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Newport Jazz Festival: Newport, RI, August 4, 2012

Newport Jazz Festival: Newport, RI, August 4, 2012
Timothy J. O'Keefe By

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Newport Jazz Festival
Fort Adams State Park
Newport, RI
August 4, 2012

"Yeah that's what I'm talking about, Newport!" the bright-smiled Cuban conga player said with enthusiasm, as the crowd he encouraged to dance clapped a beat to his liking. Amid the vortex of sound that is the Newport Jazz Festival—three stages hosting five acts apiece— Pedrito Martinez's four-piece band played "Ay Amor," and brought the quad stage to life. "Memorias," the second song, saw keyboardist Ariacne Trujillo contribute lead vocals. Venezuelan electric bassist Alvaro Benavides and Peruvian percussionist Jhair Sala, contributed elements that expanded the group's Afro-Cuban sounds. "Que Palo" and "La Luna" completed the set.

Over at the main stage, Matt Perrine's tuba furnished the bottom end sounds of saxophonist John Ellis' Double Wide. Notes smeared as Ellis lead the band through the sugary sounds of "Zydeco Clowns on the Lamb." A set rife with musical gymnastics, the music jumped, flipped, and hopped as it prodded and explored. Punctual changes in time and timbre saw the emotions in "Dowey Dah" morph from light and happy to a dark cinematic nature.

Looking from the stage and towards the audience set about the ocean- side peninsula, Ellis said: "This is such a beautiful, beautiful place to play. We are so happy to be here and we're so happy that you're here." The zany, New Orleans-influenced "Three Legged tango in Jackson Square," bluesy "This too shall pass" and upbeat "Break Time" were also heard.

When Boston jazz radio host Eric Jackson introduced bassist Christian McBride's Inside Straight, he pointed out that the date marked Trumpeter Louis Armstrong's birthday. "Seems like a great day to have a jazz festival," Jackson said. Saxophonist Steve Wilson and vibraphonist Warren Wolf helped established the main theme on the opener, "Brother Mister." Wolf's vibraphone crackled. Carefully striking mallets upon the instrument's metal bars, the notes resonated outward with a glasslike quality. McBride twisted bass riffs. Plucking rapid notes in his heavy-handed yet flowing manner, he pushed the runs in unanticipated directions.

Pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. joined McBride in a trio format. Sands' buoyant phrasings bobbed from crest to trough, exploring the sounds, anchored by McBride's bass. McBride belted a single note, returning the music to calm as the band sounded the main theme to end the piece.

"Theme for Kareem" opened with extended time for McBride in unaccompanied format. Front and center, the bass emitted deep, robust sounds from the stage. McCoy Tyner's "Celestial Chant" provided improvisational travels, and the band closed on the swinging blues "Used Ta' Could."

Inside Fort Adams, drummer Jack DeJohnette's Group delivered some electric fusion on the quad stage. The set began with the slow tempo "Blue," where George Colligan slipped from behind the keys and delivering long, drawn-out notes and accents on the pocket trumpet.



"If you hear something that sounds out of tune, don't worry," DeJohnette said while introducing David Fiuczynski. The guitarist employed microtones, and his double-neck, orange sunburst guitar procures sounds not typically found within the 12 musical intervals that comprise Western music.

The centerpiece of the set, "Priestesses of the Mist," was inspired by Marion Zimmer Bradley's Arthurian novel, The Mists of Avalon (Alfred A. Knopf, 1982). Rudresh Mahanthappa hoisted saxophone notes high in the register, snaking the music to new places that flourishing about the rhythms. Fiuczywski's guitar warbled around DeJohnette's drums and Colligan's keyboard. Climbing and falling, the guitar harmonized in unison with the sax, broke off to explore disparate harmonies, then returned to new heights amidst a churn of electronic effects. The band wrapped up on the funky ditty "Miles," dedicated to jazz icon Miles Davis.

As the DeJohnette Group exited, the stage crew carefully hoisted a wooden relic onto the performance area. A rack containing metal foot pedals was slid into a rectangular frame. "To the people in the front row, get ready to be blown away," Worcester jazz radio host Bonnie Johnson cautioned as she introduced the James Carter Organ Trio ...that's all I've got to say!"

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