Tanglewood Jazz Festival 2009, Lenox, MA

R.J. DeLuke By

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Of note was Benny Reid's band, an alto saxophonist who is recording for Concord (Escaping Shadows is due out soon). He is a capable alto saxophonist who has good melodic sense that comes out in his interesting compositions. He has a knack, thus far in his early career, of creating an accessible—but not simple—melody enhanced by the strong rhythms of drummer Kenny Grohowski. His ballad work on "The Most Beautiful Girl I Ever Knew" showed inventive style and sound. "New Days" was a nice, strolling, melodic line which Reid was able to run through with a good harmonic and melodic feel. OF particular note in the band was fleet-fingered guitarist Richard Padron, who had a nice round tone as well as fluid ideas. On "firelight" he even created a Santana-like sound for a bit. He could be a man to watch down the road.

Vocalist Kat Edmonson was also interesting. A vocalist with a limited instrument in terms of strength of flexibility, she uses what she has in an interesting way. She has a thin tone that relies on phrasing and rhythmic changes to get the most out of the music. She uses those tools to good advantage and it will be interesting to see where this style takes her; how big it catches on. The person who comes to mind in comparison is Madeline Peyroux—not that their voices are the same, nor their styles. But they both approach a melody in a mellow fashion and use subtle—sometimes as if speaking to you—elements to get a song across.

Standards like Gershwin's "Summertime" and Porter's "Night and Day" and "Just One of Those Things" are known to all, but her band did offbeat arrangements that freshened them and made them more of their generation. Edmonson's attractive phrasing made them atypical enough without losing the general flavor and appeal of the songs. "Night and Day" had a driving pop/rock beat, but her voice adroitly slithered around the rhythms. She couldn't overpower it and didn't try to. Good choices. A fine addition to the group was the presence of John Ellis on sax, who can play in jazz or beyond-jazz veins (see his work with Charlie Hunter) and he brought just the right garnish to each song.

Young violinist Ben Powell, born in the united Kingdom and recent graduate of the Berklee College of music, played a swinging set. He comes out of Stephane Grappelli in style and has plenty of technique (his father was a cellist with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and his mother is a violin teacher) and a great sense of swing. His attack is clear and precise. The material included Kern's "I Won't Dance," "Opportunity" and "Tournesol," and it had a toe-tapping ease and enjoyable quality to it.

Another fine few days for jazz in the Berkshire Mountains.


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