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JVC Jazz Festival, Newport RI

CTC Command

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Here's the second installment in my review of the 2006 Newport Jazz Festival.

The itinerary, mapped out ahead of time...


Of course, not everything went according to the itinerary, but with three stages and 15 bands in less than 8 eight hours, you got to have a plan.

11:30 to 1 was especially crazy and it was impossible to catch it all, but what the hell...

Sunday I took my son Ian to his first jazz festival--he was pretty excited! He's 7--not sure if some of the others will be quite old enough next year, but maybe.

It is a long day, even for grown-ups, lol.


We arrived just as The Bad Plus was getting underway. A highly flexible straight ahead band with as much rock sensibility as jazz, I was very impressed. For some reason I expected Les Claypool to step out and jam with these guys at any second, if that helps to explain what they might sound like. As we were getting ourselves settled in, I didn't get a chance to take any pictures of The Bad Plus. One of the most important aspects of the Jazz Festival is, of course, the food. Not only is there some excellent stuff cooking all around in the concessions, but the everyone in the crowd brings all sorts of cool stuff with them to eat. For instance, the people sitting directly in front of us--over the course of the day they had olives and fish and cheese and wine and cupcakes, and during Dr. John they actually took out a birthday cake and candles...then the people to our our left were making cucumber sandwiches and mixing up dressing...we ourselves had packed a decent picnic with us too, and we commenced a-into mowing that as soon as we got ourselves set up. The Newport Jazz Picnic...

And a good book. Alot of people that seem to come alone bring books with themselves. I didn't read Sunday because I had Ian with me, but Saturday I was alone--I put quite a dent in Lovejoy's dissertation Rhode Island Politics and the American Revolution 1760 - 1776 during Arturo Sandoval and before and during George Benson :lol:

Anyway, The Bad Plus were quite excellent, and we chowed down and listened to them. As soon as their set was done, we headed over to the Pavilion stage to catch the Ron Affif Trio (below), sometimes a quartet and a quintet...led by bop guitarist extraordinaire Ron Affif. I didn't catch the pianist name who sat in with them--nor did I catch who his rhythm section was. Sometimes the drum chair is filled by Jeff "Tain" Watts, but I cannot confirm or deny that Watts was playing with Affif on Sunday, as the crowd was very enthusiastic during Affif's on-stage introductions, but in any event they were a pretty rocking combo.


This is Eric Bloom whilst sitting in with the Ron Affif Trio. Mr. Bloom is a 20 year old student at the Berkeley College of Music in Boston. Keep an ear and and a eye out for him--excellent chops!


I had planned on going over to Christian Scott, another hot up-and-coming trumpeter (see above itinerary, lol), but after being highly impressed by James Carter in Gold Sounds the day before I decided to stay put in the pavilion and wait for his Organ Trio. We were able to totally improve our seats to the third row right on the center aisle as soon as Ron Affif ended, so we hung out to keep the seats but in doing so missed Christian Scott entirely. This is the only bummer about big shows like this--same thing used to happen all the time at Lollopalooza. Two acts I want to see playing at the same time--someone has to get sacrificed :glare:

After about 15 minutes of setting up, Jazz DJ Eric Jackson (WGBH Boston) came out and introduced the James Carter Organ Trio. Jackson commented during his introduction said he had done an interview with Carter just before the show--that should be interesting.


The James Carter Organ Trio: James Carter on tenor and soprano sax and flute,

Gerard Gibbs on Hammond B3 Organ and synthesizers, and Leonard King on drums.


Carter and Gibbs are particularly entertaining and talented musicians. Gibbs is constantly making eyes at the audience, goofing on whatever as he lays down blistering runs and funky rolls, while Carter's stage presence sometimes borders on the histrionic, yet the sheer range of Carter's talent renders any criticism of his stage antics completely moot. Anyone who can play the sax like James Carter can stand on his head and spit nickels for all I care--rarely have I seen the kind of pure enthusiasm and raw gut level feeling that James Carter evokes in his live performance. It's like he's tripping, literally.

Here's JC playing the soap sax...


This was from a really intriguing piece of music with quiet synth and birds and flute, then a rousing sax/organ part then back to this quiet interlude. Gonna have to get some James Carter tunes and find this one...


I didn't get a good photo of Gerard Gibbs mugging it up, but here's picture of him on the internet I found that's pretty much him...

and a photo I took Gerard Gibbs smiling at something James Carter was saying to him during Sunday's show.

(This also clearly shows what crappy pictures my digital camera takes. Someday I will get a REAL camera, like the one that took the picture on the left...)


Drummer Leonard King just smiled throughout the whole set while keep a tight handle on the sticks.


Right after James Carter, we headed straight back to the main stage, where Dave Brubeck had already begun his set.

He's the white blob to the left of the red stage light lol...


Now certainly, I wasn't expecting to hear the classic Dave Brubeck Quartet--the man is nearly 86, and his signature "dry martini" saxophonist, Paul Desmond, has been dead nearly 30 years (maybe Brubeck should be considered Desmond's piano player, I dunno). Anyway Brubeck's current saxophonist (since 1982) Bobby Militello is quite excellent, but he still can't quite fill Desmond's mighty shoes--Militello is at his best when he is not playing one of Paul Desmond signature pieces...his improvisation is at times from the Coltrane "sheets of notes" school, brilliant stuff, but whenever he takes one of Desmond's signature lines and "modifies" it just to make it different...its sacrilege, imho.

