Many Shades of Jazz Come Out at Newport 2010
Fort Adams State Park
August 6-8, 2010
The variety of music at the 2010 CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival August 6-9 was one of its notable traits. Mainstream, Latin, electric stuff, ornate orchestral offerings, swing and all kinds of things in between.
The originality of the music in so many of the bandsDavid Binney, Dave Douglas, Fly (Mark Turner, Jeff Ballard, Larry Grenadier), Rez Abbasi, JD Allen, Ben Allison, Jason Moran, Ken Vandermark, and Sun Ra Arkestra alumnus Marshall Allen (with Matthew Shipp and Joe Morris) was impressive. It was also a fine example of the health of the music and the many facets of its creators that are out there ion the scene now. That's not taking into account jazz stalwarts like Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Ahmad Jamal, Jon Faddis, Wynton Marsalis and various flavors of big band/orchestral jazz.
There weren't many vocalists on the docket, but Gretchen Parlato was a delight, playing on one of the three stages with a superb trio consisting of Gerald Clayton on piano, Kendrick Scott on drums and Alan Hampton on bass, she exhibited her unique approach to the art form. She doesn't have the big voice, octave-spanning instrument of some jazz singers. What she has she uses to great advantage, her artistic statement as valid as any. Her breathy, intimate style is subdued, but expressive. She finds the right place to drop a phrase, elongating a note, cooing with sensuality. Parlato captures you by pulling gently on your sleeve and purring in your ear, not grabbing your attention with grand gesture.
Sometimes there were wordless vocal improvisations, like on "Within Me." Not scat, but soaring like a guitar through the gently rhythm of the song. Sweetly done. "Doralice" was an exquisite duet with Scott, who provided varied rhythms, tasteful and exotic. He's one of the most musical of drummers. And Parlato's dressing of the Jobim lyric over that cushion of sound was special. So was her duet with Clayton on Monk's "Ugly Beauty." Delicate but delicious. The closer of the Michal Jackson hit "I Can't help It" was slightly funky and alluring. This is a special singer.
Ben Allison's music was excellent, melodies that allowed soloists like Jenny Scheinman, Shane Endsley and Steve Cardenas to shine. Rudy Royston was excellent on drums, providing the driving forcewith Allison's bassto each varied composition, whether aggressive, as it sometimes got, or more serene. Allison is a fine writer as well as player.
Anat Cohen's quartet was more mainstream, but her clarinet is anything but staid. This woman wails, and her imagination and fleet fingers always provide thrills and surprises along the way. A first-rate performer and musician. David Binney's Third Occasion Quartet was a pleasant surprise. With the great drummer Brian Blade drawing from his varied, unanticipated, colorful rhythmic bag, and pianist Craig Taborn's creative improvisational mind, Binney laid out emotionally charged and cerebral saxophone. The band was tight and the original music intriguing and arresting.
The same with the Fly trio. turner's tenor sax sounded fine over Ballard's shifting rhythms and Grenadier's steady, flowing bass. The improvisations were loose at times, though connected. Their improvisational paths were fun to follow. Top musicians developing a cohesive mind and good sound.
Ken Vandermark's Powerhouse Sound band came on as advertised. They sounded bigger than a quartet at times, and the music delved into many areas. Including funk and rock. One number started funky as hell, with Vandermark's sax getting into that genre, slick and slurpy. As the tune got more intense and the sax laid out, guitarist Jeff Parker took off, wailing over a driving rhythm that was reminiscent of Hendrix with Buddy Miles. The saxophonist's music stretched boundaries, but improvisation was inside of everything.