afternoon tribute concert to Brazilian guitarist/composer Antonio Carlos Jobim at the Mt. Zion Congregational Church. Also on the bill were singers Pat Harris and Marsha Newman. The three each ran through a trio of Jobim songs in the opening set, backed by a quintet under the direction of guitarist Gary Edwards. Harris proved the most capable and at home singing in Portuguese, losing none of her expressivenessin fact, increasing itwhen she did so. Newman also gamely switched to Portuguese in parts of "Sadness." But both singers labored a bit in blending soul/R&B/gospel vocal styles with Jobim's bossa melodies, the result at times sounding flat and disjointed. (Their efforts were certainly not helped any by continuing technical problems with the microphone.) Only Wright was able to fully inhabit the maestro's humid but breezy hymns, infusing them with the metal urgency and desperation of the American city. The band was solid in support throughout and offered up several funky electric bass solos by Kip Reid, echoing guitar comps from Edwards, and many sharply rendered piano solos by Jackie Warren, who reached her height with an extended clamoring statement on the penultimate "How Insensitive."
April 17: The Roots