Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival
Here’s a quick update on highlights of a few of the dozens of festival events since the last posting.
Last night’s concert ran past midnight. It was dedicated to the late bassist Ray Brown and featured colleagues who achieved fame as sidemen in Brown’s bands. Pianist Benny Green’s trio with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Jeff Hamilton set a high standard with an explosive performance of Brown’s “Buhaina Buhaina.” My notes say, “Hamilton likes to swing.” The more intense the rhythm became, the broader grew Hamilton’s smile. He smiled constantly.
Lynn Skinner, the retiring founder of the festival, introduced Roberta Gambarini by quoting Hank Jones from a phone call earlier in the day. He said Jones had called Gambarini, “the finest vocalist I’ve heard in the past 60 years.” Then, with McBride, Hamilton, guitarist Russell Malone and her empathetic piano accompanist Tamir Hendelman, she demonstrated what led to that exalted level of praise. Gambarini is deceptive; she makes perfection in every department–swing, intonation, diction, control, coloration, taste, intepretation of lyrics–seem easy. Earlier in the day, at a vocal workshop, Gambarini gave a good-natured exhibition of the kind of over-the-top vocalizing that in jazz circles too often passes for singing. Toward the end of last night’s concert, Jane Monheit also sang. I don’t think that she attended Gambarini’s workshop.
In two sets, one with a quartet, one with a trio, pianist Monty Alexander achieved the power, drama and propulsion of his work with Brown thirty years ago. He reached a climax of hard, happy swing in the reunion of his trio with Hamilton and bassist John Clayton. Their “Battle Hymn of the Republic” had the musicians in the backstage bistro area riveted to the big monitor screen and cheering along with the audience when Alexander’s roaring performance ended.
At the after hours jam session, the student alto saxophonist Grace Kelly from Massachusetts sat in with a group that included veteran guitarist John Stowell. I know of no explanation other than genius for this slender fourteen-year-old girl’s attainment of maturity in her art. She has mastery of the instrument, passion, profound swing, and judgment that one would expect in a player with twenty years of professional experience. The other jam session surprise was a vocal by guitarist Malone. With Miss Kelly and Stowell playing obligato, he sang an engaging “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face.” The roomful of close listeners demanded an encore, which they did not get. “No more,” Malone announced, waving them off.
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Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival
Kandie Webster says
Hi Doug, Wonderful play-by-play. You make me feel like I was there since I was last year. I love the way Russell Malone sings! I wish I could have heard that. FYI Russell sings on two of his earlier recordings, and I sometimes read reviews where he has sung a song during one of his shows. Kandie Webster (jazzylover59)
Ted O'Reilly says
“Toward the end of last night’s concert, Jane Monheit also sang. I don’t think that she attended Gambarini’s workshop.” Yeah, well, never mind that: how was her hair?
Hotel Pianist says
Grace is definitely a phenomenon! She sat in at Lee Konitz’s show at the Jazz Gallery last year (with George Colligan on organ) and was terrific.
Ken Dryden says
Regarding your comment “(Roberta)Gambarini is deceptive; she makes perfection in every department–swing, intonation, diction, control, coloration, taste, intepretation of lyrics–seem easy. Earlier in the day, at a vocal workshop, Gambarini gave a good-natured exhibition of the kind of over-the-top vocalizing that in jazz circles too often passes for singing. Toward the end of last night’s concert, Jane Monheit also sang. I don’t think that she attended Gambarini’s workshop.”
I howled when I read your comments quoted above. I am still puzzled as to why Jane Monheit was invited to appear and perform on the Legends of Jazz TV series, as I can’t think of a female jazz singer active today in my CD collection who isn’t more qualified than the over-hyped Monheit.
Cinnamon van Reyk says
What’s with the ‘slender’ in your description of Grace? I didn’t notice a physical description of the other artists you mentioned.
Jeffrey Biegel says
I met Grace in Tromso, Norway–we were both involved in a big music festival there. We missed each other’s concerts, but I have the cd which her dad gave to me–and she’s wonderful. I pitched her to david Foster, but I think he’s super busy with a full plate. I think she’ll do great her way.
(Mr. Biegel is a respected classical concert pianist. For a download of his stirring performance of the Prokofiev 3rd Piano Concerto, go to http://www.cyberecital.com/performance.html –DR)