Newport Jazz Festival: Newport, RI, August 4, 2012
Fort Adams State Park
August 4, 2012
"Yeah that's what I'm talking about, Newport!" the bright-smiled Cuban conga player said with enthusiasm, as the crowd he encouraged to dance clapped a beat to his liking. Amid the vortex of sound that is the Newport Jazz Festivalthree stages hosting five acts apiece Pedrito Martinez's four-piece band played "Ay Amor," and brought the quad stage to life. "Memorias," the second song, saw keyboardist Ariacne Trujillo contribute lead vocals. Venezuelan electric bassist Alvaro Benavides and Peruvian percussionist Jhair Sala, contributed elements that expanded the group's Afro-Cuban sounds. "Que Palo" and "La Luna" completed the set.
Over at the main stage, Matt Perrine's tuba furnished the bottom end sounds of saxophonist John Ellis' Double Wide. Notes smeared as Ellis lead the band through the sugary sounds of "Zydeco Clowns on the Lamb." A set rife with musical gymnastics, the music jumped, flipped, and hopped as it prodded and explored. Punctual changes in time and timbre saw the emotions in "Dowey Dah" morph from light and happy to a dark cinematic nature.
Looking from the stage and towards the audience set about the ocean- side peninsula, Ellis said: "This is such a beautiful, beautiful place to play. We are so happy to be here and we're so happy that you're here." The zany, New Orleans-influenced "Three Legged tango in Jackson Square," bluesy "This too shall pass" and upbeat "Break Time" were also heard.
When Boston jazz radio host Eric Jackson introduced bassist Christian McBride's Inside Straight, he pointed out that the date marked Trumpeter Louis Armstrong's birthday. "Seems like a great day to have a jazz festival," Jackson said. Saxophonist Steve Wilson and vibraphonist Warren Wolf helped established the main theme on the opener, "Brother Mister." Wolf's vibraphone crackled. Carefully striking mallets upon the instrument's metal bars, the notes resonated outward with a glasslike quality. McBride twisted bass riffs. Plucking rapid notes in his heavy-handed yet flowing manner, he pushed the runs in unanticipated directions.
Pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. joined McBride in a trio format. Sands' buoyant phrasings bobbed from crest to trough, exploring the sounds, anchored by McBride's bass. McBride belted a single note, returning the music to calm as the band sounded the main theme to end the piece.
"Theme for Kareem" opened with extended time for McBride in unaccompanied format. Front and center, the bass emitted deep, robust sounds from the stage. McCoy Tyner's "Celestial Chant" provided improvisational travels, and the band closed on the swinging blues "Used Ta' Could."
Inside Fort Adams, drummer Jack DeJohnette's Group delivered some electric fusion on the quad stage. The set began with the slow tempo "Blue," where George Colligan slipped from behind the keys and delivering long, drawn-out notes and accents on the pocket trumpet.
"If you hear something that sounds out of tune, don't worry," DeJohnette said while introducing David Fiuczynski. The guitarist employed microtones, and his double-neck, orange sunburst guitar procures sounds not typically found within the 12 musical intervals that comprise Western music.
The centerpiece of the set, "Priestesses of the Mist," was inspired by Marion Zimmer Bradley's Arthurian novel, The Mists of Avalon (Alfred A. Knopf, 1982). Rudresh Mahanthappa hoisted saxophone notes high in the register, snaking the music to new places that flourishing about the rhythms. Fiuczywski's guitar warbled around DeJohnette's drums and Colligan's keyboard. Climbing and falling, the guitar harmonized in unison with the sax, broke off to explore disparate harmonies, then returned to new heights amidst a churn of electronic effects. The band wrapped up on the funky ditty "Miles," dedicated to jazz icon Miles Davis.
As the DeJohnette Group exited, the stage crew carefully hoisted a wooden relic onto the performance area. A rack containing metal foot pedals was slid into a rectangular frame. "To the people in the front row, get ready to be blown away," Worcester jazz radio host Bonnie Johnson cautioned as she introduced the James Carter Organ Trio ...that's all I've got to say!"
