Thursday, April 18, 2013

2012 at Newport: NOW we’ve heard it all…

After baking in the sun and wandering between the three scattered stages at the Newport Jazz Festival for seven or eight hours, nearly all in the crowd call it a day during or right after the final set at Fort Adams State Park. It’s time to quench one’s thirst, grab a meal and a shower, and head home or to local lodging - and rest up for Sunday’s equally long schedule.

But that’s not the case for everyone. Some 250 fans and a  nearly a dozen musicians dusted off and cleaned up - perhaps changing to something less casual - and headed for Marble House. One of Newport’s storied mansions on stately Bellevue Avenue, it was built between 1888 and 1892 as one of the Vanderbilt family’s “summer cottages.”

On Saturday April 4, 2012, Marble House was something else: the site of a fundraising gala for the Newport Festivals Foundation, which produces the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals under the leadership of the festivals’ founding producer (and foundation chairman), George Wein. The gala raised more than $200,000 to help the nonprofit carry on the festival tradition well into the future.

The gala featured an array of musical combinations not heard at Fort Adams – or anywhere else for that matter. And the tapes were running. The Festivals Foundation has released that recording, called Newport Jazz Festival Gala!, on ArtistShare.
The first-time collaborations included:
  • The playful trio improvisation “Three’s Free” by clarinetist Anat Cohen, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and pianist Jason Moran.
  • Singer-guitarist Lionel Loueke and Moran on the impromptu original “Merci.”
  • Cohen and guitarist Bill Frisell’s take on The Beatles’ “Come Together.”
  • Colombian harpist Edmar Castañeda and alto saxophonist Steve Wilson’s take on Castañeda’s “Double Portion.” (The dazzling Castañeda was the only gala entertainer who didn’t appear as part of the Fort Adams lineup last year. He will be there this August.)
Other material featured saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, accompanied by his own computer-generated sounds, on his original “Aurora;” a vocal and piano duet of “I’m in Love Again” by Dianne Reeves and accompanist Peter Martin; and a quintet version of “Blue Monk” from Frisell, Jensen, Moran, Wilson and drummer Lewis Nash. Wilson and Nash also teamed up on a clever medley pairing Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz” and Thelonious Monk’s “Evidence.”

If you didn’t have the opportunity to attend the gala, here’s a chance to check out the unusual pairings the evening presented. To purchase the album, visit ArtistShare's website. The CD cover calls this “Volume 1,” which means more editions are likely from future galas.

While Newport has been the setting for many a historic recording over the years (Duke Ellington’s triumphant 1956 Newport appearance is the best known), this was the first Newport recording that the festival organizers have produced themselves since the event began in 1954.

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