Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Postcard from Newport

Here are more images from the Sunday, August 5 performances of the Newport Jazz Festival. The festival now presents about 20 bands per day over three days - on four stages at Fort Adams State Park. It draws up to a maximum crowd of about 10,000 per day.

Harold Lopez-Nussa
Russell Hall
Pianist Eric Lewis

Herlin RIley
Alexey Marti

Nicole Mitchell

Shirazette Tinnin of Mitchell's Dusty WIngs band

NJF artistic director Christian McBride
Renee Rosnes of Artemis

Pull up a chair - or a boat
Melissa Aldana of Artemis
GoGo Penguin's Chris Illingworth

Jazzmeia Horn and pianist Victor Gould

Noriko Ueda of Artemis
Tivon Pennicott

Gregory Porter

Alex White of James Carter's organ trio

James Carter and Gerard Gibbs

Naile Sosa of Maqueque
Lucinda Williams, Stuart Mathis, Charles Lloyd
George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic

Saturday, August 18, 2018

A lyrical legacy endures

Johnny Mercer's imprint is all over The Great American Songbook. He's best known for writing the lyrics to more than a thousand songs - for Broadway, for Tin Pan Alley, for film, and for pop singers.

Johnny Mercer's imprint also is all over Savannah, GA., the verdant and historic city where he was born. Any place live music is performed, Mercer's material seeps out at listeners. 

You might even hear "Moon River" a few times a night at a piano bar or restaurant. (The tune, with music by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Mercer, won Grammy and Academy Awards in 1962). Heck, there's even a brew pub in Savannah named after the song, which premiered in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's.

A sculpture of Johnny Mercer, leaning on a fire hydrant reading a newspaper, was unveiled on November 18, 2009, which would have been his 100th birthday.

The life-size tribute, at the edge of Ellis Square, is just a stone's throw away from artist Susie Chisholm's studio in the city's arts-vibrant City Market area. Galleries and studios abound, including one featuring A.J. Seidl's jazz-themed paintings. 

Mercer's most frequent collaborators over this career included composers Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Henry Mancini and, in his later years, Barry Manilow.

He was a lyric genius. Tunes with his imprint included "Skylark," "The Midnight Sun," "Early Autumn," "Tangerine," "Satin Doll," "And When October Goes" and "One For My Baby (and One More For the Road)." Mercer penned both music and lyrics for "Dream" and "Something's Gotta Give," among others.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Sunny and sultry weather blend with hot music for Newport Jazz Festival's 2018 finale

The scheduling gods complicated my 38th annual visit to the Newport Jazz Festival and/or Newport Folk Festival. It meant I was only able to attend on Sunday, August 5, covering the jazz event for JazzTimes

But the schedule turned out to be fortuitous. Saturday's monsoon-like intense rain and resulting mudfest (yes, the music went on), gave way to a humid day with brilliant sunshine and a wide range of hot music.

Favorite acts, caught during and after photo-pit dashes between the three outdoor stages and the club-like indoor Storyville venue, included several all-woman bands, some contemporary advances on the bebop tradition, and two fine singers: festival veteran Gregory Porter and newcomer Jazzmeia Horn.

Of particular note: 

The septet Artemis was named after the Greek goddess of the hunt, a daughter of
Artemis' Aldana, Cohen, Jensen
Black Art Jazz Collective
Zeus and sister of Apollo. This all-woman super band teams reed players Anat Cohen and Melissa Aldana, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, pianist/musical director Renee Rosnes, bassist Noriko Ueda, drummer Allison Miller and singer C├ęcile McLorin Salvant.The band crackled with energy and fine music including its romp through Rosnes' original "Galapagos." This main stage set (was Aldana's long-overdue Newport debut. She won the Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition five years ago. 

The Black Art Jazz Collective brought its modern bop sound to the nearby Harbor Stage. The band featured saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, trombonist James Burton III, pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Johnathan Blake. 

Toronto-based soprano saxophonist Jane Bunnett blended
Jane Bunnett & Maqueque
jazz and Afro-Cuban music with her sextet Maquegue. The five other musicians are women from Cuba: pianist Danae Olano, bassist Celia Jimenez, percussionist Mary Paz, drummer Naile Sosa andlead singer Melvis Santa. This one was tropically hot.

Another fine Cuban band opened the Quad Stage on Sunday. Pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa's trio included bassist Gaston Joya and the leader's brother, Ruy Lopez-Nussa, on drums. Lopez-Nussa is more of a modernist, putting a fresh spin on the Cuban music and jazz intersect.

Drummer Herlin Riley's New York-Havana Connection quintet opened the main stage on Sunday morning. Riley began his set with a solo on a conch shell, it's deep horn-like sound emulating those carried by some of the ships anchored yards offshore in Newport Harbor.

Charles Lloyd
The three-day festival included different lineups each day led by saxophonist Charles Lloyd as a celebration of his 80th birth year. Sunday's Lloyd finale included his "Charles Lloyd & Friends" band with pianist Jason Moran, guitarists Stuart Mathis and Marvin Sewell, bassist Reuben Rogers, drummer Eric Harland and singer Lucinda Williams.

They came by land and sea

The many other Sunday acts included England's GoGo Penguin trio, pianists Bill Charlap and Helen Sung, saxophonist James Carter's organ trio, flutist Nicole Mitchell's Dusty Wings and the crowd-drawing closer, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic.

Natixis Investment Managers is the festival's presenting sponsor.

Festival founding producer George Wein, now 92, continues to put his stamp of approval on the event. He created a Newport Festivals Foundation several years ago to ensure these storied jazz and folk festival outlive him. Bassist Christian McBride is the Newport Jazz Festival's artistic director.

Earlier this month, the state and the foundation unveiled an agreement to continue the festivals for at least 25 years at Fort Adams State Park, its picturesque home since 1981. The foundation also signed a 40-year lease to transform the former Museum of Yachting, a brick building now housing the Storyville stage, into a festivals museum.    

I've posted more photos from Newport here.