Friday, July 23, 2010
CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival Has Sax Appeal
Freelance Writer Eugene Holley, Jr. gives his take on lyrical ability of saxophonists performing at the CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival
Saxophonists want to sound like singers, and no wonder: that instrument comes very close to mirroring the flexibility of the human voice; Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane all had that lyrical ability to make the horn sing. And the saxophonists appearing at the CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival are carrying on that splendid tradition in a myriad of ways.
Alto saxophonist Marshall Allen may be the oldest horn player listed here, born in 1924 in Kentucky; but, his pioneering work with the Saturn-based bandleader/composer/pianist Sun Ra, makes him the youngest, musically. Though his piercing alto sound reaches into the stratosphere, it is rooted in the "mainstream" sounds of Johnny Hodges and Don Byas. Allen was a member of Sun Ra's band from 1958, and assumed leadership of the orchestra in 1995 after Ra died two years earlier. With the exception of tenor giant John Gilmore, Allen's improvisational imprimatur is most closely associated with Ra, though his most recent CD as a leader, Cosmic Tsunami, was released in 2004. When Mr. Allen brings extraterrestrial A-Game down from the heavens to the bandstand, prepare yourself for an event of colossal music-making. Marshall Allen-Matthew Shipp-Joe Allen performs on the Quad Stage on Sunday, August 8.
If there's any player on the scene who could one day claim Sonny Rollins' title as the new Saxophone Colossus, it's the Detroit-born JD Allen. Blessed with a Promethean tone, along with a complete command of the instrument, the comparison to Rollins also refers to Allen's choice of presentation with his pianoless trio consisting of drummer Rudy Royston and bassist Gregg August (remember Rollins' terrific triad on Night at the Village Vanguard?). An alumnus of Betty Carter's ensemble, Allen has become a forced to be reckoned with in the last few years, with his four recordings as a leader, including his last two stupendous Sunnyside CD's, I Am I Am, and Shine! Make no mistake; Mr. Allen is advancing the sax trio idiom with his own comprehensive and compelling musicianship. JD Allen Trio performs on the Quad Stage on Saturday, August 7.
The Ohio-born, California-raised Mark Turner is also advancing the saxophone tradition in this century. Where JD Allen comes out of Sonny Rollins, the oblique tenor/alto/clarinet sound dopplegangs Warne Marsh, the exceptional alto saxophonist associated with pianist Lennie Tristano, with snatches of John Coltrane. Turner doesn't really play "solos;" rather, he plays ideas, and his improvisations take the listener to unexpected places, and its well worth the trip! He's collaborated with some of the finest artists on the scene, including guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel, and he's a founding member of the trio Fly, with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard on the Quad Stage on Saturday, August 7. Though his last CD, Dharma Days was released in 2001, Turner made news recently, coming back from a debilitating hand injury he suffered in 2008. To say that the jazz world welcomes his return, is to state the obvious.
Whereas Sonny Rollins and Warne Marsh are musical fathers for JD Allen and Mark Turner, the legendary birdologist Phil Woods, Dave Liebman, and George Coleman are the inspirations for the alto saxophonist/Floridian David Binney. In his decades on the scene he's worked with everybody from Uri Caine, Aretha Franklin, Maceo Parker, to Maria Schneider and the Gil Evans Orchestra. Binney's alto sound is laser-like, and it cuts through genres and cliches like a hot knife through butter, as his dozen-plus CDs prove, including his latest, Alizo, a modern and moving "blowing session" featuring Wayne Shorter's "Toy Tune," Sam Rivers' "Fuchsia Swing Song," and Monk's "Think of One." You'll be thinking of Binney long after he takes the bandstand. David Binney Band performs on the Quad Stage on Sunday, August 8.
The Israeli tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen has also made her presence felt ever since she landed in the Big Apple in 1999. Described by The New York Times as "an artist who likes to mix things up," Cohen's poetic and pithy horn lines seamlessly bop and weave through straight-ahead, klezmer, world, Latin and Afro-Brazilian genres, as evidenced by her last two CDs Notes From the Village (2008) - where she updates Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," - and her new recording, Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard, A Benny Goodman tribute. A Berklee grad, Cohen won the Rising Star-Clarinet Category in DownBeat's Critics Poll in 2007 and 2008, and she also named Clarinetist of the Year by the Jazz Journalist Association those same years. If, as Duke Ellington said, that "A Drum is a Woman," then Anat Cohen proves that the clarinet and the saxophone are lady like. Anat Cohen performs on the Harbor Stage on Saturday, August 7.
That also holds true for the teenage, Korean-American from Massachusetts, alto saxophonist Grace Kelly, the youngest "Alto Saxophone Rising Star" winner in DownBeat's 57th Annual Critics Poll. She grew up playing classical piano, switched to sax, loved Stan Getz, and currently studies with Greg Osby, Frank Tiberi and Allan Chase. She participated in the certificate program at both Brookline Music School and became and is the youngest ever to complete the New England Conservatory Preparatory School's four-year Jazz Studies Certificate Program. It's hard to believe that this baby-faced Cannonball Adderley-meets-David Sanborn sounding teen released four CDs as a leader, including her critically-acclaimed Mood Changes and GracefulLee, with her mentor, the ageless wonder, Lee Konitz. When you see her at this festival, where she will also display her vocal chops, it will no doubt be the kind of "I was there" moment George Wein's festivals have been known for. Gracy Kelly kicks off the opening night concert featuring Jamie Cullum on Friday, August 6, at 8:00 pm.
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. The CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival features Herbie Hancock; Chick Corea Freedom Band with Kenny Garrett, Christian McBride & Roy Haynes; Ahmad Jamal; Wynton Marsalis Quintet with special guest Dave Brubeck; Chris Botti; Jamie Cullum; Maria Schneider Orchestra; Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra with special guest Jon Faddis and many more.
TICKETS & OTHER INFORMATION All tickets for the CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival are available on-line, by phone and at the Festival office at 22 Broadway in Newport 11:00 am - 6:00 pm Tuesday through Friday. 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 and the complete schedule, log on to www.newportjazzfest.net.
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