Newport Jazz Festival: Saturday, August 7, 2010
"Newport, man, the vibe. The vibe of this place is unbelievable," explained percussionist Mantilla, who found the performance exhilarating. "All the water, and the people, this place has so much energy. The band was getting really excited just to play. We are so honored and happy to be here. It really is a blessing."
As Lage's performance surged on the mid-sized stage, pianist Ahmad Jamal began playing on the main stage, for the last of the mid-afternoon sets. Joined by New Orleans drummer Herlin Riley, bassist James Commack, and percussionist Manolo Badrena, the band opened with "Swahili Land." The set included a spirited rendition of "One," where Jamal worked his trademark playing, contrasting broken chords against richly layered runs, as the rhythm section brought some slippery sections to the up-tempo piece.
As Jamal's engagement ended, the sun's heat finally began to wane. While thirsty patrons filled the beer garden, Chick Corea's Freedom Band, prepared for a late afternoon set on the main stage. Joining Corea were saxophonist Kenny Garrett, bassist Christian McBride, and drummer Roy Haynes, who sported a shimmering, off-white coat, that was almost as reflective as the nearby sea. The group delivered a solid set and interesting improvisations on pieces such as "Bud Powell," "Psalm," "Monk's Dream," and "Steps," without getting scientifically esoteric or otherworldly.
When late afternoon passed into early evening, clarinetist Anat Cohen delivered a dazzling performance to close out the Harbor stage. "How you guys doing?" she asked, which garnered an enthusiastic audience response as she played the intro for the loose, swinging, "J Blues." Cohen demonstrated her highly-fined chops, and deftly worked the tone holes on the licorice stickbellowing shrewd notes, cutting deep chasms, and soaring to high peaks, while her band played along. Some five minutes in, Cohen dropped out, stepped aside, and danced feverishly while the rhythm section explored new ideas, each, in turn, taking a solo. Drawing from varied traditions, the adaptive band moved its way through "After You've Gone," the Brazilian ballad "As Rosas Nao Falam," the Cuban-influenced "Siboney," and ended on "Um a Zero." Working with bassist Joe Martin, drummer Obed Calvaire, and pianist Jason Lindner, Cohen delivered what might have been one of the most intimate and captivating sets of the day.