My summer time trip ended final week on a excessive observe — or extra exactly, innumerable lovely notes performed throughout the opening day of the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival.
The premier American out of doors jazz competition’s newest version, introduced by Natixis Investment Managers, kicked off Friday morning at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island, with prodigiously gifted youngsters taking part in Salt Peanuts and Senor Blues. Ten sweltering hours later, the day’s music ended at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at the Newport Casino — the website of the competition’s inaugural version in 1954 — with up to date crooner Jose James paying tribute to Bill Withers.
In between have been 20 or so hour-long units, starting from the avant-gardism of pianist Matthew Shipp’s trio to the transcendental, tabla-fueled trios of Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition and Charles Lloyd’s Sangam to the uplifting gospel-infused music of vocalist Alicia Olatuja to the sunny strains of iconic guitarist Pat Metheny taking part in a few of his biggest hits. In all, Christian McBride, the competition’s creative director in addition to a world-class bassist, had chosen a lineup that defied music lovers with its glut of good and interesting decisions, mixing trailblazers with tried-and-true favourites. And that was simply on day one in every of the competition’s three days.
The largest chunk of Friday’s programming at Newport happened at Fort Adams, at the mouth of the Newport Harbor, with 4 phases working near-non-stop music from simply earlier than lunch till dinner-time.
Given this line-up…
… you might neglect about seeing every thing, or certainly every thing at the high of your must-see listing. The greatest you might handle is the musical equal of grazing at a large buffet.
It did my coronary heart good to reach early to listen to a number of of the Berklee Global Jazz Workshop Ensembles, which consisted of jazz college students between the ages of 15 and 20 from a number of states, South America and even Israel. While the combos had been rapidly thrown collectively days earlier, they introduced well-executed performances of well-chosen and well-arranged materials, from Mal Waldron’s Left Alone to the Wayne Shorter two-fer of Tom Thumb and Juju to an enthralling authentic by Chilean pianist and ensemble coach Orion Lion.
After, I wandered into the air-conditioned consolation of the competition’s Storyville stage, the place jazz authority Nate Chinen gave a presentation that put the competition into historic context. Chinen, the director of content material at the linchpin jazz-radio station WBGO, spoke at size about the movie Jazz On A Summer’s Day, which was filmed 60 years in the past at the Newport Jazz Festival. Photographer Bert Stern’s movie captured not solely performances by Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Gerry Mulligan and Mahalia Jackson, amongst others. Stern additionally stored his lens skilled on the competition’s viewers and even the 1958 America’s Cup yacht race. Chinen’s presentation offered a fascinating window on the Newport Jazz Festival’s storied previous, and was virtually as spectacular as the sight of 92-year-old George Wein, the competition’s founder, hearty sufficient to tour the occasion’s grounds in a customized golf cart.
I left Chinen’s speak early to guarantee that I acquired a good seat for alto saxophonist Mahanthappa’s Indo-Pak Coalition, a trio accomplished by guitarist Rez Abbasi and drummer-tabla participant Dan Weiss. In reality, I’d seen these three musicians play together before, but joined by Toronto electric bass powerhouse Rich Brown, at the 2014 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival. Without Brown, the trio nonetheless made singular, pressing music, evocatively colored by Weiss’s tabla drums (which he doesn’t play in the quartet), Abbasi’s steely, incessantly droning and someday processed guitar, and Mahanthappa’s ripe alto saxophone and digital samples. The trio drew from its most up-to-date album Agrima, providing the hard-rocking tune Snap, the initially sluggish and sultry tune Showcase, and the album’s title monitor, a rousing, anthemic, multi-tempo tune girded by a looping ostinati emanating from Mahanthappa’s laptop computer.
After listening to Indo-Pak Coalition, I rushed again to the Storyville stage to root for pianist-singer-songwriter Laila Biali, who was one in every of this 12 months’s Canadian skills at the competition. (Badbadnotgood, Jane Bunnett, Renee Rosnes and Ingrid Jensen later performed at Newport this 12 months.) Joined by bassist Matt Aronoff and drummer Jared Schonig, Biali introduced a likeable, energetic set that pulled from her most up-to-date eponymous album. “This is my my first time at Newport ever, and I’m never leaving,” Biali stated with a grin, earlier than leaping into her exuberant items Got To Love, We Go and Satellite. For the rocking mixed-meter tune Upside Down, Aronoff switched to electrical bass. Biali sang an austere model of Nature Boy accompanied by simply her piano, after which The Breakdown allowed Schonig to tug out the stops.
