Opening Night of the JVC Newport Jazz Festival 2001

Daniel Kassell By

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Can we expect every opening event to have clear skies and surpass all the other JVC's in Newport, RI since 1984?
This year George Wein got lucky again because the drizzle didn't stop thousands from arriving at the Tennis Hall of Fame with a multitude of colorful umbrellas. As we enter through the courtyard and pass the dark green lattice enclosed deck reserved for tennis dignitaries that fronts the original court Mr. Wein's opening intro of Roy Haynes is audible as we walk around the stadium ushered by a circuitous route that took us past the grassy practice courts. The detour was worth the walk and Roy's boys led by tenor Marcus Strickland warmed up on an acidic unrhythmic bunch of disparate phrases with an equally mic'ed Jason Lindner on piano accompanied by bassist John Sullivan. Fifteen minutes later the same semblance of sound emanates as we were seated but now I could watch the tiny Mr. Haynes furiously work the drum set wearing a shiny white silk suit and a tight tan T-shirt and his presence made a difference throughout his set.
Almost a dozen breakdown and set-up one huge piano center stage plus a drum set before Ron Del of ‘GBH Boston ceremoniously introed Diana Krall to the now packed stadium drying out under partly cloudy skies.
Starting with a fast "I Love Being Here with You" and "all or Nothing at All" we hear bassist Ben Wolfe and drummer Rodney Green as they spell Ms. Krall between choruses. "Let's Fall in Love" verse intro is crystal clear in the damp air as the audience quiets noticeable to hear the Steinway rumble with the power of her block chords.

"From Frank Sinatra via Basie from Cole Porter" Diana announces, it's "I've Got You Under My skin", then "Cry Me A River" - very slow. Electric guitarist Dan Faehnle appears on stage (delayed by air traffic) and adjusts throughout "Devil May Care" and is warmed up by the quartet's out-chorus.

"East of the Sun . . . . West of the Moon" plays out like the other chestnuts but gets immediate audience recognition. Ben Wolfe's walking bass fit right into Diana's chomping but breaks no jazz ground. Though her interesting lyric contained delightful extensions of jazz storytelling that's like pop jazz in her delivery and ought to open the way for many singer songwriters. Ever since Diana Krall left Boston as a discovered pianist/singer her ascendency to star status could be summed up in the lyrics of "Charmed, Charmed Life" that contained the phrase "We are each other's luxury". A must listen again tune. Diana has attitude in her phrasing and body language that enhances her interpretation of lyrics to draw in her audience.

Returning to jazz history with Gershwin's "S'Wonderful" the guitar emphasizes a samba rhythm with a drum rim-shot backbeat that is captivating but doesn't capitalize on the originality of "Charmed" before it's goodnight from Diana Krall by "Thanking God, Bless You" but without much persuasion returns for "Fly Me to the Moon" in which she extends the intimacy developed with this audience this evening.

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