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Live Reviews

Undead Jazz Festival: Kenny's Castaways Edition

By Published: June 30, 2010
Bill McHenry
Bill McHenry
Bill McHenry

saxophone
's Quintet felt like a return to normalcy, even though by all accounts it was not. The three horn fronted quintet, consisting of trumpeter Duane Eubanks
Duane Eubanks
Duane Eubanks
b.1969
trumpet
and alto saxophonist Andrew DAngelo, was very much like the jazz workshops of Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
1922 - 1979
bass, acoustic
on two levels: 1.) They had an intelligent mix of ensemble playing and individualism and 2.) They were not afraid of covering many facets of jazz. McHenry plays with quiet confidence, complete with a gorgeous tone and a sophisticated ear. Duane Eubanks, unlike his loquacious brother Robin, preferred a calculated approach, letting his short phrases speak for themselves. D'Angelo squeaked, wailed, squawked and screamed his way through the bluesy but modern foundation (and despite all the modernism throughout this festival, they ended on a blues!)

Happy Apple closed Kenny's Castaways for the night. Happy Apple is the kind of band that begs to be put in the "not jazz" category, but plays for an audience that won't let them. They're named after the toy keyboard that saxophonist Michael Lewis likes to fool around with when he's not blowing. Erik Fratzke's electric bass more often sounds like indie rock than it does Ray Brown and Dave King's tenure in The Bad Plus, a band that catches the attention of the mainstream by covering Blondie and Black Sabbath, has no shortage of rock influences. However, no one with working ears can deny Lewis's crystal clear saxophone sound. No jazz fan can deny the presence of group improvisation in their playing. It's the raw, stripped down ethos of the band that draws listeners in and separates Happy Apple from the rest. If I had to give it a name, I'd call it "garage jazz," but this wasn't a festival about labels; it was about singular, unique expressions.

Closing Thoughts

John Hollenbeck

The Undead Jazz Festival was everything most jazz festivals are not: loaded with new artists, cheap and unsponsored. It was uncompromising, loosely organized, rebellious, a little snarky and extremely adventurous. The audience had no distinct demographic, ranging across age, sex, race, etc. There were as many dress shoes tapping on the floor as there were Converse All-Stars hanging from the second floor balcony. Above all else, the sheer mass of people in attendance at just one of the venues (I heard there was a line around the block for John Hollenbeck's large ensemble) should be enough to quell those who fear for the future of jazz. The next time someone asks you if it's dead, respond with "It's undead!" If they don't get it, have them come next year.

Photo Credit

Dave Kaufman


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