Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Another postcard from Newport

Terri Lyne Carrington

Sharing more images from my 2021 Newport Jazz Festival assignments, July 30-August 1.

Gerald Clayton

Charles Lloyd, Harish Raghavan, Marvin Sewell

Joel Ross

Sasha Berliner
The Vibes Summit

Warren Wolf

Kenny Barron
Melissa Aldana
Wycliffe Gordon
Catherine Russell
Mikaela Davis

Trombone Shorty

Marquis Hill

Andra Day

Christian McBride, Joe Russo, John Scofield

Sunday, August 29, 2021

CDs of Note – Short Takes

Taking a closer look at CDs by Gerry Gibbs’ Thrasher Dream Trios, Paxton/Spangler Septet, John Pizzarelli, Juan Carlos Quintero and Dave Stryker…

Gerry Gibbs’ Thrasher Dream Trios, Songs From My Father (Whaling City Sound)

What a dandy this is. Drummer Gerry Gibbs criss-crossed the country during the pandemic to record with four different versions of his trio. They included Gibbs with Chick Corea and Ron Carter, Kenny Barron and Buster Williams, Patrice Rushen and B-3 player Larry Goldings, and Geoff Keezer and Christian McBride. This turned out to be Corea’s final recording session before his death last February. The bands performed 18 pieces composed by Gerry’s father, 96-year-old vibes player Terry Gibbs, plus one tribute composition from Corea called “Tango for Terry.”

This is one funky and spirited project. Corea penned a fresh arrangement for the vibes master’s “Waltz for my Children,” then delivers it with Carter and Gibbs. The Barron-Williams-Gibs trio gets the party started on “Kick Those Feet.” The blend of piano, B-3 and drums for the trio with Rushen and Goldings adds a different slant to the proceeding on “Smoke ‘Em Up” and “Townhouse 3.”  The piece de resistance is “Hey Chick,” the only tune on which Corea didn’t play. It’s a tribute to him. It’s a retitled update of Terry’s 1961 composition “Hey Jim”… that features all eight other players, plus Terry Gibbs’ vibes solo extracted from the original Straight Ahead quartet version.

Paxton/Spangler Septet, Anthem for the New Nation (Eastlawn)

The Detroit band co-led by trombonist Tbone Paxton and percussionist RJ Spangler has a deep love for the exotic, rhythmic sound of South African jazz. This latest project explores some of the music composed by pianist Abdullah Ibrahim, known in his early days as Dollar Brand. It captures the beauty, the soul and the vibrance of seven of his works, including “African Marketplace,” “Soweto” and the title track, which Ibrahim first  recorded in 1978. The septet’s blend of “Cape Town Fringe” and “Mannenberg” uses an arrangement by tenor saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. Rafael Leafar’s alto sax solo on this one celebrates Sanders’ intense virtuosity. Special guest James O’Donnell’s spirited flugelhorn solo enhances the bubbling beauty of “Soweto.” From start to finish, this is powerful stuff, and a long-overdue tribute to this South African jazz pioneer and NEA Jazz Master.

John Pizzarelli, Better Days Ahead (Ghostlight)

The CD cover title and cover art is perfect. John Pizzarelli with his guitar and a baby blue mask over his lower face – waiting for Better Days Ahead. The swing guitarist used the isolation of the pandemic to make his first solo recording – one that explores the Pat Metheny songbook. Pizzarelli put his own loving spin on 14 Metheny or Metheny-Lyle Mays originals, exploring the beautiful folk-tinged melodies on his acoustic guitar. “James,” “Last Train Home,” “(It’s Just) Talk,” “Letter From Home” and “Farmer’s Trust stand out, but there’s not a disappointing track in the bunch. He created one track from two tunes, skillfully weaving “April Wind” and “Phase Dance,” both from Pat Metheny Group’s eponymous 1978 debut album. There is much here to love.

Juan Carlos Quintero, Caminando (Moondo Music)

How did this beauty not catch my ears back in 1997? The Colombian-born, L.A.-based guitarist released it back then as The Way Home! Long out of print, this instrumental shows Quintero in fine form as a composer and player,  supported by pianist Joe Rotondi bassists Eddie Resto and Alec Milstein, and five percussionists: Angel Figueroa, the late Munyungo Jackson, Tiki Pasillas, Ron Powell and Walter Rodriquez. Quintero’s melodies and the exotic Latin rhythms (bolero, cha cha, flamenco rumba and Colombian cumbia) are intoxicating to the ears – from the opening bars right through the end of this world music-meets-jazz project.  Favorites: “El Baile,” the ballad-like “The Way Home,” “Little Indians” and the festive “Caribbean Sun Dance” which was co-written by Kenny Hudson.

