15th Anniversary of the Litchfield Jazz Festival
An All-Star Cannonball Adderley Tribute brought together a group of players who had never made music with each other before. (One of the miracles of jazz is that this kind of performance can be done and usually with successful results.) The usual suspect here were Wessell "Warmdaddy" Anderson on alto saxophone, trumpeter Terell Stafford, pianist Benny Green, bassist Rodney Whitaker and Matt Wilson on drums, with vocals by Joanna Pascale. Right from the downbeat on the first tune, "The Work Song," this group energized the audience with a rousing rendition. Stafford playin the words with his trumpet, Green swinging on the keys, Anderson's soulful alto, Whitaker waxing lyrical with his bass and Wilson's driving drumming. "Jive Samba" was next and featured some great call and response work between Anderson and Stafford. Green's astounding piano solo had his left hand doing one thing and his right hand doing another. This time, Wilson played the melody during his drum solo. Joanne Pascale delivered two vocals. The first, "Save Your Love For Me" (a song that Nancy Wilson sang with Adderley), featured sensitive muted trumpet work by Stafford and a very soulful sax by Anderson. The second vocal by Pascal was a song titled "Old Country."
Pascal has a pleasant voice and did a good job while enjoying sharing the stage with this group. The set closed out with Bobby Timmons' "This Year." This gospel-oriented song had several highlights. Anderson's rousing solo which included quotes from "C.C. Rider" and "Lover" was followed by Green's solo which built beautifully to a resounding climax. Stafford's solo started off smoothly, building into a fiery trumpet statement. Whitaker's fingers flew on the bass and Wilson was in overdrive....spurring everyone on until the last beat which produced a standing ovation from the most appreciative audience.
The last group of the night was the largest. The Arturo O'Farrill Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra brought the day back into the latin mode. This large orchestra, with full brass and horn sections, almost overfilled the stage. O'Farrill, the son of Chico O'Farrill, playing and conducting from the piano launched the band into a program of latin material designed to make you want to dance. Among the selections was a tribute to Eddie Palmieri, a song in honor of Justice Sotomayor's appointment, three Afro-Cuban dance moods written by Arturo's father, Chico and Arturo's piece "Song For Chico." The familiar "Caravan" by Juan Tizol with trombone, sax and trumpet solos by members of the orchestra with a heavy injection of very able percussion work.
Overall, O'Farrill's band is loud and heavy on the brass making for an exciting presentation. O'Farrill's son, Adam was heard from with some trumpet work, showing that the family business is going into another generation. For the closing number, Gabriel Alegria joined the orchestra to conduct and play one of his original compositions "El Sun." Also on stage was Alegria's percussionist, John Benitez, who once again gave the audience an example of his excellent drumming and his zapateo dancing. This made for an upbeat ending to a perfect musical day.
Day 3: Sunday, August 8th
The Aaron Weinstein Trio kicked off Day 3 of the festival. Jazz violinist Weinstein brought along pianist Tedd Firth and bassist Steve LaSpina to aid and abet him. Starting off with an Irving Berlin medle, Weinstein immediately displayed his skill on the violin with rich tones and quick runs. Firth and LaSpina both contributed with smooth solos particularly on "Cheek To Cheek." Continuing with a medley format, Weinstein switched to mandolin to play a combination of "Last Night When We Were Young," "A Sleeping Bee" and "Paper Moon." But before getting to playing, Weinstein did an introduction which turned out to be some really good stand-up comedy. Reading from a copy of Truman Capote"s "Breakfast At Tiffany's" (since Capote wrote the lyrics to "A Sleeping Bee"), Weinstein quoted from a section describing a person seemed out of place with the rest of the group like a "violin in a jazz band." At this point, Weinstein threw the book from the stage and started playing while the audience roared. He played "A Sleeping Bee" in tempo with the bass and "Paper Moon" in tempo with LaSpina providing a swinging improvisation. Weinstein's skill on the mandolin is impressive. "If I Were A Bell" rated another comedy introduction and was quickly followed by a rendition of "Just One Of Those Things" where he traded fours with Firth playing lots of piano. "Dancing In The Dark" received a quiet sensitive reading by both Weinstein and Firth.