Litchfield Jazz Festival Goshen Fairgrounds, CT August 6, 2000
Fresh from his quadruple victory in Downbeat magazine’s 2000 critics’ poll, trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas brought a slightly retooled version of his quartet to Connecticut’s annual Litchfield Jazz Festival. Ben Perowsky remained behind the drum kit, but Brad Jones replaced James Genus on bass. The tenor spot, regularly occupied by the ubiquitous Chris Potter, was given over to the younger and lesser known but equally phenomenal Mark Shim. While Shim has gained recognition as a member of Greg Osby’s New Directions, and as a leader with his superb album Turbulent Flow, this gig with Douglas could well be a turning point in his career, bringing him to the attention of wider audiences while revealing previously unknown facets of his talent. Douglas’s Litchfield set, while hampered by rainy and cold weather (in August!), was indeed enlivened by Shim’s low-register, throaty attack and boundless imagination. It was nice to hear a different take on Douglas’s structured-yet-loose quartet inventions. "Leap of Faith" got the set off to a burning start, Douglas sounding like a hard bop trumpeter with chops in abundance. The contrapuntal mysteries of "Magic Triangle" changed the mood, bringing a curious stillness to the crowded concert tent. Free jazz montages and solo snippets characterized the deliberately unhinged "Padded Cell." Continuing with two more and concluding with the lively "Euro Disney," Douglas made it very clear why he’s become so highly regarded. His quartet takes a classic jazz idiom and imbues it with a new and highly refined compositional sense, as accessible and memorable as it is challenging. Seeing Douglas in a smaller, home-turf environment such as the Knitting Factory is one thing. Seeing him in a festival context, one gets a different view of his ability to please a crowd without being a mere crowdpleaser. Unfortunately, toward the back of the tent the crowd was less than one hundred percent attentive throughout the set. Let’s just say there’s no quiet policy at Litchfield. Quite unlike the festival at nearby Caramoor, food is allowed in the Litchfield tent and the seating is general admission, two factors that encourage a lot of coming and going, a lot of shuffling around, a fair amount of chit-chat — in short, a lot of distractions. The unexpectedly horrendous weather only aggravated the situation. It’s still a young festival, with room for improvement. Perhaps in the coming years, the setting will be as top-notch as the players are.
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.