Newport Jazz Festival 2012
When they joined forces again, a mellow blend of the reeds came to the fore with Ellington's "Mood Indigo," but a high energy take on his "Ring Them Bells," with interactive clarinet weaving and solo trading, won the day as the set came to a rousing end. Special, one-time-only events like this often have minor snags and this one was no exception. Drummer Joey Baron stepped up at the last second to sub for a traffic-detained Lewis Nash, who eventually arrived and reclaimed his throne, but this change in the rhythmic foundation brought an anything-can-happen excitement into the tent.
While the attendance seemed to dip a little bit for Sunday's performances, the quality of music remained high. Violinist Jenny Scheinman opened up the Harbor Stage in duo with Frisell, and they eased the audience into day two. Their set shifted between serenity and playfulness, as both musicians mirrored each other's intentions, finished each other's thoughts and gleefully played cat and mouse ("Rag"). Anat Cohen also returned for another go-'round, joining brothers Yuval Cohen and Avishai Cohen - Trumpet on the Fort Stage. The 3 Cohens delivered a set in support of Family (Anzic, 2011), and performed with telepathic rapport throughout. While Anat favors her tenor saxophone in this band, she picked up the clarinet for another stab at "The Mooche." This Ellington classic garnered plenty of applause, but originals, like "Family" and the über-hip "Shufla De Shufla" provided a better sense of the Cohen family's roots.
While it's impossible to graft a theme onto this festival, big band variety was a trending topic. On Sunday afternoon alone, it was possible to hear Ryan Truesdell's Gil Evans Centennial Project, Vince Giordano & The Nighthawks, and Maria Schneider's Jazz Orchestra. Truesdell's set paid tribute to the great arranger and composer through performances of newly recorded discoveries, like the Indian-spiced "Punjab" and the calming "Look To The Rainbow," which featured guest vocalist Gretchen Parlato, but he also paid tribute to the festival's history. The set-closing "Sister Sadie," which pianist Horace Silver played decades ago at Newport, was but a single example. Schneider's signature harmonies floated through the air and a gentle breeze finally appeared during her orchestra's turn on stage. The highlight of her set was the debut performance of "Home," which was written for the occasion and featured the inimitable Scott Robinson, but their entire show was truly a team effort.
Thirty different acts in total performed during the two-day occupation of Fort Adams and, while staggered starts across the stages allowed eager act-torn listeners to hear bits and pieces of concurrently performing artists, it was impossible to catch it all. It was regretful missing out on guitarist Pat Metheny's Unity Band, drummer Jack DeJohnette, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, pianist Jason Moran, and several others, but the seven full sets and handful of partial performances caught testified to the fact that jazz is alive and well, in all its various states and forms.