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All That Jazz Month: Phoenix, AZ, November 9-30, 2012

Patricia Myers By

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All That Jazz Month
Musical Instrument Museum
Phoenix, AZ
November 9-30, 2012

All That Jazz Month, in November 2012 at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), featured a star-studded concert series that included the saxophonist Branford Marsalis Quartet, vocalese masters The Manhattan Transfer, DIVA Jazz with saxophonist Grace Kelly, and a Django Reinhardt Tribute, all staged to introduce a newly expanded jazz history exhibit.

The month was launched Nov. 9-11 with an All That Jazz weekend that included concerts, curatorial talks, presentations by guests from the Smithsonian Institution and the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, and live music by local jazz groups. MIM is an ethnic music museum that opened in April 2010 with collections representing five global regions. The original small American jazz component was expanded this year into one of the museum's larger genre exhibits, with three sections of 66 instruments, 31 video clips and 23 images that represent jazz from its early days through swing, bebop, cool, hard bop and contemporary forms.

MIM, a Smithsonian affiliate, expanded its permanent jazz collection by borrowing several instruments from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History for display including clarinets played by Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, and a trombone played by J.J. Johnson. Other pieces include a trumpet mouthpiece and mute used by Miles Davis and a guitar played by Charlie Christian. A cornet associated with Louis Armstrong is part of the Early Jazz segment, a beaded gown and lyric sheets owned by Ella Fitzgerald is in the Women in Jazz exhibit, and a saxophone played by Mario Bauza and timbales are on loan to MIM from Eddie Palmieri for the Latin Jazz exhibit.

The month's focus also included concerts by saxophonist/flautist Jane Bunnett's "Cuban Rhapsody" with pianist Hilario Duran and 92-year-old congero Candido Camero, the Ivory & Gold duo (pianist Jeff Barnhart and flutist Anne Barnhart) and the opening of a touring exhibition, "Portraits from the Golden Age of Jazz: Photographs by William Gottlieb," on display through April 6, 2013. MIM is showcasing instruments and video footage of many of the featured musicians alongside 71 photographs of jazz legends.

Marsalis performed back-to-back evening concerts on Nov. 13 with his dazzling trio of pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner. The leader chose tenor sax for "The Return of the Jitney Man," written by his longtime drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, that featured Faulkner, a 20-year-old explosion master who joined the group three years ago. (Revis and Calderazzo date back to 1997's Music Evolution (Columbia). The repertoire reflected the newest Marsalis issue, Four MFs Playin' Tunes (Marsalis Music, 2012).

Marsalis switched between soprano and tenor saxophones to explore various moods and modes of subsequent charts, delivering Uzi-speed post-bop arpeggios against Calderazzo's equally agile keyboard work. The pianist's impressionistic composition, "As Summer into Autumn Slips," featured alternately fiery and tranquil segments. Thelonious Monk's "Teo" tribute offered a quirky contrast to the ethereal "Maestra," each buoyed by the solid warmth of Revis and Faulkner's awesome foundation. The encore of the 75-minute concert brought a 180-degree shift in content and style, Marsalis bringing out his tenor sax for a straight-ahead rendition of George Gershwin's last composition, "Our Love Is Here to Stay." It was a mystifying change of pace, but definitely audience-satisfying.

Manhattan Transfer performed four holiday-themed shows on Nov. 29-30 for age-mixed audiences that reflected the four-decade popularity of the vocalese aggregation. The first five songs were holiday themed and included Johnny Mandel's "A Christmas Love Song" and, later, a rendition of Mel Torme's "The Christmas Song." As expected, the most enthusiastic response was for keyboardist Joe Zawinul's "Birdland," the group's anthem since 1979 via the Jon Hendricks lyrics to the Weather Report hit.

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