Newport Jazz Festival 2012

By JON GARELICK  |  August 10, 2012

Still, one can grow petulant at the end of a long weekend ("I hate songs about hang-gliding!"). And sometimes the music is just too damned hard for one's mood. Puerto Rican saxophonist Miguel Zenón's new Rayuela project with pianist Laurent Coq had Dana Leong doubling on trombone and a cello, that latter of which he plucked for bass lines or bowed for extra melodic and harmonic heft. Dan Weiss, meanwhile, alternated on a modified trap kit and tablas. But the multiplying sections of each piece made my head hurt, and after a while I had to break for Schneider's crew at the Fort.

What else? Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano paid tribute to Wayne Shorter with their own compositions and a few of Wayne's. Ambrose Akinmusire's quintet cut a majestic Coltrane-like cast. James Carter's kicked butt on the Quad Stage with his brawny organ trio. Alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa's Samdhi's quartet continues to be my favorite current working band in jazz, splitting the difference between South Indian music and Weather Report: deathless, subversive funk.

They, too, were loud, but seemed the right size for the Harbor stage. Like a good club act. Pat Metheny's Unity Band successfully blasted the Fort Stage, as did the rockin' blues-boogie of the Tedeschi Trucks band closing out Sunday night. As a Friday-night prelude, Dr. John along with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band offered dreamy funk and ancient jazz while the clouds drifted in front of the moon over the Newport Casino.

I chose to end the weekend on a quiet, if forceful note at the Harbor Stage: drummer John Hollenbeck's augmented Claudia Quintet, which mixed the leader's motoric rhythms and lyrical melodies with the love poetry of Kenneth Patchen. Theo Bleckman sang, and Kurt Elling — guesting after leading his own razzle-dazzle, foot-stomping set at the Quad — recited. Aside from Hollenbeck's drums, the band included Matt Moran's vibes, Red Wierenga's accordion, Matt Mitchell's piano, and Chris Speed's clarinet and tenor sax. Patchen's poems were funny and profane. The audience laughed and even grooved a bit. It was like some long-ago imaginary jazz café. And for a while at least, the music was good and the weather didn't matter.

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Related: Photos: Newport Jazz Festival 2012, 2009: The year in jazz, Blackshaw's good vibrations, More more >
  Topics: Jazz , Music, Rhode Island, Bill Frisell,  More more >
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