Tag Archives: Newport Jazz Festival

Upcoming jazz events

Danilo Pérez plays Scullers February 15 and 16 . Photo by Luke Severn.

Danilo Pérez plays Scullers February 15 and 16 . Photo by Luke Severn.

Plenty of good stuff happening in Boston-area jazz this week. You can find these and other choice arts picks at The Arts Fuse.

Pat Donaher
February 8, 4 p.m.
Lily Pad, Cambridge MA

Alto saxophonist Pat Donaher’s beguiling Who We Are Together lives in that world where jazz crosses over into a kind of classical chamber music.  Or maybe the other way around. With his alternating duo partners, pianists Hwaen Ch’uqi and Camille Barile, Donaher favors spontaneous improvisations, with attractive folk-like melodies and ambiguous harmonies. A Quincy, MA, native, Donaher attended the Eastman School of Music before returning home to complete a master’s degree at New England Conservatory. At the Lily Pad he’ll be joined by fellow Eastman graduate Hwaen Ch’uqi.

Ampersand Concert Series
February 13,  8 p.m.
MIT Bartos Theatre, Cambridge MA

The MIT List Visual Arts Center and WMBR Radio present the seventh in their performance series, this time with the Boston/Amherst jazz group Outnumbered and New Haven bassist and electronic improviser Carl Testa. The Outnumbered features some of the best players in the area: alto saxophonist Jason Robinson, multi-sax guy Charlie Kohlhase, pianist Josh Rosen, bassist Bruno Råberg, and drummer Curt Newton.

Dave Holland’s Prism
February 13-14, 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Regattabar, Cambridge MA

Bassist and composer Dave Holland’s always compelling blend of grooving mixed meters and controlled contrapuntal mayhem this time falls into the hands of a new quartet with a homonymous new album on ECM. The players are guitarist Kevin Eubanks (a longtime Holland foil before jumping to direct the Tonight Show band), pianist Craig Taborn, and drummer Eric Harland. As usual with Holland’s outfits, everyone contributes original tunes, which makes for an especially alert crew.

Kate McGarry and Keith Ganz
February 13, 8 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston

Kate McGarry has long been mixing jazz with a variety of American pop and folk. Tonight she and her husband, the guitarist Keith Ganz, step out of their usual band format to play as the title alter-ego duo from their new album, Genevieve & Ferdinand (Sunnyside), somehow making Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” Todd Rundgen’s “Pretending To Care,” and Iriving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” all part of the same sound world. You can also expect a couple of McGarry and Ganz’s well-turned originals.

Newport Jazz Festival: NOW 60
February 13, 8 p.m.
Berklee Performance Center, Boston MA

This promotional anniversary tour for the granddaddy of jazz festivals looks on the face of it like a grab-bag of supremely talented, medium-profile all-stars, but the tour producers and bandleader Anat Cohen have declared a specific agenda: to focus not only on music from Newport’s storied history, but also original compositions and arrangements from everyone in the band. And it is a formidable crew. Saxophonist and clarinetist Cohen will be joined by multi-lingual singer Karrin Allyson, trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Mark Whitfield, pianist Peter Martin, bassist Larry Grenadier, and drummer Clarence Penn. This second night of a 21-date tour (a Celebrity Series of Boston event) should be crackling.
Read my Boston Globe piece about the tour here.

“Third Stream Headwaters”
February 13, 7 p.m.
Jordan Hall, Boston MA

Rare offerings at New England Conservatory tonight. The Contemporary Improvisation department goes deep into Third Stream — the term coined by composer and former NEC president Gunther Schuller to describe a blending of classical and jazz musical procedures (and also the original name of the CI department).  Topping the bill are Charles Mingus’s “Half-Mast Inhibition,” the great bassist-composer’s earliest orchestral work (originally recorded in 1960) and the premiere of Schuller’s “From Here to There,” commissioned by NEC. Also on the bill are Darius Milhaud’s “La Création du Monde,” Milton Babbit’s “All Set,” and Frank Zappa’s “Dog Breath Variations.” Charles Peltz conducts

Catherine Russell
February 14, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston MA

No less an authority than Nat Hentoff has called singer Catherine Russell “the real thing.” With a strong pedigree (daughter of Louis Armstrong orchestra music director Luis Russell and guitarist Carline Ray, of the International Sweethearts of Rhythm), Russell made her early career singing high-profile back-up gigs (Paul Simon, David Bowie, Jackson Browne, Cyndi Lauper, Rosanne Cash) before going solo about 10 years ago and delivering one beautifully assured album after another, focusing on vintage swing and blues, with the occasional oddball and apt contemporary choice (the Grateful Dead’s “New Speedyway Boogie”). She has the kind of voice and diction that lend every song a conversational directness and literate clarity even when she’s hitting the high notes and swinging her hardest. Her latest, Bring It Back (Jazz Village), comes out this Tuesday and it’s another well-designed collection, guided by her own taste and by the skill of music director/guitarist Matt Munisteri.

