The rustic New England setting of the Tanglewood Jazz Festival is a jazz mecca in late summer. Nestled in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, The Tanglewood Festival began in August 1934 as a series of outdoor classical concerts. The event has stood the test of time and the tree has branched out to include the Tanglewood Jazz Festival.
This year's lineup (Aug. 30-Sept. 1) brought a nice mix of musical masters including: legends pianist Dave Brubeck and drummer Roy Haynes (with alto genius Kenny Garrett). Red-hot Roy Hargrove (see photo) on trumpet and flugelhorn - wowed the crowd. In the Latin vein, magic was provided by trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and flautist Nestor Torres. Organ grinders Jimmy McGriff and Joey DeFranceso battled it out, joined by guest saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman. Why, Diana Krall even showed up!
Pianist Sir Roland Hanna joined "Piano Jazz" hostess Marian McPartland for the 'live' taping of her NPR (National Public Radio) show. Ms. McPartland continues to promote jazz with her great experience and wisdom of the art.
Drummer Roy Haynes (who I think is 77 yrs. old) can beat the pants off of any rock drummer you can throw his way! Man, this cat has more energy than a tsunami! Put it this way, he was the drummer for Charlie Parker, John Coltrane and Miles Davis. 'Nuff said? I don't think so. He also played for: Thelonius Monk, Bud Powell, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, Chick Corea and Pat Metheny! He's a walking history book! (See photo of Roy earlier this summer at the Freihofer's Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs, NY.)
Regarding his release earlier this year on the Dreyfus Jazz label, Birds of a Feather: A Tribute to Charlie Parker, Haynes explains, the Charlie Parker Tribute was not meant to be a gathering of superstars. "It's not like a rock project that you work on for weeks. We were in the studio for two days. And it turned out to be quite an exciting thing. We've already played all around Europe, in France and Italy."
At the Tanglewood Jazz Festival, Roy Haynes brought with him my favorite saxophonist, Kenny Garrett, to represent as part of the Charlie Parker Tribute. (Kenny honed his chops playing out the last years of Miles Davis' mystical, musical, mortal life.) Haynes also includes my favorite young trumpet player, Roy Hargrove.
The Roy Hargrove Quintet also performed on the misty Saturday afternoon in the lush, green forest of the Berkshires. The Tanglewood music hall is like a long, narrow, balcony-brimmed church. The natural wood hall is acoustically designed to perfection as the front opens to the outdoor grassy hill of jazz fans. I'm telling ya, it's beautiful.
As the soft muted sound of Hargrove's flugelhorn wafts through the thick late summer air, you can't help but kick back, take a deep breath and let out a long sigh. This is living.
Roy Hargrove has stepped up to take the baton as the leading jazz trumpet of today...in my humble opinion. Miles is gone. Freddie Hubbard still has the fire. But young Roy has time on his side, yet he has the sound of a seasoned veteran. Be sure to see him if he comes to your town. You won't be disappointed.
Opening for Roy was a pretty, pleasant surprise: a young jazz singer from Italy named Roberta Gamborini (see photo). She breathed life into jazz standards with elegance and swing. Ms. Gamborini paid tribute to legendary jazz pioneer Lionel Hampton, who had just passed away the day before. And the circle remains unbroken. From old to young. Jazz lives.
Scott H. Thompson is a member of the Jazz Journalists Association and is a columnist for The Jazz Report magazine. He has contributed to JazzTimes, Jazziz and Down Beat. Thompson wrote the CD liner notes for such classics as Herbie Hancock "Headhunters" and Weather Report "8:30", to name a few.