Return To Forever
Fieldwork's Vijay Iyer
Lee Shaw Trio
THE (CONCERT) YEAR IN REVIEW:
TOP 5 JAZZ SHOWS AND MORE OF 2008
by J Hunter
Okay, in the spirit of energy conservation, Im skipping my usual disorganized ramblings in favor of well, relatively organized ramblings! Work for you? Then lets light this candle!
THE MOST VOLUBLE PLAYER AWARD -- JAMES MOODY (still one of the best tenor players in the game) kept both the MONTEREY JAZZ ALL-STARS and the audience at Proctors in stitches with a hilarious series of ex tempore monologues. Moodys sense of humor extended to the music, too, via a side-splitting take on Pennies from Heaven that seriously re-wrote the biography of Monterey Jazz musical director BENNY GREEN.
THE JAZZ BOOMERANG AWARD TERENCE BLANCHARD just kept coming back: Blanchard and Moody made up Monterey Jazz front line; Blanchards own quintet did two shows over three days in Saratoga (at SPAC and Skidmore Jazz Institute, respectively); and he led a full-orchestra rendering of A Tale of Gods Will (Requiem for Katrina) at Tanglewood. Throw in his adjunct gig at Skidmore, and Blanchard could have applied for Resident status.
THE LOCAL HERO AWARD (Concert Division) TIM COAKLEY and his merry band at A PLACE FOR JAZZ gave the Capital Region yet another vibrant and diverse season, presenting BILL CHARLAP, the LEE RUSSO QUARTET, BEN ALLISON & MAN SIZE SAFE, JOE LOCKE (who got nosed out by Blanchard for the Jazz Boomerang) and KARRIN ALLYSON. Of all the venues jazz calls home in this area, APFJ remains in a class by itself.
THE WERE PUTTIN THE BAND BACK TOGETHER AWARD Most reunion tours tank because they just cant recapture the moment. Not RETURN TO FOREVER, who were as volcanic at Freihofers Jazz Festival as they were back in the day. They also closed a wild Saturday show that featured DEEDEE BRIDGEWATER, SAXOPHONE SUMMIT, CONRAD HERWIGS LATIN SIDE OF (Miles/Trane/Shorter), JENNY SCHEINMANN, and more!
THE NEW GIG ON THE BLOCK AWARD EMPAC made its debut in October, and shows by WYNTON MARSALIS JAZZ @ LINCOLN CENTER ORCHESTRA, ROY HAYNES & THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH BAND, and FIELDWORK (featuring VIJAY IYER) were part of the festivities. While RPIs new venue is an amazing facility, its commitment to live jazz (beyond the grand opening celebration) remains to be seen. Lets keep hope alive!
And now, to honor Keith Olbermann and Steven Colbert, will you please rise as we present THE TOP 5 CAPITAL REGION JAZZ SHOWS OF 2008!
#5 JOE LOVANO QUARTET
Williamstown Jazz Festival
62 Center for the Arts, Williams College Williamstown, MA
The King of New York gets this nod because the ROBERT GLASPER TRIO turned right instead of left, driving all the way to Boston in the process! Lovano (the headliner of WJFs anchor concert) graciously agreed to play first and then completely blew the doors off the joint with a searing tribute to the late tenor icon DEWEY REDMAN, aided by Redman alums MATT WILSON, FRANK KIMBROUGH and JOHN MENEGON. The Glasper Trio did eventually make the gig, but their jittery jazz/hip-hop hybrid simply couldnt match what came before.
#4 EITHER/ORCHESTRA, CINDY BLACKMAN, and the LEE SHAW TRIO
Jazz at the Lake 08 (Day 2)
Shepard Park Lake George, NY
If the first day of Lake George Jazz Weekends 25th anniversary wasnt enough to catch a new set of angels for the best little jazz festival in New York, then the second day would have surely done the trick: Shaw gave us a taste of her then-unreleased CD/DVD package Live in Graz (ARC); Blackman left her trademark trippy-hippie togs at home, leaving room in her bag for several hundred megatons of funk-filled fusion; and E/O proved for the second straight year that big band and big fun are not mutually exclusive concepts.
#3 BELA FLECK & THE FLECKTONES HOLIDAY SHOW (feat. ANDY STATMAN)
Hart Theatre @ the Egg
Concerts like this are why I dont file this column until the last show is done! This wasnt your grandfathers Christmas show: No red sweaters, no roaring fires, no Bataan Death March-length singalongs just your basic holiday classics processed through the multifaceted prism of a band that is truly like no other. (Hey, the drummer plays something that looks like a mutant Guitar Hero controller!) If you chose Trans-Siberian Orchestra over Béla Fleck & Flecktones, leave your Cool Card with the troll at the door, and dont even think about asking for a bailout!
#2 ERNESTINE ANDERSON
Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival
Palace Theatre Albany, NY
Watching her hobble across the stage, youd have thought Anderson would struggle to even pick up the microphone, let alone sing into it. Not only did she pick it up, but the octogenarian vocal legend raised the roof of Albany Riverfronts wet-weather venue with a galvanizing set of jazz and blues standards. DAVID SANBORN, the BRUBECK BROTHERS QUARTET, and KEITH PRAYS BIG SOUL ENSEMBLE did great work of their own on this soggy afternoon, but Anderson was literally the Queen of the Hop.
and the #1 Capital Region Jazz Show of 2008 is A TIE!!!!
CHRIS POTTERS UNDERGROUND BRAD MEHLDAU TRIO HARLAND
Filene Concert Series
Filene Recital Hall, Skidmore College Saratoga Springs, NY
As if their free summer shows werent enough, everybodys favorite liberal-arts school doubled down with a bargain-priced concert series that showed the scope of jazz in the 21st century: Potter proved his Underground side project should definitely be his primary focus; Mehldau showed why many believe hes the premier pianist of his generation; and Eric Harland made his debut as a leader with a truly uplifting set of originals. Percussion shaman YACUB ADDY closed out the series, but the real gold was in the first three shows.
And thats a wrap! Stay safe, enjoy your holidays and your loved ones, and well see you in 2009. Peace!
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) and Q104 WQBK/Albany. He is a frequent contributor to the web site All About Jazz and to the monthly music magazine State of Mind. He currently resides in Clifton Park.