2013 Tri-C JazzFest: Cleveland, OH, April 19 - 27, 2013
Through "Appointment in Milano," "Big Small" (a standout that opened on Wolfe's deep, thick tone, moved into piano-drum fury then to more avant terrors before finishing on single notes poked from the piano with an index finger), the anxiously melancholic "The Answer," the cinematic "When" (fed by Edwards' mallets and twisting its way through an emphatic, but never-inevitable course), and "Blessed One the Eternal Truth"a praise song lifted, through Evans' voice, in a manner that recalled Al Hibbler if a good deal less steady and attached to key, crooned over sparse piano and brushed drums with genuine feelingthe set was one of constant musical renewal.
While exploratory, Anat Cohen's set two nights laterplayed in the same Tri-C Auditorium along with Israel's Rimon School Jazz Ensemble, which featured the accomplished novelty of Tali Rubinstein on recorder and the fine, rhythmic complexity of Yogev Gabay on drumswasn't nearly as tight. But Cohen snaked admirably through the thumping mix of funk, blues and Israeli folk musican invigorating set of music composed, save for the closer, "Hello Dolly," entirely by the students.
Conversely, Frisell's Beautiful Dreamers set, on the second Saturday, April 27, weaved a mood-drenched tapestry, strung from American musical thread. Along with violist Eyvind Kang and drummer Rudy Royston, the guitarist fashioned a haunting stream that fed through "Hard Times," "Lush Life," "Misterioso" and "Nobody's Fault but Mine," the final number featuring a viola that morphed into mandolin and blues guitar under Kang's expert fingers. The group then shifted to a three-song tribute to drummer Paul Motian: "Dance," "Abacus," and "It Should've Happened a Long Time Ago," the latter bringing Joe Lovano out from the wings in an unexpected reunion (to Frisell's telling) of Motian's one-time saxophonist and guitarist.
Lovano stuck around for a go at "Hot House" (a tune the saxophonist would call again a few hours later in his own set), and then departed as the trio closed with "Old Man River," a sense of the tragic and the spooky caught up in Frisell's melodic loops, and the tune automatically causing clips from the movie, The Great Flood (to which Frisell supplied the soundtrack), to replay through the heads of any audience member lucky enough to have caught the flick a few weeks earlier at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
Loueke's show, one of two festival concerts staged east of downtownthis, at the Museum of Contemporary Art's new uptown digs; the other the Gordon tribute held at Nighttown in Cleveland Heightsbrought surprise after surprise. Playing only material from his latest release, Heritage (Blue Note, 2012), but in trio with bassist Michael Olatuja and drummer John Davis, and thus working without the keyboard services of album co- producer Glasper, Loueke was free to fill a lot more space with his diverse guitar talents.
Over driving, rock-steady beats, Loueke employed blistering finger work and well-placed pedal effects to push the blues into the 22nd century, accelerating his lines at one point from loose, John Lee Hooker-like accompaniment to the high-pitched whirl of tape playing in fast-forward. There was a single, vibrating note, as if spun from a finger tracing the rim of a glass, and, elsewhere, electronic scramble and crackling alarm dissonance. All this mixed in easy communion with sweet, jumping African melodies. On "Ifê," Loueke applied an echo effect to his singing, giving it the force of choir.
Kenny Garrett's quintet turned in a powerfully memorable set, taking the Ohio Theatre stage after Glasper on the first Saturday. Playing five numbers from Seeds From the Underground (Mack Avenue, 2012) plus the crowd-pleasing closer, "Happy People," the saxophonist adopted the tone and posture of one conducting a ceremony (or revival, perhaps), as he paid tribute to his forbearers and his native Detroit. Whether on alto or soprano sax, his playing seemed a natural vocal extension of himself, and his band supplied the requisite tumult or swing. On a few occasions, Garrett motioned to the crowd to continue its applause as he kept the music going, but, otherwise, the performance came without artifice.