Newport Jazz Festival 2013
Fort Adams State Park
August 4, 2013
"What do you want to hear?" Roy Haynes' booming voice asked the audience. Wearing white satin pants and a tangerine shirt, he strolled across the stage and made his way toward the drum kit. Amid varied yells for song titles, he bashed a drum and the band tore into a fast- moving version of "James."
"How ya'll feel out there?" Haynes asked in response to crowd's applause at the song's conclusion. "And you look so good, too."
At 88 years young, the Fountain of Youth bandleader showed little signs of slowing down. Stepping out from behind the drums, Haynes tapped a quick ditty, adjusted his pants, and said "I think I'm losing weight. They got beer here?"
Of course they had beer there. Louis Jadot wine samples, too. And just like that, memories were being made at the latest installment of the Newport Jazz Festival Presented by Natixis Global Asset Management a festival that continues to portray the rich and varied sounds that comprise the jazz genre.
The Massachusetts Music Educators Association All-State Jazz Band opened the festival with big band music on "Blues for Stephanie." The second piece, "Dangerous Curves," enticed passers-by to stop and stay for a listen. Chris Robotham's sparkling vibes opened the third selection, an arrangement of Steely Dan's "Do It Again" that left lots of room for tenor saxophonist Anton Derevyanko to express his thoughts.
Jazz has been called "America's Music." Befittingly, pianist Jonathan Batiste opened his set playing a series of broken melodies, partial chord phrasings, and lush runs that congealed for an interpretation of the "Star Spangled Banner." At several points in the number, Batiste humorously paused mid-thought, teasing the ears in the audience. The crowd laughed, and then Batiste's heavy left hand thundered the piece to a close. "Wow!" one fan screamed, drowned by an ocean of cheers.
Batiste picked up a melodica, a small wind instrument that usually spans three octaves. Blowing air into it, and pressing its keys, the Stay Human band joined him on a version of Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly." Ibanda Ruhumbika furnished the bottom on tuba, and Joe Saylor opted for tambourine instead of his usual drums.
As the set continued, Batiste played a new phrase on the wind instrument. Staring in Saylor's direction, the tambourine furnished a rhythm. Batiste then engaged in a short call-and-response approach with alto saxophonist Eddie Barbash. Merging these seemingly disparate sounds and musical ideas the band played the upbeat sing-along, "Sunny Side of the Street."
Joshua Redman delivered a set that featured his band's strong improvisational sensibilities, opening with George Gershwin's "Summertime." The tenor saxophonist spanned the gamut of soundwarm and round, well-thought and clear, harsh and dirty. After completing a solo on the opener, Redman stepped aside, allowing the trio to explore. Intricate and expansive, the interplay between bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Gregory Hutchinson and pianist Aaron Goldberg was central to the performance.
Reflecting on the festival, Goldberg explained, "I have attended many Newport festivals, as a performer and as part of the audience. I grew up in Boston, not too far away, so Newport is very special to me. This is a perfect Newport day. The weather is perfect, and this audience is the perfect Newport audience. I'm really enjoying myself and I can't wait to hear more music."
The second piece, "Doll Is Mine," was from the group's upcoming album. Additional selections for the set included "Curly Q," "Stardust," and "Barracudas."
"Happy Birthday Louis Armstrong!" trumpeter Gregory Davis said as Dirty Dozen Brass Band broke into "Do it Fluid." A musical hodgepodge, this crew of slippery horn tricksters mixed elements of funk, bebop, and New Orleans music. "I love this sound!" a woman said, just one of the many who danced, clapped, and laughed as the band worked its way through "Tomorrow," "Best of All," and "Get Up."
Dee Alexander led a series of vocal explorations in tandem with percussionist Erie Adams, pianist Miguel de la Cerna and bassist Harrison Bankhead.
Bankhead introduced a slow piece, arco style, in which the bass provided Alexander's only accompaniment. As he drew a bow across the strings, deep notes rolled from the hollow of the wooden instrument. Abandoning the bow, Bankhead's melodic playing was front and center. He plucked tones on the bass' low end, while simultaneously creating slides and haunting chord tones in the upper register, constantly working with and against the directions of the vocals.