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Newport Jazz Festival: Sunday, August 8, 2010

Timothy J. O'Keefe By

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CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival
Fort Adams State Park
Newport, RI

August 8, 2010

Temperatures rose high, as jazz fans gathered in Newport for the fifteen performances, spread over three stages, that provided eight hours of listening pleasure. The Ben Allison Band started things up at the Harbor stage, showcasing music from their latest recording Think Free (2009, Palmetto). Bassist Allison worked the intro to "Green Al," a modern, eclectic, and sultry groove. Trumpeter Shane Endsley developed the melody line, building to a solo. Violinist Jenny Scheinman followed suit, garnering abrasive qualities from the stringed instrument. The song dove and soared, returning to the main theme, before being brought to a close.



This was Allison's third time performing at the event, but even so, he was still excited to be part of the festival's legacy. "We had fun and it seemed like the audience had fun," he said. "It's live music, outdoors in America—it's great to see people supporting live music! It's so great to play at this festival."

The second piece, "Respiration," was a slow tempo song of spiraling sounds, where the band combined to create lyrical, hornlike qualities. Endsley established a melody and guitarist Steve Cardenas soloed, bending notes and using light, airy tones.

Allison is also excited about sharing his knowledge and passion of jazz, and he's recently participated in a series of clinics. "I'm a big proponent of new music, helping it move forward, and I'm a big proponent of bringing up the next generation," Allison explained while discussing his upcoming clinic in Rome, Italy.

"I believe very strongly in this music and I believe very strongly that the jazz tradition has to continue to evolve and grow. I hope to be a voice in that growth and I hope to help the next generation come up—if not to teach, at least to inspire them."

Judging from the Newport reaction, Allison may not have to wait until he reaches Rome to obtain confirmation of his desire to help the music evolve and grow. The band's search for delivering fresh, unique sounds was evident as they explored varied directions on "Kramer vs Kramer vs Godzilla," "Roll Credits," and "Man Size Life." Indeed, this performance appeared to have left the audience inspired.



Starting on September 19th, Allison begins a regular stand at Kush, on Manhatten's Lower East Side. He envisions this as a workshop format, providing the band a forum in which to continue its experimentations. Next December, Allison returns to the studio for his 11th Palmetto recording. It will include new music and re-imagined takes on some of his older material.

Elsewhere, Newport's enthusiasm continued to crackle, as people gathered round the small Quad stage, awaiting Gretchen Parlato. From the first notes that rang out on Alan Hampton's bass, "Within Me," captivated an audience that spread well beyond the tent's seating capacity. Driven by Kendrick Scott's shuffling drum work, and accompanied by Gerald Clayton's emotional piano playing, Parlato's voice sliced through the air—a combination of vocal storytelling and melodic phrasings.

"Thank you so much," Parlato said to the audience upon the tune's conclusion. "This is my first time at such a legendary festival, so thank you for having me and thank you for being here." The set contained several items from Parlato's last CD, including a version of Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly," "Weak," the Brazilian-inspired "Doralice," and "I Can't help it."

With souls still stirring, drummer Nasheet Waits accompanied four horn players, when trumpeter Dave Douglas and Brass Ecstasy took to the Harbor stage. The set opened with "Spirit Moves," a combination of Dixieland influences and a collection of sounds you've never quite heard before—the sounds that typify Douglas's musicianship.



"It's really a thrill, and a sort of honor and privilege, to play here at the Newport Jazz Festival," Douglas said. The set drew from the Spirit Moves (2009, Greenleaf) sessions, a collection of original tunes, mostly inspired by brass players. "Rava," opened with a slow tempo. Horns swayed, and Marcus Rojas' tuba called repeated notes. Then, Douglas soloed, a combination of long notes mixed with varied short phrasings. Trombone and French Horn sang melodic accompaniment, while Waits drumming, funky and heavy, without being forceful or overbearing, held everything together.

Other selections included "Fats," so named for the early bebop contributions of Fats Navarro, the up-tempo "United Front," and "Bowie," dedicated to Lester Bowie.

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