After listening to Biali, I made my discovery of the competition after I was greatly surprised by vocalist Alicia Olatuja, whose large break occurred in early 2013 when she carried out at President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. At Newport, Olatuja made a diva’s entrance, performed onstage by an elite rhythm part that included pianist Jon Cowherd, guitarist David Rosenthal, electrical bassist Ben Williams and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr. She then proceeded to sing commandingly no matter her materials, which included customized variations of Michael Jackson’s Human Nature, Joni Mitchell’s Cherokee Louise, Djavan’s Serrado and the now politically related Everything Must Change. Olatuja’s set was positively polished and even well-honed, but it surely was soulful and trustworthy too. Her show-stopper was a set-closing neo-soul run by Amazing Grace, which featured solos throughout for Olatuja’s band members and two further vocalists earlier than its closing singalong/clapalong.
This 12 months’s artist-in-residence at Newport was the legendary saxophonist-flutist Charles Lloyd, who was charged with summoning the spirits at three concert events — one per day of the competition. At 80, Lloyd performed on Friday together with his signature gusto, joined by tabla grasp Trilok Gurtu and drum star Eric Harland.
After being reminded of Lloyd’s greatness, I used to be eager to reacquaint myself with trumpeter Marquis Hill, whom I’d seen play final fall in New York and earlier than that at the 2015 Chicago Jazz Festival, the Labor Day weekend’s large occasion in Hill’s residence city.
Hill’s quintet, which the award-winning trumpeter has dubbed his Blacktet, surged by a number of extremely charged originals together with the brash minor-key opener Law And Order earlier than launching into a down-tempo model of Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage. Pianist Mike King introduced that piece with a rhapsodic, virtuosic solo introduction after which bassist Jeremiah Hunt shone. In all, Hill’s group demonstrated how post-bop is completed in 2018, with a lot of room for hip-hop-influenced grooves and audacity.
The final set that I caught at Fort Adams was my favorite of the day, and after I let you know that the band consisted of tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman, cornet participant Ron Miles, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade, you’ll in all probability reply, “Well, that would have been my favourite too!”
Essentially an all-star quartet led by Redman, the group was dubbed Still Dreaming to clarify its debt to the band Old and New Dreams, the Ornette Coleman alumni band of the late 1970s and 1980s that included Redman’s late father and firebrand saxophonist, Dewey Redman, in its ranks. At Newport, the youthful Redman’s group drew upon its current launch Still Dreaming and performed free-bop par excellence, even when Joshua Redman is a extra theoretically rigorous, if no much less thrilling, saxophonist than his father was.
Joshua Redman’s composition The Rest was a melancholy and unfettered opener. Colley’s romping piece New Year allowed for extravagant soloing over the harmonic grid of rhythm adjustments. A run by Guinea, by Old and New Dreams hornman Don Cherry, was springy and stuffed with shock, and the depth of the viewers’s listening was audible and virtually palpable. Next got here a very conversational exploration of Dewey Redman’s Walls-Bridges. That title prompted its composer’s son to change into political when he stated that today, “we have a choice to build one or the other. Personally, I’ll opt for bridges.” The crowd applauded. After the superbly clear, waltzing ballad Haze and Aspirations, the quartet closed with the call-to-arms tune Unanimity.
Even with about seven hours of jazz behind me, I wasn’t completed but with the competition. After a water taxi trip throughout the harbour, a jog up the avenue and an order of steamed clams with a aspect order of lobster bisque, I used to be prepared for Pat Metheny’s set at the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
At that venue’s historic out of doors stage, Metheny was flanked by the members of his newest, leanest and youngest touring band — British pianist Gwilym Simcock, bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Antonio Sanchez. After his time-honoured Pikasso guitar opener and with nary a phrase of introduction, the jazz-guitar star and his bandmates ran by a choice of enduring and much-loved Metheny compositions, largely from the 1980s and 1990s. Among them, I heard Have You Heard, Always and Forever and So May It Secretly Begin. Some items corresponding to James and Song For Bilbao predated bassist Oh’s arrival on the planet. The items have been meticulously executed and there was loads of room to stretch out for Sanchez and Oh, though Metheny was at all times the present’s star. For an encore, Metheny performed a solo medley on acoustic guitar that included snippets of Farmer’s Trust, Last Train Home and This Is Not America.
I’m undecided if there may have been a more durable act to observe, particularly in the event you have been taking part in to a crowd that had already spent a lot of a scorching day listening to jazz. But after a fast reconfiguration of the stage, vocalist Jose James introduced songs in tribute to Bill Withers — Ain’t No Sunshine was his opener — for the most diehard listeners. I confess that I left James’s set earlier than he acquired round to singing Lean On Me. I used to be, in any case, approaching hour 10 or stay jazz.
That stated, had I been in a position to keep in Newport Saturday and Sunday quite than journey residence, I might have caught some nice music, such the Louis Cole Big Band Blowout, the Charles Lloyd New Quartet, Roy Hargrove, Artemis (an all-female all-star band with Jensen and Rosnes amongst its members), Nate Smith and Kinfolk, and Jane Bunnett and Maqueque.
It is perhaps a contradiction to have felt overloaded by a full day of jazz at Newport, but additionally regretful that I wasn’t in a position to catch the competition’s two different days. The solely treatment that I can consider is a return journey.