Fifth Annual Longwood Gardens Wine and Jazz Festival, June 4, 2011
They started with one of Coltrane's trademark exploratory tenor saxophone cadenzas, segueing into an untitled low mood composition by Alessi, which the saxophonist's wife humorously dubbed "Dr. Scholl," perhaps acknowledging the music's soft, cushiony feel. The group went on to explore other elements of Ornette Coleman's free jazz, finishing up the day in the experimental stratosphere. While their music was highly satisfying for the more advanced listeners in the audience, the group might have been better placed earlier in the day, when others would have the energy to stretch their listening capabilities.
The setting for this concert was exceptional. The wine tastings and food were well above average, and the Longwood and winery staffs cordial and helpful. One piece of useful criticism that might be offered concerns the sound system. The beginning of Kenny Barron's set was disrupted by stray sounds and echoes, an insult to a jazz master, which Barron dealt with graciously. In addition, the sound level diminished with the inverse square of the distance from the stage, a law of physics that is usually addressed with a considerably more powerful loudspeaker system. Within a hunded feet of the stage, the music could be heard quite clearly, but at the farther reaches of the meadow, where many of the listeners were congregated, the feeling was like being in a very noisy nightclub.
As a lesson in learning from experience, the first concert at Tanglewood was performed in the rain, which inspired the donors to build the famous Koussevitzky Music Shed, with its excellent acoustical projection of the music onto the lawn beyond. Perhaps so inspired, some philanthropists will find the means to donate a suitable sound stage on this meadow, making it an exquisite setting for a summer music festival, one that is much needed in the Philadelphia area.