Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Enjoy A Handful of Keys at CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival*
Writer Eugene Holley, Jr. gives his take on five pianists performing at CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival
NEWPORT, RI - With the all-world pianistic talent that is assembled at an event as great and grand as the CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival, at its most basic element, it's like a rent party on a massive scale. Yes, rent party: those legendary piano cutting sessions that sprang up in Harlem during its illustrious Renaissance, where ivory ticklers would try to outdo each other. Although the assembled masters of the 88 keys don't have to go at each other like they did back in the day, nevertheless the festival venue offers the same kind of excitement and opportunity to hear the world's greatest pianists take a turn on the ivories.
Sponsored by CareFusion, a leading medical device company, and produced by George Wein's New Festival Productions, LLC, the CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival takes over Newport, RI, August 6 - 8 at the International Tennis Hall of Fame at Newport Casino and Fort Adams State Park.
Simply put, Ahmad Jamal is one of the greatest living pianists on the planet - period! A Pittsburgh-born child prodigy, equally educated in Bach, Erroll Garner and Art Tatum, Jamal found fame in Chicago with his trademarked brand of trio-based "syncopated silence." He captured his historic hit 1958 LP, But Not for Me: Ahmad Jamal Live at the Pershing, with his classic trio consisting of bassist Israel Crosby and New Orleans drummer Vernal Fournier, and was a major influence on pianists and non-pianists including Miles Davis - who recorded an orchestral version of Jamal's "New Rhumba" with Gil Evans. Still going strong at 80, Jamal continues to redefine and refine his immortal pianistic genius with the release of his latest CD, A Quiet Time, a quintessential, Jamalesque assemblage of show tunes, original compositions and jazz standards like Randy Weston's "High Fly," that proves that this piano wunderkind is still at the top of his game. Ahmad Jamal performs on the Fort Stage on Saturday, August 7.
Another Chicagoan, Herbie Hancock also has been at the top of his game ever since he was discovered by Donald Byrd in 1959 and was an integral member of Miles Davis' legendary 60s group, while composing and recording modern day jazz standards "Watermelon Man" and "Maiden Voyage" for Blue Note records during that period. In the 70s, he ushered in a new era of jazz/funk/fusion with the smash LP, Headhunters, and a decade later, his MTV-friendly "Rockit" blazed a trail where jazz and hip-hop could both travel. And, from the 90s to now, Hancock has put his soulful stamp on electronica, pop, world music, George Gershwin, and astonished everyone in 2008 by winning the Grammy for Album of the Year for The Joni Letters, his beautiful tribute to Joni Mitchell. This year, Hancock celebrates his 70th circle around the sun, with his new CD, The Imagine Project; featuring collaborations recorded around the world, including British guitarist Jeff Beck, Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar and his daughter, Anoushka, rocker Dave Matthews in San Francisco, and Oumou Sangaré in Mali. At this stage of his life, it is only fitting that this kind of global project can fully engage Hancock's ever-evolving genius. Herbie Hancock performs on the Fort Stage on Sunday, August 8.
Born just one year before Hancock in 1941, Chick Corea has been his fellow traveler (as evidenced by their intimate and engaging duet recording). Corea also played with Miles Davis in the 60s, and was one of fusion's fathers, as the co-founder of Return to Forever, and he penned a number of jazz standards, including "Spain," "Matrix," and "Light as a Feather." After decades of playing every genre - from the classics to solo piano - 2010 marks a banner year for Corea. A short documentary on him, directed by producer Bob Belden debuted in January. And in the summer, Corea tours with The Freedom Band, featuring bassist Christian McBride, saxophonist Kenny Garrett, and 85-year old drummer Roy Haynes, who also reunites with bassist Miroslav Vitous and Corea, as they revisit their 1968 landmark trio recording Now He Sings, Now he Sobs. No doubt Corea and his fountain of youth triad will let everybody know that their telepathic trio music still dances and trances after all of these years. Chick Corea Freedom Band performs on the Fort Stage on Saturday, August 7.
Corea, like Jamal and Hancock, has influenced numerous pianists around the world, as evidenced by the beautiful and talented Azerbaijan-born, Rotterdam-based composer-pianist-bandleader Amina Figarova. Her newly-released CD, Sketches, is an invigorating and affectionate collection of original compositions written in the mode of the classic Blue Note recordings of Corea, Hancock, Wayne Shorter, et al, and includes a selection inspired by the New Orleans Katrina tragedy. Born in 1966, Figarova was a student of the piano at an early age; she studied at Baku University, the Rotterdam Conservatory and Berklee College of Music. She made her recording debut with the group Attraction in 1994, and was accepted four years later into the Thelonious Monk Jazz Colony in Aspen, Colorado. With her husband multi-flutist Bart Platteau, Figarova leads a sextet reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's late 60s recordings, The Prisoner and Speak Like a Child. Howard Mandel, jazz writer and president of the Jazz Journalist Association, wrote that Figarova's "measured, graceful, touching pianism and coolly-controlled ensemble writing demonstrate commitment and ease with a jazz idiom," as we will hear when she makes her impressive Newport debut on the Fort Stage on Sunday, August 8.
