Burlington Vermont Discover Jazz Festival 2010: In Service to the Community
The playing and selection of material from The Jim Hall Quartet allowed the strengths of all four men to become visible. The leader, for his part, established a gentle but incisive tone, his rhythmic accents virtually as important to the progression of the group interactions as his soloing. Though his instrument was always clearly perceptible, Hall prefers, as often as not, to approach the changes of tunes from an angle, and his accompanists follow suit: particularly notable in this respect was Colley who, especially on a Brazilian piece, allowed his insinuating style of playing to become even more insistent, in a steady rolling set of emphatic statements.
Saxophonist Greg Osby took a similarly low-key approach to his participation, notwithstanding Hall's frequent mentions and praise of his presence. He was most often content floating comments into the ensemble interplay, thereby fostering the dialogue among his three comrades, so that when he stepped forward on Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge," his declarative rendering of the main melody sounded that much more forthright and crisp.
More highlights than that flashed through the hour-long set, the understated magnificence of which culminated in a sharp joyous reading of Sonny Rollin's "St. Thomas;" in his intro to his musician friend's tune, as in his playing and that of his band, Jim Hall displayed a good humor and generosity of spirit that may have belied his frail physical appearance, but which stood as the foundation of guitar playing as fresh and imaginative as a musician (re) discovering the rewards of playing for an audience, like the one in attendance at The Flynn. Pity there were so many empty seats: this was not be to be missed but rather an occasion not soon to be forgotten, if ever.
June 12, 2010
The halting manner with which Sonny Rollins, nattily attired and topped with a gray and white Afro, took the stage belied a seemingly ravenous hunger to play, demonstrated right from the outset through the end of his near two-hour set. It was an appetite shared by his four bandmatesand special guest Jim Hall, who appeared near the end of the concert as perhaps its crowning moment.
"Newk" was careful to move around the stage whenever a sideman, such as long time bassist Bob Cranshaw, took a solo to make sure he did not obstruct the audience's view, but most of the time the venerable saxophonist was center stage, turning melodies inside out, searching out every possible nook and cranny of melody and its connection to the internal rhythm of the song. Approaching eighty years, Rollins played with astounding vigor and ingenuity, all the while enjoying the spirit of the moment(s) on stage far more than his staid appearance at Discover Jazz in 2003.
But the beauty of this much anticipated event was that although the focus was on Rollins (and rightly so), as the evening unfolded it was not all about him. And not just for those rarefied moments when he and guitarist Hall demonstrated the wisdom of their years and a mutual generosity of spirit that manifest itself in the sharing of changes on two numbers just before the conclusion of the encore-less performance. Sonny Rollin's band plays in a near-perfect symmetry, its instrumentalists complementing each other in ways that suggest why the leader selected them.
Guitarist Russell Malone might have warranted more chances to solo, except that when you heard how his construction of melody lines was reflected in Cranshaw's bass patterns at any given moment, it was almost preferable to listen to the indivisible pair in the background. Likewise percussionist Sammy Figeora and drummer Kobie Watkins: the latter's preference for the well-placed downbeat meshed so tightly with the recurring pop of the former's congas that there was a steady current of symbiotic rhythm emanating from the two performers for the duration of any given tune throughout the performance.
Rare it is that a much-ballyhooed show meets expectations in any context, but Sonny Rollins' performance with his band at 2010 Discover Jazz exceeded expectations by a quantum leap or more, leaving the appearance of The Levon Helm Band in the position of offering the ideal encore for this annual Burlington musical milestone.
The Levon Helm Band
June 13, 2010
The Levon Helm Band may have seemed like an odd choice for a jazz festival unless you've seen the former drummer with The Band in recent years. As he's performed with a full complement of versatile musicians and singers, they've been augmented with a horn section that resoundingly echoes the vintage arrangements written by none other than Allen Toussaint for that iconic rock group's Rock of Ages concerts back in 1972. Levon and Co. are doing justice to the legacy of the unit he once led (then known as The Hawks), and they continued that campaign in the Flynn the final night of Discover Jazz 2010.