Caramoor Festival 2012
Katonah, New York
July 28-29 and August 4, 2012
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, this year's Caramoor Jazz festival in Katonah, New York, produced by Jim Luce, was a three-day celebration not to be missed. Stormy and thunderous days set the stage for the first two days of the festival. This year's lineup hosted drummer Roy Haynes, guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Kenny Barron, singer Dee Dee Bridgewater and many others, and concluded on August 4 with banjoist Bela Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio.
The program began Saturday, July 28 with The Cookers, led by its founder and trumpeter David Weiss. The Cookers are tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, alto saxophonist Craig Handy, pianist Orrin Evans (filling in George Cables, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, bassist Cecil McBee and legendary drummer Billy Hart.
The performance was amazing. This group of musicians, with about 250 years of experience and 1,000 recordings among them, gave the audience a history lesson of jazz past and present. The music not only changed the sound of the thunder and lightning in the Caramoor sky, it harkened back to a place in time when jazz was played at a higher level.
Next up on the program was vocalist Gretchen Parlato and her group. Drawing her audience into her world the moment she opened her mouth, time stood still when she sang pianist Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly." Her small voice filled the air with hopes of love, life and peace. She made the world a better place, if just for a moment. At the end of her performance, she was presented with her well-deserved Jazz Journalists Association Award for Best Female Vocalist.
Kenny Barron followed Parlato; a pianist in a class all by himself and a true master of the art of piano playing. The moment he walked on the stage, a hush came over the audience in anticipation of what was to come. Kenny's ability to transcend all musical categories and spontaneously play with finesse and boundless inventive power is his absolute genius. He opened the set with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's " Up Jumped Spring" and moved on to Eubie Blake's "Memories of You," ending the evening with a Thelonious Monk tune. Barron received a standing ovation; when he left the stage, the piano must have been thinking, "No one will ever play me like that again!"
Then came Dee Dee Bridgewater and her band. The best way to describe her performance is simply to repeat what she told Roy Haynes backstage afterward: "I left the stage nice and hot for you"; she certainly did. All the thunder and rain in Caramoor could not extinguish the fire she set onstage. A three-time Grammy Award-winner, Bridgewater started off the set with a few jazz classics, including Mongo Santamaria's "Afro Blue." The highlight of the evening was her rendition of the Latin tune "Bésame Mucho" which she sang in Spanish.
Just when it seemed it could not get any better, Master drummer Roy Haynes and his Fountain of Youth band took the stage to close the evening. With bassist David Wong, saxophonist Jaleel Shaw and pianist Martin Bejerano, the highlight of the set was a request from the audience for Miles Davis' "All Blues" from Kind of Blue (Columbia, 1959). Besides being a great drummer, it was announced to the audience that Haynes had been named Best Dressed Man by Esquire Magazine in 1960, leading to a playful interaction with the audience throughout the performance regarding his attire. About all the great jazz musicians he has known, Haynes once said, "I am the last man standing," and he certainly was Saturday night.
Day two of the festival, Sunday, July 29, featured 19-time Grammy Award-winning guitarist: Pat Metheny and his new Unity Band, with saxophonist Chris Potter, drummer Antonio Sanchez and bassist Ben Williams, a welcome addition to the group. The Unity Band left the station at Caramoor right from the first tune, "Roofdogs," from its 2012 self-titled Nonesuch debut. There were allot of twist and turns in Metheny's performance, with Potter certainly changing preconceptions about how a Metheny tune can be done. Two standing ovations later, the set ended with Metheny's classic "Are You Going With Me?" Yes we are, and thanks for the ride!