The Jazz.com Blog
October 01, 2008 · 2 comments
Below Roanna Forman concludes her two-part article on the Berklee BeanTown Jazz Festival, which took place last weekend. (For part one of her article, click here.) Even if the sun went into hiding, the women shined at this event, whose participants included Cindy Blackman, Terri Lyne Carrington, Geri Allen, Patrice Rushen and Manami Morita, among others. Read on below. T.G.
Friday, September 26
“It’s a pleasure to be surrounded by so many talented women,” Terri Lyne Carrington said during her set. In contrast to Cindy Blackman, whose sidemen in the preceding band were all side-men, Carrington had included Dutch sax player Tineke Postma and keyboardists Patrice Rushen and Geri Allen. Rounding out the sextet were Boston trumpeter Jason Palmer and electric bassist Matt Garrison.
The show began with the opening lines of “Que Sera Sera” piped in over the loudspeaker. (When Terri was just a little girl, she asked her mother what would she be—playing with Clark Terry at age 10, on the road with all the greats in her youth, and coming home to an honorary doctorate at Berklee?) Then, over a hip-hop line, Terri Lyne’s personnel filed out. When a rapper followed the band and jumped around with unintelligible lines, I grimaced, but was at least relieved that he never grabbed for his privates and yelled “yo.”
But musically, the show held my interest, and that’s what counts. Overall, Carrington is a steady, rolling rhythmic presence, maintaining and pushing the beat, not kicking it. She played refined riffs behind the action, and kept it all together firmly. She wasn’t as intense as Blackman—both women just feel their music differently. They’re players of such stature that “better” or “worse” are just not the right descriptors.
Each tune segued into the next, so the set moved well. The more intricate lines of the heads were intelligently written, with sax and trumpet adding drama and color, often doubling, and occasionally playing a scored dissonant line. Jason Palmer’s fast trumpet phrases have an inner logic, and his solos are well constructed. Tineke Postma, who looks like a cross between Joni Mitchell and Dominique Eade, laid down excellent lines. She did some gorgeous and gutsy tenor playing on the slow-moving “Shh,” pulling out all the stops with lyrical but angular phrases. Matt Garrison’s electric bass (he switched at one point to a stand-up electric bass) is flashy and guitaristic. Slides, tremolos, flamenco embellishments, and blues licks were all in there. That’s not to detract from his chops, although his main role was to lay down the groove for the band in this fusion / funk / freeform medley.
With a steady roll, Patrice Rushen cooked with fast-paced lines, and complemented Geri Allen, whose more conventional piano work moved from delicacy into strength when a tune called for it. The two keyboards traded comments when they weren’t soloing or backing up the band. When Geri Allen stepped over to the electric keyboards for the final number, she built her solo to a poised intensity, injecting exciting melodic elements into funk grooves. It was one of the most satisfying moments of the evening.
As for Carrington’s finale, she was like a rock, moving fluidly around her set with steady hand and subtle colors. You really got the feeling she could keep going forever—that’s the sign of a great musician.
Saturday, September 27
I was all set to join thousands of others in Boston’s South End on Saturday, (last year 70,000 people showed up) and stroll, eat, and listen for free to an excellent lineup, including locals and internationally known artists. But, although the Red Sox won this week under clear skies, the free performances on Saturday afternoon just didn’t happen. The concert was canceled due to rain.
They had a lot planned, including vocalist Kurt Elling, who writes lyrics to the likes of Coltrane solos; Randy Weston; saxophonist Javon Jackson, with special guest Les McCann; guitarist Russell Malone; and the group Gold Sounds, comprised of James Carter (horns), Cyrus Chestnut (keyboards), Ali Jackson (percussion and vocals), and Reginald Veal (bass and vocals). Gold Sounds stunned listeners in 2005 with renditions of songs by indie rock group “Pavement.” Also booked was Hey Rim Jeon, a Korean-born young pianist who is now recording Mona Lisa Puzzle with Herbie Hancock’s rhythm section (Terri Lyne Carrington, James Genus, and Richie Barshay).
Giving its talent as well as its name to the event, Berklee had booked several faculty-led groups for Saturday. Veteran drummer Ralph Petersen’s Unity Project is an organ group that focuses on Larry Young’s music. (Petersen began his career with Art Blakey’s two-drummer big band over twenty years ago, as a college junior.) Enclave, a local Afro-Latin post-modern free and fusion band, is led by Berklee faculty member Rebecca Cline on piano and Hilary Noble on sax and flute, with drummer Steve Langone, and bassist Fernando Huergo—all first call Latin jazz rhythm section players in the Boston area for many years. Also featured were Berklee faculty member saxophonist Walter Beasley, and alumnus André Ward, a highly successful smooth jazz sax player. Faculty member Fernando Brandao, flutist and composer, was set to bring his septet, whose members include the accomplished vocalist Teresa Ines, gifted pianist and bass player (and Berklee alum) Gilad Barkan, and trumpeter and faculty member Greg Hopkins.
Featured too was Berklee’s All-Star Ensemble. Every member has a full-tuition scholarship, and students play everything from jazz, pop, and hip-hop to what I’ll call hip-pop. To hear a few examples, go here. Of the four selections, only one is straight-ahead jazz, and I think I heard a drum machine in there.
Finally, JazzBoston.org sponsored a “Meet Boston’s Musicians,” tent, an idea that other cities may be replicating—but if they’re not, they certainly should be. It’s a chance for fans and players alike to trade notes with a town’s working musicians, to network, and to show support for local players.
Street performers were scheduled to entertain with Brazilian sounds from the Bahia region, so it would have been a great time. Lesson learned? Next year, we all pray hard for sunshine. Write it into the contract.
This blog entry posted by Roanna Forman