Coverage of the 2009 tanglewood jazz festival

Below are links to Roanna Forman's reviews from the 2009 Tanglewood Jazz Festival.




Regina Carter at Tanglewood

Half ethnomusicology lecture, half concert, Regina Carter's performance was significant on many levels. It introduced audiences African music, through field recordings she played and with her own interpretations. Searching back to the real roots of jazz, these melodies from her upcoming CD Reverse Thread, due out in January 2010, are the precursor to the blues, and the music that would develop from it….

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Kenny Barron and Mulgrew Miller at Tanglewood

Facing each other on nine-foot grands, these two pianists played through the harmonic and stylistic interstices of several standards and one blues with relaxed virtuosity. Although Kenny Barron is a more mature player, Mulgrew Miller more than rose to the occasion, notably playing complex lines as opposed to Kenny Barron’s chordal motion and rich harmonization….

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Dreaming the Duke at Tanglewood

Pairing classical soprano Harolyn Blackwell and jazz singer Nnenna Freelon in a program of Duke Ellington songs brought out, among other things, the enduring power of his music, which worked equally well with both singers. Mark Garson's arrangements for three horns (sax, trumpet, trombone), string quartet, piano bass, and drums and tried out some unusual ideas. Such as—"Caravan" as a ballad fugue for strings over a swing tempo, and subtly quoting "Maiden Voyage" behind sections of "In a Sentimental Mood." Scoring "A Train” as a slow, attenuated vocalise worked because it laid bare and showed off the beauty of the line….

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John Pizzarelli at Tanglewood

Owing either to the weather (gorgeous); the format (pleasant and amusing); his music (engaging, solid and polished); his dad (still playing metronomic rhythm and velvety solo guitar); or his Foxwoods commercial, John Pizzarelli was the biggest draw of the Festival. Broadcasting his "Radio Deluxe" show from "high atop the Berkshires," Pizzarelli, his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, and preteen daughter Madeline, hosted a two-hour throwback to the days when his Bucky sat by the AM/FM to hear the latest swing….

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Paquito D’Rivera at Tanglewood

Conversations with Cachao, commissioned when D'Rivera was composer-in-residence at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts and premiered in 2007, was originally a double concerto for contrabass, clarinet/alto sax, percussion and piano with orchestra, but was performed at Tanglewood as an ensemble of the four soloists: D'Rivera on woodwinds, Garah Landes on piano and his brother Greg on percussion, featuring Robert Black's wonderful bass work as the principal voice of "Cachao"—Cuba's beloved bassist Israel López Cachao….

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The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra at Tanglewood

This sixteen-piece big band is the current iteration of the original Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra started by those two musicians in 1966. Performing each Monday night at New York’s Village Vanguard, the band is currently concentrating on less well known works in the Jones-Lewis book. They opened with the spiky “Mean What You Say,” featuring Scott Wendholt’s engaging, urbane lines….

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Ben Powell at Tanglewood

With a lovely tone, sophisticated lyricism, and a wonderful sense of swing on classics like “Opportunity,” “Tournesol”, “I Won’t Dance” and the original “Light” from his CD of the same name, Ben Powell plays swing through modern ears, relishishing the genre he “self-discovered” after solid training in classical violin. Enlisting a solid rhythm section – veteran bassist Bruno Raberg, fellow Berklee alumnus Cedric Hanriot on piano, and drummer Devin Drobka, Powell has put his considerable technique to work in his improvisations on uptempo tunes and in ballads like “Andre.” Powell chose his sidemen wisely for the Tanglewood date….

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Kat Edmondson at Tanglewood

Kat Edmondson sings with ingenue sex appeal and emotional sophistication, which was shown off to best advantage in John Lennon's "Just Like Starting Over," taken as a lyrical ballad and arranged by pianist Kevin Lovejoy. Her band does solid work, with excellent bass intonation by Danton Boller, especially the ending cadenza of Carole King's "You're Gonna Want Me for Your Girl,” and soulful, bluesy solo playing by John Ellis on sax. Chris Lovejoy adds good colors on percussion in tunes where drummer J.J. Johnson lays down steady grooves….

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Michael Kaeshammer at Tanglewood

Unlike Benny Reid, who was tense before going on, and whose serious-faced band members channeled their energy into deadpan concentration, Michael Kaeshammer swung his arms a bit to loosen up before hitting the keys, and—sitting, turning, mugging, and grinning in white shirttails—clearly was having a ball playing superlative ragtime, stride, boogie woogie, blues, and New Orleans beats with his excellent drummer Mark McLean….

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Evgeny Lebedev at Tanglewood

On the piano and musical continuum, you couldn't get much farther away from boogie woogie and stride than Evgeny Lebedev, a Russian-born recent Berklee graduate. The post-modern, polymetric, high intensity arrangements of his compositions were like a refined, rarefied acoustic Meshugah. Lebedev's comfort with complex rhythmic patterns is no wonder since they are a key element in Eastern European music….

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Benny Reid at Tanglewood

This young alto player, poised to release his second CD “Escaping Shadows” on September 15, writes fusion, ECM-ish material—vamps, funk, open-ended blowing—and runs a tight organization. Backing him on original material are a group of musicians able to pull off the unusual accents, mood changes, hits, heavy syncopation, upper structure harmonies, advanced progressions, and contrapuntal lines of his music….

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Jazz Café - Emerging Talent at Tanglewood

This large tent, whose irregular tuffets resemble the sails of a surreal schooner in the green sea of Tanglewood's manicured lawns, staged lunch and dinner shows with young performers during the weekend. Generally speaking, they were highly accomplished, representing the full spectrum of jazz from ragtime to post-modern, from handslapping to the effects pedal. What they all had in common was their birthdays – it’s unlikely any of them were born before 1985—and their looks. They all would look very good on album covers—in today's image—conscious market, that's high up on the list. Luckily, when you closed your eyes, by and large you liked what you heard…..

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Jon Faddis, Wallace Roney, and Sean Jones “A Triumph of Trumpets” at Tanglewood

Hosted by Jon Faddis, the concert saluted Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Miles Davis, and began, naturally, with Pops. Setting the mood with “Sleepytime Down South,” Faddis let out a hearty “Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen” in Satchmo’s unmistakable voice. After a note-for-note transcription of the cadenza of the “West End Blues,” Faddis gave the spotlight to Sean Jones, whose fat, lazy period solo showed how thoroughly he understands early jazz history….

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Dave Holland at Tanglewood

If ever the phrase “last but not least” was fitting, this concert applies. Last act of the Tanglewood Festival, it was musically possibly the most exciting. Dave Holland, a powerfully assertive bass player and highly original composer, might be fairly characterized as the Charles Mingus of the 21st century. The simultaneously driving, visceral grooves, and intellectually intricate meters and harmonies of his compositions challenge the ears of his listeners, the capabilities of his musicians, and the parameters of ensemble jazz....

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