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Newport Jazz Festival: Newport, RI, August 4-5, 2012

Newport Jazz Festival: Newport, RI, August 4-5, 2012
R.J. DeLuke By

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Newport Jazz Festival
Fort Adams State Park
Newport, RI

August 4-5, 2012

Having a celebration for the 70th birthday of an amazing musician—drummer Jack DeJohnette—was an outstanding feature of this year's Newport Jazz Festival. The drummer was featured in two sets in a single day (Saturday), first with a band he has been doing a lot of work with for many months, then with a group of "friends" playing some of his other music.

Once again, the music was pretty outstanding across the board. With three stages operating each day, it wasn't easy to keep up such quality and diversity. But George Wein's group did themselves proud again. It's also a slightly dizzying experience for the loyal fans that turn out, trying to decide which group to take in. Or get their logistics on how they'll negotiate from stage-to-stage to catch pieces of different sets; a musical smorgasbord.

It was hard to go wrong, at any rate.

Drummer Lewis Nash, singer Kurt Elling, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Jason Moran, saxophonist James Carter, Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, singer Gretchen Parlato, clarinetist/saxophonist Anat Cohen with brothers Avishai Cohen - Trumpet (trumpet) and Yuval Cohen (saxophone), bassist Christian McBride, saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas' Sound Prints quintet, guitarist Bill Frisell, saxophonist Miguel Zenon, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, singer Diane Reeves and more turned out and turned people's heads. And the best rock band around, or blues band, or whatever title for this group—the Tedeschi Trucks Band—an 11-piece aggregation that incorporates jazz and other elements in its kick-ass music, closed the two-day event and fittingly tore it up.

Aside from being a monster on his drum set, DeJohnette is one of the most diverse musicians around. He is open to all kinds of different sounds. He investigates different musics. He hears younger musicians and sees what they have to offer. His influences are vast. Then he has the good taste to amalgamate them in the appropriate manner and emerges with captivating music that is all his own. His art.

DeJohnette's first group featured George Colligan on keyboards and pocket trumpet, Rudresh Mahanthappa on sax, guitarist David Fiuczynski and Jerome Harris on bass. It was an eclectic mix of music, showing different colors. Quirky melodies, mellow spots, edgier moments in odd time signatures, fine solos, all melding into a beautiful whole. "Amah the Terrible," written by DeJohnette was a good example. "Priestess of the Mist," was gorgeous, particularly in the guitar and sax solos, but always with the drummer supplying a grooving yet elastic, beat. His "Miles" touched on different aspects of his former employer's musical life, but mostly the electric period, when DeJohnette was in Miles Davis' band. It echoed the trumpeter's In a Silent Way" as its theme and the solos were funky, fiery and freewheeling. Maybe the hottest soloing of the set and a great ending.



The "Friends" group included Colligan—an excellent pianist and damn good trumpeter—again. But the rest of the cast changed, with Christian McBride on bass, Lionel Loueke on guitar, Tim Ries on saxophones, percussionist in Luisito Quintero and trumpeter Jason Palmer. But the set opened with a duet between drums and pianist Jason Moran, where the two kind of freelanced and played off one another. It covered everything from Latin—"Salsa for Luisito"—to freer things, to easy going swing. The drums were the glue and held together a memorable performance. Ries' work on sax was stellar and McBride was always a strong presence.

One of the great sets was a quintet led by Lewis Nash, with a fine front line of trumpeter Jeremy Pelt and saxophonist Jimmy Greene, with Peter Washington on bass and Donald Vega on piano. The group bolted out of the gate with "Teddy" and didn't look back. The band swung its ass off and the solos were bold and sassy. Pelt had great style and style and burned like hell. Greene proved an equal mate, playing with a pleasant swagger. Bassist Ron Carter has been touting the talents of his new pianist, Vega, and the man did nothing to tarnish that playing with Nash's group. His solos were tasty and inviting. Great style and his feel and time were as key to the proceedings as Nash's always superlative drumming.

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