Side by side by the waterside

A disparate diet of sounds at Newport
By JON GARELICK  |  August 15, 2006

MINORITY REPORT: “Let’s spin the wheel on Pavement’s greatest hits,” James Carter said.

Gold Sounds were in the middle of a hellacious set of Pavement covers at the JVC-Newport Jazz Festival last Saturday afternoon when a woman who appeared to be in her 70s — blonde, resplendent in flowing white embroidered blouse and matching white pants and sandals — turned to me and said, “This is the sleeper of the day! I was going to get a lemonade and go back to Al Jarreau, but this is happening!”

It was that kind of weekend in Newport — a beautiful mess of anomalous sounds and concepts, and clear, dry weather to boot. And yes, in case you haven’t heard, Gold Sounds are a project put together by the stoners at Brown Brothers Recordings to ask the musical question “What’s the most fucked-up jazz tribute project you can think of?” Well, not exactly. But after the release of a homonymous album, I thought I’d probably heard the last of the Gold Sound guys. Yet here at the festival were jazz heavyweights James Carter and Cyrus Chestnut with bassist Vicente Arthur and drummer Ali Jackson (of Wynton Marsalis’s quartet and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra) — as black a group as you could get, playing the whitest of nerdy white indie rock. They took tunes like “Cut Your Hair” and “Blue Hawaiian,” funked them up, twisted them, drop-kicked them into free time, and made jazz even when Jackson was slamming down the hardest of rock backbeats. Pondering their next move between songs, Carter (who returned on Sunday with his organ trio) said sotto voce, “Let’s spin the wheel on Pavement’s greatest hits.” Then Jackson started slapping his tambourine while Carter tongue-slapped his tenor and began squawking the opening notes of “Summer Babe.”

The smorgasbord festival set-up — overlapping shows on three stages — guarantees that you’ll never catch the full arch of a single performance unless you’re willing to miss part or all of another. So it was when I headed for Gold Sounds after 10 minutes of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the small Pavilion Stage. I’d heard an amiable “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home” — trumpet, bass, banjo, piano, no drummer, though the trap kit was on stage. Later I heard reports that the Preservation crew had raised the roof, got the whole place doing a second line, with even a couple of face-painted ringers leading the proceedings like a mini Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Oh well.

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