Friday, July 22, 2011
Sing a Song of Jazz - Vocalists Take Center Stage at Newport Jazz Festival® Presented by Natixis Global Asset Management
Jazz Journalist Eugene Holley Takes a Look at Vocalists Performing in Newport
Newport, RI- There is a circle of influence that is central to jazz: instrumentalists strive for a vocal quality in their "voice" while singers work for years to acquire the fluidity and flexibility of the instrumentalist. For the last six decades, the Newport Jazz Festival® presented by Natixis Global Asset Management has been the site where generations of audiences have heard the evolution of this circular reciprocity evolve into today's vivid, varied and soulful sounds that span the globe.
At its core, jazz intersects with so many musical strains: blues, folk music and Latin rhythms. But too often the music of the Gershwins, Cole Porter and Victor Young - along with countless other film, Broadway and cabaret composer/performers - is left out. And without this linkage, the music does not exist. That's where the uber-talented, Ohio-born, pianist/vocalist/anthropologist/archivist Michael Feinstein, the multi-platinum-selling, five-time Grammy-nominated "Ambassador of the Great American Songbook" comes in. He's an old-fashioned crooner, armed only with his pipes and a piano, who can meld the classical traditions of the old and new, Uptown/Downtown worlds and melt hearts the way Frank Sinatra and Bobby Short did. With his erudite vocals and equally pithy and poetic pianism, supported by bassist Sean Smith, and drummer Ray Marchica, Feinstein and guitarist Joe Negri, will perform selections from their recent CD, Fly Me to the Moon. Their magic and elegant artistry will make the music of Ol' Blue Eyes bop with a new New York State of Mind and, on Friday, August 5, at 8:00 pm, the International Tennis Hall of Fame will feel like the Cafe Carlyle - candelabras and champagne included!
Germany is where the time-honored classical song-form known as lieder originated. And it's also the birthplace of one of the music's most eclectic jazz vocalists and composers, Theo Bleckmann. There is perhaps no other singer on the planet who is equally at home with the far-flung music and literature of Charles Ives, Kate Bush, Rumi and Phillip Glass. Bleckmann's feathery and dexterous tenor is the lead voice in the 21st Century supergroup, MOSS (featuring Luciana Souza, Lauren Kinhan, Peter Eldridge and Kate McGarry). His latest solo CD, I Dwell in the Possibility, was recorded in a Swiss monastery, interpreting the music and text of Emily Dickenson, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Meredith Monk. For his festival appearance, Bleckmann teams with the 18-piece Grammy- nominated John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble. Featuring special guests Kate McGarry and pianist Uri Caine on Sunday, August 7, the Ensemble will deliver a stunning and sonically sumptuous program featuring songs by Imogen Heap, Jimmy Webb, Ornette Coleman and Kraftwerk. The marriage of Bleckmann's vibrant voice with Hollenbeck's rhythmic rainbow of sound-colors, makes for an invigorating and inviting afternoon of modern music in Newport.
Just as Bleckmann and Feinstein bring us to their jazzy corners of the world, Benin-born Angelique Kidjo isan accomplished African sister-force who brings the music back to the Motherland. She is the latest example of the ancient Roman scribe Pliny the Elder's centuries-old edict "out of Africa, always something new." Fluent in a number of languages - from French, English, her country's traditional zilin vocal techniques, and in her native Fon and Yoruba languages, Kidjo - who has worked with everybody from Roy Hargrove and Herbie Hancock to Carlos Santana - can arguably lay claim to the title "Mama Africa" which originally went to the legendary Miriam Makeba. An electrifying performer who can ignite the most dormant dance genes in the most stoic and stiff wallflower, Ms. Kidjo has released a multitude of recordings that feature an amazing array of cross-cultural collaborations that bring the world together. When she comes to the Newport Stage on Sunday, August 7, she'll be joined by her band which includes guitarist Dominic James, percussionist Magatte Sow, and bassist Itaiguara Brandao, performing some of her greatest hits and selections from her current Grammy-nominated CD, Oyo, and you'll see why she is the personification of Duke Ellington's famous saying "A Drum is a Woman."
