Barry Harris, John Mosca, Chris Byars
Barry Harris' drummer
Photos by Albert Brooks
JAZZ FESTIVAL (DAY 2)
"Down In The Rondout", Kingston, NY
June 24, 2006
by J Hunter
Notes from the Kingston International Jazz Festival - a growing young tree that could become a mighty oak, if it plays its cards right:
IT CAN HAPPEN HERE: Your perspective gets challenged at Kingston Jazz. The stage is in a parking lot, under an overpass that takes Route 9W over the Hudson River. It's a bit like a breakdancer setting up his cardboard outside of Grand Central Station. But then you check out the surroundings - the historic buildings of the Rondout District, the park across the way that runs parallel to the river - and you say, Yeah, I can hang here. It morphs into your basic Saturday night gazebo concert only instead of the local tunesmiths covering Duke or Satchmo, you've got legends like Barry Harris teaching you how beautiful jazz can be. Harris' quintet closed the show with a set of mellow standards that was the equivalent of a smoky liqueur at the end of a really satisfying meal.
THINK GLOBAL, LIVE LOCAL: Given how many musicians have relocated to upstate New York, Kingston Jazz was great for people-watching and playing, Isn't That ? Vocalist Rebecca Martin was seen walking among the crowd; uber-bassist Larry Grenadier sat at the top of one of the bleachers, grinning at the scene; ex-Archie Shepp drummer Marvin Boogaloo Smith was doing his best Sun Ra, snapping a Japanese fan and decked out in an outfit that could only be described as Tokyo Fabulous.
HANDS ACROSS THE SEA: I spent an enjoyable chunk of the afternoon with Cyril Moshkow and Anna Filipieva, the managing editor and special projects editor, respectively, of the Russian Web site www.jazz.ru. While it was Anna's first trip to America (and her first encounter with jetlag), Cyril travels annually to Moscow, ID, for the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival at the University of Idaho. We spoke about everything from the importance of jazz education, to why Maria Schneider is so popular with Russian musicians, and why her music is so hard to get in the former Soviet Union. Thanks for improving my day, Cyril and Anna. You are truly kulturney.
DAY 2 OFFICIALLY: Kingston Jazz is now a full weekend, beginning with a concert/ceremony Friday night at City Hall. The Rufus Reid Quintet+4 and the String Trio of New York provided the music. (Missed it, sad to say.) The bill under the overpass kicked off Saturday with the John Menegon Quintet; originally billed as a quartet, keyboardist John DeMartino showed up to give full representation to the music from Menegon's new disc, Soul Advice (Maki). The last time I saw Menegon, he was backing up Joe Finn and his son Tom at Albany's annual JAM session. Here it was his own music - jumping trad originals juiced up by the ripping drums of Tani Tabbal, hot saxwork from Colorado resident John Gunther, and the rocked-out guitar of Mark Dziuba, who penned a good chunk of the set.
WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON: You'd think it would be impossible to do a political statement without lyrics, but Ben Allison nailed it. His latest disc, Cowboy Justice (Palmetto), may be one of the most inflammatory musical critiques of the political scene to be recorded in some time. Whether you agreed or didn't agree with his outlook, you couldn't help but be blown away by the compositional intensity and incredible musicianship the Ben Allison Quartet brought this day. Ron Horton's burning horns and Steve Cardenas' fuzz-busting guitar work gave tunes like Tricky Dick and Emergency the intensity they required. (PS You get another chance to see this sometime in September, when Allison comes to The Linda.)
SOMEBODY LOCK UP THE RED BULL: Joe Locke didn't need the microphone to talk to the crowd. He came on ampped, loudly joking with emcee/co-producer (and Dizzy Big Band member) Douglas Purviance, and got hotter from there. Locke is all about enthusiasm - about his music, about his band members, about how far away the crowd was; before his set, he was urging the people on folding chairs to come closer to the stage. The ostensible reason was so he could share their energy, but one thing the mallets maniac does not need is more energy! Locke attacked both vibes and marimba like a man possessed, driven on by the phenomenal rhythm section of bassist Mike Pope and my favorite young drummer, Terreon Tank Gully. Christos Rafalides came on at the end to provide dueling vibes. Highlights included the title track from Locke's new disc Van Gogh By Numbers (Wire Walker) and a scintillating cover of Miles' Blue In Green.
LAST WORDS: In the past, I've debated Kingston Jazz promoter Tom Bellino about the wisdom of scheduling directly against more established fests like Freihofer's and Syracuse. The thing is, though, given the commercial elements that have diluted those events, Kingston Jazz is a welcome alternative. Aside from avoiding the usual logistical nightmares, it's truly a jazz festival, with no compromises to the Smooth Generation.
I said at the top that Kingston Jazz was like a young tree, but it's more like one of the kids I saw laughing and/or dancing with their parents by the stage: It's so great, I don't want it to grow up.
J HUNTER is a former announcer/producer for radio stations in the Capital Region and the Bay Area, including KSJS/San Jose (where he was Assistant Music Director/Jazz programming), Q104 WQBK/Albany, and WSSV/Saratoga. He has also written music and theatre reviews for the Glens Falls Chronicle. He currently resides in Clifton Park.