The power of great music played for a noble cause can be a beautiful thing. This has rarely been in such evidence as was on display during a sunny day in Woodstock, NY on August 22. In a benefit for the Woodstock Youth Center, a few of the local folks got together to play music for friends and some fans lucky enough to make the trip to the majestic locale. That these folks happened to be Woodstock area residents Pat Metheny, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette just made this event even more special. Co-produced by the Hudson Valley Blues Society, The Queens of Hearts, (a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring arts to the Hudson Valley area) and Louise Holland, this event could not have been put together better, DeJohnette was approached about the idea of a benefit, which is not the first time these players have gotten together for reasons other than to make money, as Jack and his wife have been involved in benefits like these for years. Jack, who currently co-leads the group Oneness, Dave and Pat decided on the idea of playing as a trio at a site called Opus 40. A monumental environmental sculpture rising out of an abandoned bluestone quarry in High Woods, New York, Opus 40 covers more than six acres, made of hundreds of thousands of tons of finely fitted bluestone, constructed stone by stone over a period of almost four decades by sculptor Harvey Fite. A more scenic venue would be hard to find. Complete with ample room to roam the grounds, Opus 40 allowed listeners the option of hearing the music from the lawn in front of the stage as well as within the many coves and crevices dotted the landscape. All the throughout the day, local vendors served up fine foods and distributed information about the Woodstock Youth Center, the history of Opus 40 and other information pertaining to the Hudson Valley Area. Instead of letting the profits of the performance suffer the fate of bureaucratic bungling, the trio decided to open an escrow account and give the proceeds directly to the Woodstock Youth Center for the purpose of providing new computers and adding more tutors in the town's G.E.D. program. Said Holland, whose new release Point of View (ECM) hit stores September 15, followed by a domestic tour throughout October and November, "This allows both educational gains as well as adding to the creative opportunities available to the town's youth." While the benefit was certainly the star and the main focus throughout the afternoon, the playing was an example of how incredibly talented friends can sound when they just spend a day hanging out and playing. Together for the first time since last year's set of dates with Michael Brecker, the group sounded very much at ease with each other, thanks to their camaraderie, history of playing together, and the fine job by Dave Oaks who was responsible for the superb sound that benefited the roughly 900 listeners. Tunes included a number of Metheny compositions, such as "James," and "Vera Cruz", with renditions of "Turnaround" and "Lonely Women", which have both appeared on a previous Metheny recording, Rejoicing (ECM). An up-tempo reading of "I Remember April" opened the first set, which was a pleasant reminder of Metheny's pristine straight-ahead chops, as was a relaxed rendition of "Giant Steps", ala the version found on Kenny Garret's Pursuance, which also featured Metheny. Afterwards, the smiles beaming from the three players and all involved signified a successful effort for a worthy cause. Hopefully, the benefit concert, along with the recent concert and disc put out by Fred Hersch and Friends, which supported Performing Arts against AIDS, and the ACLU's HIV/AIDS and Lesbian/Gay Rights Projects, will signify a trend of more jazz musicians supporting both local and worldwide causes.
The world of jazz is a musical space with a complex history and haunting appeal--a space to revisit and celebrate. It’s that
amazing moment when you hear a really great song you haven't heard in years and you still know the tune and every word.