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

Newport Jazz Festival: Newport, RI, August 5, 2012
Timothy J. O'Keefe By

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Newport Jazz Festival
Fort Adams State Park
Newport, RI
August 4-5, 2012

Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt belted a splitting note that hooked and reeled in the ear of fellow hornster Avishai Cohen - Trumpet. As soon as Cohen heard the sound, he stopped strolling through the Newport crowd, and jerked his head toward the stage. Cupping a hand across his brow, shielding his eyes from the sun, he peered for a better view of the horn happenings.

With a lengthy rendition of Thad Jones' "Ain't Nothin' Nu," the Lewis Nash Quintet finished the opening set of the quad stage. In blistering hard bop tradition, horn phrasings twisted about Donald Vega's piano chords, while Nash's cymbals provided the timekeeping device.

When the sparkling set opened, fresh melodies rang out in unison. Pelt's trumpet and Jimmy Greene's tenor saxophone worked to Bobby Hutcherson's "Teddy." As the melodic phrasings wound down, Greene began to solo—shuffling notes, dizzying the theme, and exploring phrases as he played. Working up to a single, bending, high-pitched tone, the sounds fell back down in fluid runs. As Greene returned to the instrument's higher region, Pelt joined in, then steered the tune on a ride of his own.

The second selection, the ballad "Arioso," was written by the late pianist and former Berklee instructor James Williams. Thelonious Monk's "Eronel" featured a solo by bassist Peter Washington. After nearly 10 years together in pianist Tommy Flanagan's band, the interplay between Nash' drums and Washington's bass was obvious and immense. Upon leaving the bandstand, Washington commented on performing at Newport, stating: "I loved it. It was a wonderful experience, and this is an amazing thing that [festival founder] George Wein has done here through the years."

From the first notes of "Come Fly With Me," Kurt Elling delivered a vibrant set of vocal jazz to a responsive audience. Elling performed selected items from his upcoming October release, 1519 Broadway: The Brill Building Project (Concord, 2012), backed by a quartet comprised of drummer Kendrick Scott, bassist Clark Sommers, and pianist Laurence Hobgood, who has collaborated with Elling for 17 years. The band drove the groove home on the closing number, Stevie Wonder's "Golden Lady," a funky piece that featured special guest John McLean's flourishing guitar, intermingling with Elling's gilded voice.

On the harbor stage, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa's Samdhi delivered a set of electronic fusion with commanding authority. David Gilmore's guitar moaned as he plucked a series of bending notes that hinted at a melody and created a rhythm. Pressing his foot against a switch, a clump of electronic pedals captured the instruments thrashing sounds, and played them back in a loop. Gilmore played faster, layering the guitar with a hooking riff that tore at the air. The band opened with "Killer," and then played "Enhanced Performance." They closed with "For All The Ladies."

..."thank you for creating this historical institution..." Ryan Truesdell said to George Wein over at the main stage. On this occasion, Truesdell orchestrated a large troupe that performed previously unrecorded selections of composer/arranger Gil Evans' material. "Punjab" featured percussionist Dan Weiss and alto saxophonist Steve Wilson, while Evans' 1965 Brazilian arrangement "Look To The Rainbow," saw Gretchen Parlato provide vocals. The set closed with Horace Silver's "Sister Sadie," which featured trumpeter Greg Gisbert, a former member of Silver's band.

Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks provided an education in the sounds of early jazz. Sporting black tuxes, starched white shirts, shiny black shoes, and bow ties, the band whisked through more than a dozen selections associated with musicians from jazz's infancy: King Oliver's "I must Have It," Fletcher Henderson's "Stampede," Maceo Pinkard's "Sugar," and Duke Ellington's "Cotton Club Stomp," were just a handful of selections the eleven piece band performed. In an animated set, the front line of seven horns talked with one another other—players stood when blowing extended lines or taking solos, toyed with call-and-response phrasings, and smeared oily notes. The band closed with Jimmie Lunceford's "Jazznocracy" played at a breakneck pace, and can be heard every Tuesday night at Sofia's Restaurant in New York City. "Thanks so much," Giordano said to the audience, "keep supporting live music."

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