Newport Jazz Festival: Newport, RI, August 4-5, 2012
Pat Metheny has assembled a fine group he calls the Unity Band, with Chris Potter on sax, Ben Williams on bass and Antonio Sanchez on drums. His compositions, some from the new CD bearing the band's name (recently released by Nonesuch), were diverse, showing various sides of his musical personality, and his sidemen were fully empathetic. Potter was a massive presence; injecting any setting with boggling chops, but always with good and tasty choices and not just sound bouncing off walls for the sake of it. He enlivened the band.
Not everything came from the new disk, though Potter says they recorded much more music than is on that recording. But the band was in good form, Metheny's guitar lively and expressivepushed, as he so often is, by Sanchez. Williams, a young lion on bass, was solid as a rock.
The Tedeschi Trucks Band was a rollicking good time for those who like their rock infused with the blues, or vice versa. Susan Tedeschi has the most soulful voice on that scene, and is also a very good blues guitarist. Her voice can be felt in the solar plexus. Husband Derek Trucks has been playing scorching slide guitar since he was about nine. And the supporting cast, that included three horns (highlighted by fine young jazz trumpeter Maurice Brown), was extraordinary. This band could make some noise for a long time, particularly because its leaders change things up over timerepertoire-wise and otherwisein order to keep growing.
Most of the music came from the group's new live recording, Everybody's Talkin' (Sony Masterworks, 2012). Like The Allman Brothers Band, with whom Trucks also plays (and into which he has injected new life), there were two good drummers in Tyler Greenwell and J.J. Johnson. Brothers Oteil Burbridge on bass and Kofi Burbridge on keyboards and sometimes flute, were admirable musicians and really added breadth to the band.
Trucks was a first-rate guitar slinger. Every solo was an adventure, soaring and emotional. He took wing and brought the crowd there, too. More a flight through the clouds than down Route 66, though he could probably do that as well.
Newport has been on a righteous path ever since the return of George Wein. Quality and sincerity. This year, Danny Melnick became associate producer. A longtime employee of Wein, he started his own company a few years back and also produces Freihofer's Saratoga Jazz Festival in upstate New York. Based on his track record there, that can only bode well for the future of the event on the ocean in Rhode Island.