31st Annual Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland
After the show, the party shifted a few blocks east to Togo Suite, where Lovano and Krivda led an open jam session in memory of Willie Smith. The place filled steadily, with tables and chairs being carted here and there to accommodate the crowd that suddenly had packed the club to capacity. The enthusiasm amongst listeners and musicians alikeand the free intermingling of the two, and stars with studentsgave one hope for a rekindling of the jazz scene in Cleveland, if only it be sparked more often with such events as this.
April 21: Omar Sosa Afreecanos Quartet
The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland has, over the years, hosted the festival's most adventurous sets. This year was no different. Experimental Cuban pianist Omar Sosa (below) led his Afreecanos Quartet through stretching waves of Afro-Cuban beats from the 22nd century. Tucked into the crook of a grand piano loaded down with pedals, effects boards and other various electronic implements, and a Fender Rhodes, Sosa spent the evening interlacing classical flourishes with Cuban dance melodies, disco electronica and looping foreign-language chants and singing sprung from the devices at this fingertips. Saxophonist Peter Apfelbaumworked an array of traditional (African?) woodwind instruments in addition to his tenor, and pulled out an impressive collection of percussion instruments to shake about to the beat. Childo Tomas thumped away on electric bass and drummer Marque Gilmore supplied the polyrhythmic underpinnings.
Culled from the dance-hungry traditions of Africa and Cuba, the music pulsed with an exciting, limb-shaking force. But the heady mixture of traditional and electric sounds with voices both live and recorded, often reflected the shrinking world's violent clashing of cultures more than any smooth, festive pow-wow. Sosa and his mates were clearly enjoying themselves as they continually looked for new avenues to explore. And the audience was appreciative, its various feet a-tappin.' But Sosa's music looked to spin well beyond the dance floor. It succeeded ingeniously in capturing a wide scope of modern, global existence, which, for all its wonders, may be pumping and driving itself into collective oblivion.
April 22: Charlie Haden's Quartet West
This was the show of the festival. Lovano joined Haden, pianist Alan Broadbentand drummer Billy Hart to form a vibrant, experimental version of Haden's Quartet West. Opening with an easygoing take on Steve Kuhn's "Today I Am a Man," the band then transitioned to Haden's "Hello My Lovely," led by Broadbent's extended solo piano intro and featuring, later, Haden's strong, resounding bass lines that stepped up and down the instrument's neck to discover neat pockets of harmonic wonder. On his solo, Lovano ran with the slashing dynamic of the bass/piano interplay and fired his sax over tough, cutting terrain that nevertheless sounded a melodic echo.
Joe Lovano and Charlie Haden
Haden's bass opened "Child's Play," singing with its strongly molded tone over Hart's brushes, and the pair's duet carried most of the number. Later in the set, Haden's bass deepened, adapting the tragic grandeur of a baritone singer, and Lovano began to utilize audible, sax-filtered breaths in crafting wonderfully abrasive solo statements. "Lonely Woman" was a well-received treat, with Lovano blowing snake-charmer lines and Broadbent rumbling off into surging fields of abstraction, his hands snowballing at the center of the keyboard, layering quick notes and lengthy ideas in a dense scrambling. The quartet tackled "What About You" to close the set, then returned for an encore (Haden said his wife Ruth warned him, "You gotta get out thereit's Cleveland!"), performing Haden's lyrical yet weighty ode to his former wife, "Ellen David."
April 23: Patti Austin and Ramsey Lewis
Willard Jenkins introduced Patti Austin (right) by proclaiming that JazzFest "had to present at least one of the great American singers." Austin responded, albeit in a preprogrammed way, by paying tribute to one of the greatest American singers of them all, Ella Fitzgerald. Part of a packaged double-bill with pianist Ramsey Lewisa show that landed in St. Thomas and Tucson, Ariz. before this stop in ClevelandAustin impressed as much with her storytelling and humor (good-natured shots at "that bitch," Diana Krall; a call for a political Martini Party to counter the teabaggers: "Tax me, I don't careI'm drunk!") as with her singing. But the singing was forceful, growling with a sexual heat on Fats Waller's "Honeysuckle Rose," scatting mightily on "Mr. Paganini" and "How High the Moon," and rising from a husky yet stately manner on Cole Porter's "Miss Otis Regrets" to loudly testify about the scorned woman's predicament.