Dave Stryker, Baker’sCircle (Strikezone)

Guitarist Dave Stryker has another winner on his latest outing. This organ quartet session features the leader with Jared Gold at the B-3, Walter Smith III on tenor sax, and McClenty Hunter on drums. Percussionist Mayra Casales joins on three tracks (Stryker’s “El Camino” and “Baker’s Circle,” and Mrvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues”). Favorite tracks: the bluesy “Dreamsong,” Gold’s “Rush Hour” featuring Smith’s tenor mastery, the leader’s elegant takes on Leon Russell’s “Superstar” and Ivan Lins’ “Love Dance,” and the gorgeous title track. The latter is dedicated to the late educator David Baker, who ran the jazz program at Indiana University – and hired Stryker as a guitar professor a few years ago. This one is smoking from start to finish.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Postcard from Newport

Now that another Newport Jazz Festival is in the books, the 67th anniversary edition and 57th actual festival to be precise, I wanted to share more imagery from the July 30-August 1 weekend. Here are some favorite images. More to follow.


Bam Bam Rodriguez

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Kamasi Washington
Kamasi Washington
Robert Glasper

Makaya McCraven

A perfect Fort Adams day for jazz

Chris Potter


Rick Holstrom and Mavis Staples


Matt Munisteri


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Random thoughts on Newport’s return to the festival scene

Last weekend’s Newport Jazz Festival, after a one-year absence due to the COVID-19 shutdowns, was mighty welcome for music fans and performers alike.

The July 30-August 1 event at Fort Adams State Park overlooking Newport Harbor for many musicians was either the first or first significant performance opportunity since we began emerging from the long pandemic winter.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah

“It’s been an interesting year-and-a-half to two years. The ability to play for you is such a pleasure,” trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah told the crowd before his Saturday set on the main stage.

Kamasi Washington
The music was strong every day, with a wider range of styles than jazz purists are used to – particularly on Friday’s program. R&B, hip-hop and atmospheric rock were on the bill. The crowd was extremely diverse in terms of ages and musical interests. As music evolves, jazz has a much bigger influence umbrella where bebop shares the stage with so much more. 
Terri Lyne Carrington

Highlights, for this listener, were Sunday’s Vibes Summit, with Sasha Berliner, Joel Ross and Warren Wolf backed by the Emmet Cohen trio; and sets by saxophonists Kenny Garrett, Charles Lloyd, Chris Potter and Kamasi Washington, The Jazz Gallery All-Stars, and the Kenny Barron-Dave Holland-Johnathan Blake trio. 

A Christian McBride Situation, blending jazz with funk and two turntable artists (DJ Logic and Jahi Sundance), offered some interesting reinventions of jazz classics on Friday, including Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" and Duke Ellington's "In a Sentimental Mood" and "It Don't Mean a Thing (if it Ain't Got That Swing)."

Everyone took the festival’s pandemic precautions in stride with little or no complaint.

This year’s festival was limited to two stages rather than the usual four, in recent years. There were 30 bands (10 per day) rather than the usual 50.

Attendance was capped at 6,000 per day – or 60 percent of capacity. Nobody got inside the gate without proof of COVID vaccination or a negative test within 48 hours. Masks were encouraged in close quarters or high-traffic areas, and were mandated in the photo pits.

Andra Day

The close ties between Newport and New Orleans continue to thrive through their respective jazz festivals. Several Crescent City musicians are on the bill at every Newport Jazz Festival. This year’s contingent included Scott, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, drummer Joe Dyson, bassist-saxophonist Morgan Guerin, and singer Ledisi, who performed an R&B-powered tribute to Nina Simone.

Festival founder George Wein, now 95, didn’t make the trip from his home in New York City because of age and travel considerations. While it pained him to miss the festival, he did keep tabs on what was happening. He even introduced good friend Mavis Staples’ Saturday afternoon set via telephone hookup. He was on the phone again to thank the crowd before singer Andra Day’s closing set wrapped up this 2021 edition.

This was my 40th consecutive Newport Jazz Festival, starting in 1981 when Wein brought the event back to Newport after a 10-year absence. Here's a 'ink to my report and images for Offbeat.