Here's Militello on the ubiquitous giant video screen, which was the only way to really see anything on the main stage from where we were.


Brubeck's classical upbringing was also showing a bit much, or maybe it's his recent work with the London Symphony Orchestra. There's always been a touch of classical elements in Brubeck's compositions. But whenever he had an opportunity to solo during Sunday's performance, Brubeck sounded more like Vladimir Horowitz than a bop jazz impresario. Still, the fact that Brubeck is not just alive but TOURING is a testament to the man's constitution and devotion to his craft. Hell, if Dave Brubeck wanted to play Beethoven's 9th, listening to that would still be better than what I'm doing most other days at 2:45 in the afternoon, lol.

By the time Brubeck closed his set with arguably his best known tune, "Take Five," we had been sitting almost continuously from 11:30 to 3:30, so we pretty much walked around until Dr. John came on at 5. We saw (I think, if the schedule was still running accurate on the waterside stage; it was way off on Saturday) Marty Ehrlich Sextet, who had an interesting crowd of musicians onstage including a female trombonist whose name I was unable to discover. Then we went back to the Pavilion stage and listened to the remarkable bassist Avishai Cohen, who like Mingus leads from the bass and plays some rather sublime and profound music.

I think the Marty Ehrlich Sextet was playing in this photo of the Water Side stage (though ya can't see them cuz of the lighting)...


After this we walked around some more around the main field while Angelique Kidjo sang her blend of Afro-Caribbean music on the JVC stage. She was interesting--beautiful vocals--but she was arguably the least actual 'jazz' performer of the weekend. Here's a shot of the stage during her set, which also gives some sense of the size of Fort Adams, which is actually quite a vast structure.


Here are some good photos of the Bay and Fort Adams--one of the attractions of Newport is of course beautiful Narragansett Bay and all the old Georgian and Guilded Age architecture...A sizable number of pleasure boats were anchored where they could listen to either the Main/JVC or Water Side stage--they are really noticeable in the first photo at the top of this thread


Ian looking toward the Newport Bridge.


Looking across the bay towards the Island of Jamestown


Here is Ian standing next to a map on the history of Narragansett Bay at Fort Adams. The red blob the green arrow is pointing toward is where Fort Adams is located...


Here's the west side of the fort; there were a lot fewer people at Sunday's festival; attendance was announced to be 4500.

Saturday had 7500--this whole area in this photo was totally packed with people cheek to jowl on blankets and sitting in folding chairs the day before.

We went back to the car at this point in the show to get my coffee, and use the phone, then came back, won a couple of free Jazz Fest shirts from the JVC booth people, then ambled to our seats and waited for Dr. John and the Lower 911.

This was the high point of Sunday's show on the Main JVC stage, imo, and Ian's too, as he danced around to Mac Rebennacks funky tonk. Here's a picture of Reynard Poch, Guitarist for The Lower 911, on the big screen.


The good Dr. did "Right Place, Wrong Time," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and a long version of "Goin' Back to New Orleans" with saxophonist Donald Harrison guesting on that last tune. A recurring theme over the weekend was of course the plight of New Orleans, and Dr. John's tribute to the Big Easy was as authentic as it gets.

A ton of people bailed for the waiting buses as soon as Mr. Rebennacks set ended, but we waited for trumpeter Chris Botti, who was billed with some pretty hot talent according to the local music rag. Unfortunately, his set was a weaker repeat of the show-closing smooth jazz pablum from the day before, and after about 15 minutes of fairly uninspiring synthapop we bailed too, but not before checking out piano sensation Hiromi. There the day left off on a high note, as she was playing some unique piano driven fusion call and response stuff while we were watching her work the Pavilion Stage. But it was either watch Hiromi and get stuck in the huge stupid traffic jam or leave NOW--but I would definitely see her again, really good pianist, really good backing band :thumbsup:

- - -

Over all, have to say that most of the really good stuff at this JVC Jazz Fest was NOT on the main stage. Standouts from this weekend: Cyrus Chestnut, James Carter, The Bad Plus, and Hiromi. Also well worth seeing: McCoy Tyner, Eric Alexander, Ron Affif, Dr. John, Avishai Cohen, and Arturo Sandoval. Biggest disappointments: Dave Brubeck, George Benson. Of course, if i had my way, it would have been all bebop, straight ahead, ragtime, and fusion, wit nunnadat smoodjazz...

And then there are the half dozen bands I couldn't check out because they were playing at the same time I was watching someone else. Of these I missed, probably Christian Scott was the would have should have could have set, as even the local daily remarked the next day on how good his performance was.

All in all though, the Jazz Fest was a great sucess, the weather was gorgeous, absolutely perfect, performers were outstanding and the interaction between them was often (as it was often remarked by those in attendance) historic.

Last time I went to the Newport Jazz Fest (in 1986) Stevie Ray Vaughn was the headliner... I don't think I'm gonna wait ANOTHER 20 years before going the next one--this was way too much fun! :P

Edited by CTC Command
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  • 6 years later...

[url="http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/12/05/166570705/dave-brubeck-legendary-jazz-musician-dead-at-age-91?sc=tw&cc=share"]RIP Dave Brubeck[/url] -- Jazz great died today, one day shy of his 92nd birthday.

[i]Time Out[/i] is still in heavy rotation in these parts. You will be missed, Mr. Brubeck -- here's to hoping you and Paul Desmond are dusting off some old favorites even as I type this.

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