A BUSY MAN Coleman.
The Newport Jazz Festival blasts to a close with a dedication to mixing things up. Big band swing, sax-piano duets, salsa excursions, brass band stomp, and future bop are all on the docket. My don’t-miss performance is by the Jim Hall Quartet. The 82-year-old guitarist is one of jazz’s must sublime improvisers, and his current work is as gripping as his early high points in the ’60s and ’70s. Today his supple trio becomes a quartet (keep your ear on bassist Scott Colley) with the arrival of guitarist Julian Lage.
In a novel move, the Fest has invited saxophonist Steve Coleman to present three discrete groups. The ever-imaginative bandleader brokered the idiosyncratic MBASE sound in the mid-’80s, and its rhythmic details have turned out to be some of the music’s most engaging. His Five Elements outfit has just dropped Functional Arrhythmias (Pi), and its fluid counterpoint is forever enticing. Coleman will play with 5E as well as the Talea Ensemble and a duo with keyboardist David Bryant.
Donny McCaslin also subscribes to intricacy on his newest album. “Says Who” from Casting For Gravity (Sunnyside) is a nod in the MBASE direction, an implosive funk broadside that employs drop-dead precision to get through a maze of complex time signatures.
Joshua Redman’s famed quartet knows about keenly detailed charts, but of late he has been focusing on the lyrical. His Walking Shadows (Nonesuch) is a horn quartet-and-strings affair, and it creates a distinctly sentimental tone. Perhaps he’ll help birthday boy Shorter blow out the candles with a glide through the Wayne-penned “Infant Eyes,” one of Walking Shadows’ most fetching tracks.
If you haven’t seen Eddie Palmieri’s Salsa Orchestra, it’s treat time. The Puerto Rican pianist is one of the most demonstrative performers around, and the deep Caribbean rhythms he builds with his team have a truly physical punch.
That kind of palpable impact can also be felt when Roy Haynes sits down at his drums. The 88-year-old is a titan, and his Fountain of Youth band is filled with skillful up-and-comers who get schooled with Haynes’s every flam and cymbal crash.
Chick Corea will debut his new band the Vigil at Newport, and any group with a rhythm section of bassist Christian McBride and drummer Marcus Gilmore is going to be a formidable entity.
David Gilmore’s Numerology band brings a wise spin to a post-fusion perspective, and it’s crammed with talent. Saxophonist Miguel Zénon, drummer Jeff Watts, percussionist Mino Cinelu, and vocalist Claudia Acuna help the guitarist articulate a new suite that echoes the creation of the universe.
The day will end with saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera leading the Dizzy Gillespie Big Band. Diz’s swinging bop pieces became even more impactful when a large ensemble took them on, and they still are. D’Rivera knows them well. He was part of the group when Diz was up front.
Also appearing today are Hiromi, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Dee Alexander, Jon Batiste & Stay Human, the MA Music Educators Association All-State Jazz Band, and the University of Rhode Island Jazz Festival Band.