The trio opened with the fast-tempo "Bossa J.C." For this occasion, they were joined by guitarist Rodney Jones. As Gerard Gibbs played percussive chords on the Hammond B3 Organ, Jones worked his semi- hollowbody guitar. Playing in flurries, the instrument's round and clean tones yielded additional textures in the overall sound. Carter stepped to center stage, leaned back, and pointed the hollow bell from which the horn's sounds emit upward. Ripping a series of notes, the tenor saxophone honked, shrieked, and howled. With each sound, Carter's body bent and twisted in varied ways. Pushing air through the horn, he created short bursts of notes, combined long melodic phrasings, and derived percussive, smacking sounds.
Carter switched to the alto sax for a slow blues called "Aged Pain." Slowly bending tones, the long and narrow horn invoked a unique tinny sound.
"Walkin the Dog" began with Gibbs' organswelling notes that rose high, and then simmered down to a single tone. Gibbs paused for moment, creating tension, then resumed his layers of sound that moved the music and established an upbeat tempo. Throughout the set, Leonard King, Jr. worked the drums in a skillful and swinging manner. With light shuffles, pronounced accents and thundering runs, King held the bottom down and appeared in the foreground without getting in the way. They closed on "The Walking Blues."
The mid-afternoon saw the Joe Lovano / Dave Douglas "Sound Prints quintet perform at the harbor stage. Lovano's saxophone, always a lush embodiment sounds, and Douglas' smooth, polished trumpet led the group on "Soundprints," "Sprints," and "Full Moon." Highly accessible, there was still a freshness about the sound of the group. The music was coherent and classic, yet far from stale. The back end of the set consisted of "High Noon," "Libra" and "Newark Flash," a dedication to saxophonist Wayne Shorter, who hails from Newark, New Jersey.
As early evening set in, the harbor stage prepared to host a special set at the request of festival founder George Wein. Dubbed "3 Clarinets," Ken Peplowski, Evan Christopher and Anat Cohen spurred a bouncing rendition of Duke Ellington's "The Mooche." The rhythmic, Creole-influenced piece "Listen to the One That Mmakes the Thunder Roll," written by Christopher, preceded Jelly Roll Morton's "Why," which was performed as a duo by clarinetist Peplowski and guitarist Howard Alden. The set featured swing era sounds, including Louis Armstrong's "Swing that Music," the jazz standard "Mood Indigo," and "Ring 'Dem Bells."
Jack DeJohnette closed the quad stage with his second performance of the day. What began as a duo with pianist Jason Moran soon morphed into a seven-piece band. The bandan all-star cast performed several pieces from DeJohnette' Sound Travels (eOne, 2012). Completing the rhythm section were bassist Christian McBride, keyboardist George Colligan, and percussionist Luisito Quintero.
Trumpeter Jason Palmer and saxophonist Tim Ries carved a line, establishing the melody on "Salsa for Luisto." Lionel Loueke scratched and muted chordssliding and bending, incandescent notes flickering, as his guitar danced amid Latin rhythms. The third piece explored Joe Henderson's waltzy "Black Narcissus," and the set ended with more Latin-infused sounds on the bright, punchy "Sonny Lights."
Befitting for Newport, guitarist Pat Metheny closed the main stage. In a performance that drew heavily from his recent Unity Band (Nonesuch, 2012), Antonio Sanchez's impassioned drumming and Ben Williams' probing bass forged a dynamic basis. They deeply mined rhythms, delved in varied directions, and created the foundation from which Metheny's guitar and Chris Potter's saxophone emulsified notes into solos. "Come and See," "Roofdogs," and "Breakdealer" made the set.
In 2012, the Newport Jazz Festival continued its tradition of live, improvisational music, and offered flavors from varying eras. The 3 Clarinets brought swing; James Carter kicked in with hard-driving grooves; Joe Lovano embodied the sweet classic sounds; and John Ellis & Double Wide invoked a modern, artistic melding. In 2012, these were the sounds of Newport. In 2012, these are the sounds of jazz.