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Live Reviews

Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival: June 25-26, 2011

By Published: July 12, 2011
The Bad Plus was working Never Stop (E1 Entertainment, 2010), its first all-original recording. They've been together a while now and the synergy among drummer David King
David King
David King
b.1965
guitar
, bassist Reid Anderson
Reid Anderson
Reid Anderson
b.1970
bass
and pianist Ethan Iverson
Ethan Iverson
Ethan Iverson
b.1973
piano
was strong. They stretched the rubber band of the trio and it snapped back when they needed to. It was thoughtful music but still had a lot of guts.

On the other hand, Donald Harrison always plays with guts and feeling, but his set called A Night in Treme, after the HBO series, wasn't as exciting as when he carries his own band and plays what he calls "nouveau bop." This band, capturing some of the tradition of New Orleans, featured New Orleans Indians, from which Harrison is descended, and the singing of Cyril Neville. Entertaining in spots, it didn't always play out with anything that could be called special. More fun and funky was Brian Mitchell, whose résumé includes playing piano with Levon Helm
Levon Helm
Levon Helm
b.1942
drums
of The Band. The pianist had a sleek band with percussion, keyboards bass and trombone. They were full of blues and funk and swing.

Brian Mitchell

Mitchell called to mind Dr. John
Dr. John
Dr. John
b.1940
piano
, but without as much rasp in the voice. "Shake That Thing," and "Love Don't Mean That Much To Me" had toes tapping and heads bouncing.

Pedrito Martinez
Pedrito Martinez
Pedrito Martinez

percussion
also knew how to get the feet moving, as most Latin bands seem to do. It was a small band though. Alvaro Benavides played percussion with the leader and they were joined by keyboard and bass. Everyone sang. But they cranked out high energy Latin music with not much jazz. Hips were shaking as well as heads.

Saxophonist Tia Fuller
Tia Fuller
Tia Fuller

saxophone
has been rising on the scene and with good reason. She's a smoking player with all the grasp of bebop and the heart to light it up. She always brings the fire. Her sister, Shamie Royston, is also a fine musician, playing remarkable piano, and Rudy Royston
Rudy Royston
Rudy Royston

drums
played superlative drums. The result was a tight, grooving, burning band.

Bringing a different kind of fire, more smoldering, was trumpeter Rebecca Coupe Franks
Rebecca Coupe Franks
Rebecca Coupe Franks
b.1961
trumpet
, who played a set of interesting original material, like "Hugs From Heaven" (for her late father), that was marvelously carried out by Luis Perdomo
Luis Perdomo
Luis Perdomo
b.1971
piano
on piano, Tani Tabbal on drums and Lew Scott on bass. Perdomo's fleet fingers are always a treat; tasty and dazzling at the same time. Franks showed a nice tone and good chops on her straight-ahead jazz compositions. She also sang a couple numbers, which wasn't a good choice.

Luis Perdomo

Singing is the choice of Hilary Kole, and the New York City club star was in fine form, despite struggling with a cold. She has a style that straddles jazz and cabaret, but she's been doing an awful lot of jazz gigs and it shows. Her phrasing, and even her scatting, was as much jazz as just about anything else. She articulated and swung, and knew how to get feeling out of a song without being maudlin and without forcing it. It was a swinging set, as her voice ran like syrup over songs like "Better Than Anything," "Get Outta Town" and other standards. John Hart
John Hart
John Hart
b.1961
guitar
's sparkling guitar solos added a lot to the good feeling.

Hilary Kole and John Hart

A couple great jazz singers took the main stage during he weekend. Dee Dee Bridgewater
Dee Dee Bridgewater
Dee Dee Bridgewater
b.1950
vocalist
did a set of music honoring Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
. Her voice is always on target, it seems, with a strength that kind of sneaks up on the listener. She has a strong stage presence and grabs the audience before opening them up to her stories.

Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves
Dianne Reeves
b.1956
vocalist
is another strong-voiced jazz singer, along the lines of Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
Sarah Vaughan
1924 - 1990
vocalist
, and was part of the Sing the Truth! act, along with Angelique Kidjo
Angelique Kidjo
Angelique Kidjo
b.1960
vocalist
and Lizz Wright
Lizz Wright
Lizz Wright
b.1980
vocalist
. Billed as a tribute to Odetta
Odetta
Odetta
1930 - 2008
guitar, acoustic
, Miriam Makeba
Miriam Makeba
Miriam Makeba
1932 - 2008
vocalist
and Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
1930 - 2010
vocalist
, it was also a tribute to women in general, taking songs from a huge gamut of female singers like Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell
b.1943
vocalist
, Nina Simone
Nina Simone
Nina Simone
1933 - 2003
piano
, Tracy Chapman, Holiday and others. All three were in good voice in an uplifting performance. Reeves, particularly, was shining on "Throw It Away" of Lincoln's, whose popularity among jazz singers is because she was such a strong songwriter, and it's always a good thing when tribute is paid to this late, great artist. The band, featuring Geri Allen
Geri Allen
Geri Allen
b.1957
piano
, bassist James Genus
James Genus
James Genus
b.1966
bass
, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington
Terri Lyne Carrington
Terri Lyne Carrington
b.1965
drums
and guitarist Romero Lubambo, was top notch, providing a perfect platform for the vocalists.


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