2013 Tri-C JazzFest: Cleveland, OH, April 19 - 27, 2013

Matt Marshall By

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From here on out the cast of characters was in constant flux. Lovano conducted a few tenor battles with Ernie Krivda; ran throughthe "Northeast Ohio Suite" with his brother, drummer Anthony Lovano and bassist Jeff Anastesia; teamed up with old classmates, drummer Carmen Castaldi and bassist Ron Smith, for a tribute to late Cleveland saxophonist Albert Ayler; and went full bore on Oscar Pettiford's "Blues in the Closet," with a host of long-time Cleveland players: organist Eddie Baccus Sr. Quartet, drummer Greg Bandy, trumpeters Kenny Davis and Carl Lovano (Joe's uncle), vibraphonist Ron Busch and Krivda. Multiplayer reviews like this rarely maintain cohesiveness or sustain a mood, and this one was no exception. But it was good fun, and Lovano showed off his enviable range on tenor, G mezzo soprano and double-soprano autochrome to the delight of the hometown crowd.

Farinacci likewise charmed the natives. Mixing strong, well-articulated trumpet and flugelhorn lines with a well-oiled hometown standup routine (his 80-something "Nana" never escapes a callout and good-natured ribbing), the latter-day Rat Packer with a horn displayed not only supreme ease and confidence onstage, but took complete ownership of the situation—a leader in the fullest sense. And while there was plenty of space for his own soloing, that featured maturely drawn musical arcs, he gave a lot of time over to others, as well—most notably pianist Aaron Diehl, who just released his Mack Avenue debut The Bespoke Man's Narrative (2013), and singer Cecile McLorin Salvant, whose own debut on the Detroit label, Woman Child (2013), is due out later this month.

Farinacci, of course, is aware of the buzz McLorin Salvant has generated, and he featured her on half the tunes of his eight-song set. (She also figured in the final number, a jam session of sorts with local high-school students, guitarist Lucas Kadish and bassist Jamal Collins.) As it turns out, the buzz was perhaps too subdued. Salvant exercised a flamboyant actor's sensibility, her face morphing through a host of expressions as her voice effortlessly recalled the history of jazz singing. Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln often flipped by in the course of a single song—or even a single line. Which isn't to say Salvant was simply aping her predecessors, but that she displayed such broad familiarity with —and full command of—jazz singing that she was able to work a lyric anyway she saw fit and, just as importantly, was not only unafraid, but relished doing so, as with the insightfully comic yawn over the final word of the "Mean To Me" line "you love to see me crying." If anything, she may need to relax the throttle on her inventiveness—it can, at times, be too much to follow and digest. But wow; thrilling, nonetheless.

Natalie Cole, on the festival's final night, stuck more to the scripted melodies. Gamely battling a cold (or allergies, perhaps) the singer didn't scrimp on delivering fan favorites over the course of 90-plus minutes of music (on top of an hour set from the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra). While some of the numbers had the feel of obligation (two songs in duet with recordings of her father, Nat "King" Cole—"Unforgettable" and "Acércate más"—and her hit, "Miss You Like Crazy"), others, like renditions of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile" and Etta James' trademark "At Last," were inspired. And with its high style, big band backing—and, yes, manufactured string section—the show provided a grand close to the JazzFest that is, perhaps, more festival than ever.

Photo Credit

All Photos: Matt Marshall


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