It should come as no surprise that only George Wein could assemble this staggering array of keyboardists. Being an exceptional pianist himself, from his Boston days, where he heard and emulated the great piano greats Teddy Wilson and Earl Hines, and in his early incarnation as the owner of the fabled Boston club, Storyville. "I don't know whether I wanted to be a musician, but I always was a musician; it's one of those things," Wein said in a 2004 interview on allaboutjazz.com. "During high school and then while I was in the Army I played the piano and it helped me a lot. And when I went to college I played, sometimes seven nights and then Sunday afternoon while I was studying. You know, I was working with Max Kaminsky and Pee Wee Russell. I was working full time quite a bit of the time while I was in college." No dilettante on the keys, Wein can trade with the best of them (check out his 1955 recording, Wein Women and Song - one of his 11 recordings as a leader. With all of the best pianists appearing in the foreground, don't miss this youthful octogenarian in control of the keys with his Newport All-Stars featuring Howard Alden, Randy Brecker, Randy Sandke and special guest Bob Brookmeyer on the Harbor Stage on Saturday, August 7. And, don't be surprised if you catch him sitting in an impromptu jam session or a special solo, showing everybody how it's done, on the one!
There's plenty of piano magic scheduled to the hit the stages, including Jamie Cullum at the International Tennis Hall of Fame on Friday, August 6, Jason Moran and Matthew Shipp on Sunday, August 8, plus many others.
The CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival schedule features:
FRIDAY, AUGUST 6 ~ 8:00 pm
International Tennis Hall of Fame, 194 Bellevue Avenue
Jamie Cullum / Grace Kelly
SATURDAY, AUGUST 7 ~ 11:30 am - 7:00 pm
Fort Adams State Park, Harrison Avenue
Chick Corea Freedom Band with Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride & Roy Haynes / Jamie Cullum / Maria Schneider Orchestra / Ahmad Jamal / Jazz Mafia's Brass, Bows & Beats / Anat Cohen / Newport All-Stars with Howard Alden, Randy Brecker, Randy Sandke & George Wein and special guest Bob Brookmeyer / Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing / Darcy James Argue's Secret Society with special guest Bob Brookmeyer / Fly: Jeff Ballard, Larry Grenadier & Mark Turner / JD Allen Trio / Julian Lage Group / Trio Da Paz with Harry Allen / Rez Abbasi's Acoustic Quartet / Berklee Global Jazz Institute Septet
SUNDAY, AUGUST 8 ~ 11:30 am - 7:00 pm
Fort Adams State Park, Harrison Avenue
Herbie Hancock / Chris Botti / Wynton Marsalis / Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra / Amina Figarova / Conrad Herwig's Latin Side of Herbie / Jon Faddis / Ken Vandermark's Powerhouse Sound / David Binney Band featuring Brian Blade, Craig Taborn & Eivind Opsvik / Marshall Allen-Matthew Shipp-Joe Morris / Jason Moran Bandwagon with Jenny Scheinman / Ben Allison Band with Jenny Scheinman, Shane Endsley, Steve Cardenas & Rudy Royston / Gretchen Parlato / Matt Wilson Quartet / Dave Douglas & Brass Fantasy
TICKETS & OTHER INFORMATION
All tickets for the CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival are available on-line, by phone, by mail and at the Festival office at 22 Broadway in Newport Tuesdays Noon - 4:00 pm, Thursdays 2:00 - 7:00 pm, Fridays Noon - 4:00 pm and Saturdays 10:00 am - 1:00 pm. Stop by the Festival office to find out about special discount ticket offers, which are available for a limited time only.
General admission tickets (single-day passes only) also can be purchased in person at the Newport Visitor Information Center, located at 23 America's Cup Avenue. Festival tickets are available on-line at www.ticketmaster.com or by telephone at 1-800-745-3000. Service charges apply.
For general information, craft vendor information or to leave a message for festival staff, call the festival hotline at (401) 848-5055. For more information, log on to www.newportjazzfest.net.
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Newport Jazz Festival(r) is a registered service mark of George Wein and Festival Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.