Danilo Pérez’s “Panama 500”
February 15 [8 p.m. and 10 p.m.] and 16 [4 p.m. and 7 p.m.]
Scullers Jazz Club, Boston MA

The 47-year-old pianist and composer’slatest CD, Panama 500 (Mack Avenue), is his most ambitious achievement yet. Looking again at his native Panama, he offers a portrait that mixes folkloric percussion, chants of the indigenous Guna people, modern-chamber music string writing, and, of course, fleet jazz-piano trio sections. At times, all these languages are layered so that history emerges as a living memory. Pérez brings an ensemble from the album to Scullers: violinist Alex Hargreaves, percussionist Roman Díaz, and his longtime trio mates, bassist Ben Street and drummer Adam Cruz.
Read my Boston Globe review of the CD here.

Newport Jazz Festival opening night

Natalie Cole was the headliner for the opening night of the 59th Newport Jazz Festival tonight at the Newport Casino, but for my money (speaking figuratively—my tickets were free), it was her Uncle Freddy who stole the show.

Freddy Cole, now 81, appeared as a special guest with openers the Bill Charlap Trio (with bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington). Cole walked out on stage slightly bent in posture, and his vocals at first seemed insecure. But he soon took flight. He sang some of the less familiar classics from the Great American Songbook with a warm, grainy tone and flawless phrasing, creating intimate, conversational music that made every lyric feel lived in:

“Once in a while…. would you try to give a thought to me.”
. . . .
“If I cried a little bit when first I learned the truth/don’t blame it on my heart/blame it on my it on my youth.”
. . . .
“So when one of us is gone/and one of us is left/to carry on/our memories will see us through.” 

At one point, Cole took over from Charlap at the piano in mid-song and continued his set, playing and singing. He finished with a “toe-tapper,” the Billy Eckstine blues “Jelly Jelly,” as raunchy as it needed to be.

Natalie began her set by following in the same vein of American songbook standards — often associated with her father, Nat “King” Cole, one of the greatest of American popular singers. So we got very respectable versions of “The Very Thought of You,” “The Best Is Yet To Come” (for Nat’s friend, “Uncle Frank” Sinatra), “Lush Life,” “Smile.” There was the obligatory video duet with her father of “Unforgettable,” and a warm ovation from the crowd. But next to the plummy sound of her father in his prime,  Natalie’s voice sounded tart and thin. Her band helped her lift the tempo (and the mood) with cuts from her current Spanish-language hit album, Natalie Cole en Espanol. But it was when she went back to her 1975 pop hit “This Will Be” that Natalie sounded most convincing, most herself, punching out the high notes with extra loft from her two backup singers.

Cole had an impressive band, filled out with guitar, synth keyboards, acoustic piano, and percussion (from her son, Robbie Yancy). And she was a charming, assured performer. By the end of the night, the air had grown cool. Cole put on a jacket and urged the audience to dance to her pop hits and the Latin grooves. The air felt moist, but overhead above the grounds of the Newport Casino, the sky was mostly clear, and the stars were shining. Later this morning, the Newport Jazz Festival Presented by Natixis Global Asset management will continue at Fort Adams State Park. See you there.  And look for the rest of my report in Monday’s Boston Globe.






At 80, Wayne Shorter still has a story to tell

The Wayne Shorter Quartet’s “Without a Net” (Blue Note) begins with a rumble — four notes repeated deep in the piano’s bass register. Jazz fans will recognize the phrase as from Shorter’s iconic composition “Orbits,” from the 1967 Miles Davis release “Miles Smiles.” On that record, the song is bright, fast, and fleet. But here Danilo Pérez’s piano introduction is dark, ominous. Bassist John Patitucci joins Pérez, then Shorter enters on soprano sax, offering the tune’s second phrase. Before long, the band (with drummer Brian Blade) is off on a lyrical improvisation, the darkness having cleared, that first phrase a recurring reference point in a collective dream.

Shorter has led the band for 12 years now, and some would argue that — in a legendary career of pathbreaking writing and playing — it represents the height of his achievements. Next Saturday the quartet will be one of the headliners at the Newport Jazz Festival… to read more, click here.


This piece ran as a preview to the Newport Jazz Festival  on Friday, July 25.