Substitute "drum for "bass" and Ellington's saying also fits bandleader/bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding to a tee. Unless you've been hiding under a rock in the last few years, it's hard to ignore the meteoric rise of this twenty-something, Portland born-and-bred, largely self-taught prodigy, who became the youngest instructor in the Berklee School of Music, and released three high-selling and critically acclaimed CD's, Junjo, Esperanza and Chamber Music Society, which garnered the 2011 Grammy Award for Best New Artist. And, if that weren't enough, she has performed for President Obama three times: twice in the White House and once in Norway where the President received the Nobel Peace Prize. Not since Wynton Marsalis arrived on the scene three decades ago has there been an artist who has garnered the attention of the non-jazz public as she has. With her youthful, lithe appearance, and her optimistic, outgoing stage manner and her iconic Afro, it's easy to see why she's a hit. But make no mistake: she can play - just ask her ex-employers Patti Austin, Pat Metheny and McCoy Tyner. But her vocal chops - whether sung in English, Portuguese or Spanish - are equally appealing. Blessed with an airy, but erudite voice, she adds an almost impossible touch of innocence and world-weary experience to standards like "Wild is the Wind" and Brazilian classics like "Ponta de Areia." When she takes the Newport stage on Saturday, August 6, in a set of duos and Sunday, August 7, with a sextet and some special guests, featuring selections especially chosen for the festival, no doubt, Esperanza's sets will be something to see and to tell your grandkids that you were there.
Produced by George Wein and the Newport Festivals Foundation, the Newport Jazz Festival Presented by Natixis Global Asset Management takes over Newport, RI, August 5-7 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport Casino and Fort Adams State Park. The Festival features Wynton Marsalis and Michael Feinstein "Come Fly with Me" with Special Guest Joe Negri on Friday, August 5. Don't miss Wynton Marsalis; Esperanza Spalding and Friends; Hiromi; Regina Carter's Reverse Thread; Al Di Meola World Sinfonia Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody Tour 2011 with Special Guest Gonzalo Rubalcaba; Eddie Palmieri Latin Jazz Band; Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue; Randy Weston's African Rhythms Trio; Michel Camilo "Mano a Mano with Giovanni Hidalgo and Charles Flores; Ambrose Akinmusire Quintet; Joey DeFrancesco Trio; Grace Kelly with guest Phil Woods; Steve Coleman and Five Elements; Mostly Other People Do the Killing; and New Black Eagle Jazz Band; on Saturday, August 6.
On Sunday, August 7, catch Angélique Kidjo; James Farm with Joshua Redman, Aaron Parks, Matt Penman and Eric Harland; Charles Lloyd's Sangam featuring Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland; Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue; Hiromi: The Trio Project featuring Anthony Jackson and Simon Phillips; Mingus Big Band; Ravi Coltrane Quartet; Esperanza Spalding and Friends; Brubeck Brothers Quartet with Special Guest Dave Brubeck; Ravi Coltrane Quartet; Apex: Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green; Miguel Zenón presents the Puerto Rican Songbook with conductor/arranger Guillermo Klein; John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble; Avishai Cohen's Triveni with special guest Anat Cohen; Berklee College of Music: Mario Castro Quintet; Plus a special bonus set: A Meeting of Saxophone Masters featuring Steve Coleman, Ravi Coltrane and Miguel Zenón.
TICKETS & OTHER INFORMATION Tickets for the Newport Jazz Festival Presented by Natixis Global Asset Management are on sale worldwide through www.ticketmaster.com and www.newportjazzfest.net as well as by phone, by mail and at the new Festival office at the Alex and Ani store at One Bowen's Wharf during limited hours. General admission tickets (single-day passes only) also can be purchased at the Newport Visitor Information Center, located at 23 America's Cup Avenue. For general information, craft vendor information or to leave a message for festival staff, call (401) 848-5055. For more information, log on towww.newportjazzfest.net.
Partners Presenting sponsor Natixis Global Asset Management is one of the world's leading asset managers. The 2011 Newport Jazz Festival Presented® by Natixis Global Asset Management also celebrates support from Alex and Ani, Amstel Light, DownBeat, NPR Music, Jazz Times and travel partners JazzFest Travel Inc., Hyatt Regency Newport, The Newport Harbor Hotel and Marina, Marriott Newport and Hotel Viking Newport.
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The 2011 Newport Jazz Festival® is a production of Newport Festivals Foundation, Inc., a pending 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, under license from Festival Productions, Inc. and George Wein; all rights reserved