Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Voices and Violins Speak Volumes At CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival August 6 - 8
Freelance Writer Eugene Holley, Jr. takes a look at singers and string players
Voices and strings represent one of the most harmonious pairings in jazz. One only has to hear those sublime Norman Granz-produced Ella Fitzgerald records for aural evidence of that special musical marriage. Both instruments are adaptable to every idiom and genre in the jazz continuum in their own right. And the masters of the violin and the voice assembled at the CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival, set for August 6 - 8, show that their skills positively highlight a high level of musicianship that represents tradition in transition.
From Stuff Smith and Joe Venuti to Jon-Luc Ponty and Regina Carter, the jazz violinist has been there, from swing to bop and beyond. The Seattle-born violinist Mark O'Connor has synthesized the jazz violin continuum and possesses a durable and dynamic style that is at home in New York and Nashville. His early apprenticeship with the legendary Stephane Grappelli cemented his link to swing, and his work with Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Randy Travis gave him extraordinary country cred. His broad and bold sound made him a favorite accompanist/soloist with Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer. Connor consolidates those influences in his Hot Swing Trio, and their latest CD, Mark O'Connor's Hot Swing Trio Live in New York (OMAC) is a snappy, 21st Century update of the frenetic, early '30s "Gypsy swing" of Grappelli and guitarist Django Reinhart, with standards by Fats Waller, George Gershwin and Ellington. Mark O'Connor's formidable fiddle closes the gap between bop and bluegrass. O'Connor performs at 12:50 pm on Saturday, August 7, on the Harbor Stage.
Jenny Scheinman is another violinist/alchemist who can transfer any number of moods and grooves and make them swing. She got her start in the Bay Area with an appearance at Yoshi's in 1999, gigged with quartet featuring drummer Scott Amendola, moved to Brooklyn that same year, and scored a number of impressive gigs at that borough's Barbes club. She made a name for herself with a number of high-profile gigs with Bill Frissell, Norah Jones, Myra Melford, and Sean Lennon. In 2008, she released Crossing the Field (Koch), her best instrumental date, followed by her self-titled CD that showcased - along with her florid and finessed violin playing - her Appalachian-ached vocals, on tunes like Lucinda William's "King of Hearts," "Twilight Time" by the Platters, Bob Dylan's "When I Was Young", Mississippi John Hurt's "Miss Collins," and Tom Waits' "Johnsburg, Illinois." Writing for Allaboutjazz.com, Thom Jurek wrote, "Scheinman's voice is plaintive at its core, but it's disciplined and authentic." When Scheinman comes to the festival stage, the audience will hear a musician whose voice is an extension of her violin and vice-versa, hence the power and plurality of her art. She performs with the Ben Allison Band on Sunday, August 8, at 11:20 am on the Harbor Stage.
Vocalist Gretchen Parlato's airy alto displays a Paul Desmond-like, saxophonistic vocal dexterity that has a global passport that enables her to sing and swing in any idiom, anywhere. Her rise at the change of century heralds the birth of the planetary vocalist. In a short time, the California-born Parlato went from being a promising UCLA grad to the winner of Thelonious Monk International Jazz Vocals Competitionin 2003; she released her self-titled debut two years later. But it was her 2009 CD, In a Dream (ObliqSound), that launched her into the critical stratosphere, which her silken interpretations of Herbie Hancock's "Butterfly," Michael Jackson's "I Can't Help It," SWV's "Weak," and the Wayne Shorter/Miles Davis, classic, "E.S.P," powered by a crew of young Turks including keyboardist Aaron Parks and the African guitarist Lionel Loueke. So it's no wonder the CD was hailed by Billboard magazine as "the most alluring vocal jazz album of 2009," and she was hailed by Herbie Hancock as "a singer with a deep, almost magical connection to the music." So be prepared for Parlato to take you on a trip, where her vocals will visit jazz-lounge, Brazilian and Latin ports-of-call, without leaving your festival seat. Gretchen Parlato performs at 12:30 pm on Sunday, August 8, on the new Quad Stage.
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 Tuesday through Friday 11:00 am - 6:00 pm. The box office and doors at the International Tennis Hall of Fame will open on Friday night at 6:30 pm. The ticket office at Fort Adams State Park, 90 Fort Adams Drive, Newport, will open at 9:00 am on Saturday and Sunday.
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. # # # Newport Jazz Festival is a registered service mark of George Wein and Festival Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.
Carolyn McClair Public Relations