stellar by starlight: jazz fest quartets

Here's a brief section from my piece in next week's Village Voice, with glimpses of two June (NY) jazz-fest highlights:

Both the JVC and Vision Fests were studded by that tried-and-true lure -- the supergroup. During a four-part Ron Carter show at Carnegie Hall last Wednesday night, intermission gave way to what first appeared like a dream (with Miles Davis as subtext): bassist Carter alongside pianist Herbie Hancock, tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and drummer Billy Cobham. Carter's mere suggestion of familiar grooves to "So What" and "All Blues" worked like tickles into the crowd. Shorter's subtly inventive playing on "Seven Steps to Heaven" brought on knowing smiles. And jaws dropped during Hancock's solo on "Stella By Starlight." It was all over in some 25 minutes (no encore) and, glorious though it sounded, one had to wonder why, after assembling such a quartet, you'd pull the plug so soon.

The Vision Festival's final night ended with a very different dream-team: Billed as "Louis Moholo and Friends," this quartet featured Moholo, a South African drummer rarely heard in New York, the ubiquitous Parker on bass, Dave Burrell, a pianist of sublime and versatile gifts, and Kidd Jordan, a legendary educator in his hometown, New Orleans, and an ever-questing, singular-sounding tenor saxophonist. Parker started things with some multiphonic bowing, but soon settled into powerful, hard-plucked grooves. Jordan poked at shards of melody here and there, then bent deep in the knee, reached up into the highest register of his horn, and issued overtones that floated above the growing din, somehow seeming to direct it all. At first, Burrell offered logical chord progressions (he could have been a Gershwin tune); before long, he too was chasing something larger and more obtuse. And Moholo kept this sonic juggernaut moving surely with little of no bombast. His brief snare rolls and carefully placed cymbal crashes served like road signs, his sure bass-drum kicks kept the fuel coming.

After an hour or so, the music ceased. Patricia Parker took to the stage. She signaled with thumb and forefinger as if to say, "a little more." Parker smiled, wiped sweat from his brow, shook his head. "Enough is enough," he meant to say. And it was.

June 28, 2007 12:08 PM | | Comments (1)



Nice write up Larry - two incredible shows indeed.

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