Tri-C JazzFest Cleveland 2012: Days 6-12
The night opened with the honoring of Diana Krall's longtime producer Tommy LiPuma, whose name had been officially attached to Tri-C's new Center for Creative Arts two days earlier, and the singer/pianist continually expressed her admiration for her friend throughout the set. "Tommy and I have had fun," she said at one point, refusing to expound on this for comedic effect. Though a short time later she expressly dedicated Fats Waller's "Viper's Drag" to LiPuma, an elbow to the producer's ribs, for sure, but also a chance for the pianist to play humorously against type. One simply doesn't expect the refined Krall to open a song with the words, "I dreamed about a reefer five feet long," and she, of course, knows this.
But some of her other song selections were surprising as well. Though she recently recorded a version Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate," mention of the songwriter's name garnered scant applause from her audience. ("Ah, one person. In the back row," Krall observed.) More surprising was her decision to close the show with Tom Waits' "Jockey Full of Bourbon." Although she did have the good sense to come back for an encore with "Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars," which was, no doubt, more her audience's speed. Earlier, she had played "So Nice (Summer Samba)" to warm, breezy effect, had paid tribute to Nat King`` Cole and Oscar Peterson with "I'll String Along with You" and "I Was Doing All Right," respectively, invoked shades of husband Elvis Costello's vocals on "Abandoned Masquerade," a song penned by the couple, and stuck to more predictable pop in performing Burt Bacharach's "Walk On By."
The character of her piano playing also seemed to straddle a line between the refined and the common, sounding by turns classical and pop in orientation. She moved to stride on "Viper's Drag" and "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," part of a four-song run played without her band that also featured the Dylan tune and "Don't Fence Me In." On all the other numbers she received strong support from drummer Karriem Riggins, bassist Robert Hurst and guitarist Anthony Wilson. Wilson, especially, was afforded a good deal of solo space, and he picked out sharp single note lines with vibrant chordal shading in a Jim Hall vein. In all, it was a pleasant evening of music that entertained with a refined but folksy charm, and tossed in a healthy dose of misdirection.
The festival closed at Nighttown, the standout jazz club in Northeast Ohio. Manning the tight quarters on the room's bandstand was TCJF SoundWorks, the festival's resident ensemble formed in 2009. Trombonist Chris Anderson led the group this year, which, absent the guest stars from the previous two outingsCharlie Haden in 2010 and Benny Golson and Ndugu Chancler in 2011focused on compositions from those within their midst.
The five-number second set featured two compositions by pianist Chip Stephens ("C Hip's Blues" and "Sadness and Soul"), one from saxophonist Howie Smith ("A Mingus, A Mongus"), one from Anderson ("Unsettling Nature"), plus a reading of saxophonist Michael Brecker's "Take a Walk." While each player got ample soloing time (with the exception of drummer Chris Baker, whose lone solo, a tightly spliced affair of rhythmic jump cuts, came on the closer, "Unsettling Nature"), Smith and trumpeter Sean Jones led the way with extended statements, and rightly so.
Switching between alto and soprano, Smith was, as ever, explorative and inventive, often charging into high-register, slightly atonal terrain to capture the emotive effect he was after. Whether working slow and thoughtful with muted trumpet pressed directly into the microphone, as on "Sadness and Soul," or working into frothy glissando with an open trumpet, Jones constructed several nicely realized solos.
Stephens, ever a serious twist to his brow (in something like Stephen Colbert fashion), mixed heavy block chords with extended racing lines that spun into rolling fits and back to jumping chords. He was also key in support, shifting from traditional comps to something more abstract in order to complement a shift in soloist or to drive the music in one direction or another himself. Klayman, for example, played a solid bop tenor, and so required something different from his pianist than Smith might. Bassist Glenn Holmes opened "Take a Walk," appropriately enough, but gave a good deal more than walking lines in his extended, nuanced solo that fed effortlessly into the two-note groove that then drove the tune. On his "Unsettling Nature," Anderson worked from slow, considered statements into intense scales and tight warbling, which was echoed by Stephens' piano and Baker's interesting shift into rock drumming.
Early in the set, Anderson had invited the audience to "sweat, clap your hands, drool." All fitting responses to music made from divergent voices that reached not for common themes and expected resolutions, but banged around a bit, searching, unconcerned that a tidy blend and finish be found. So, the final show of this year's festival was not a conclusive goodbye, but a call to forth and continue to explore the art form known as jazz.
All Photos: Matt Marshall