Posts Tagged ‘Jim Hall’

discover jazz – day 9 (part two)

June 13, 2010

“He’s like the Einstein of jazz.”

That was the comment made by my seat partner at last night’s concert with Sonny Rollins. And that was before a single note had been blown. It was an observation on the 79-year old’s appearance, but it could just as well be a comment on his musical stature.

Rollins walked onto the stage to a standing ovation, wearing his trademark sunglasses, an elegant off-white jacket, and shaking a wild head of thick gray hair. Yeah. He’s a cool jazz guy. You’d better believe it.

With a furious run of notes, we were off on a musical joyride that wouldn’t end until Rollin’s former bandmate Jim Hall, had come out to send off the evening with two heartbreakingly stunning final tunes: In A Sentimental Mood, and If Ever I Would Leave You.

Other ventures into calypso (an homage to his parents’ native Virgin Islands), blues (with Rollins singing “Low Down Dirty Shame” in a fun, winking style); and straight ahead be-bop were equally powerful. Guitarist Russell Malone’s tasteful and gorgeous lines floated through the music like delicate parasol seeds, freshly blown from the dandelion stem. When Jim Hall took Malone’s place for the last two numbers, it seemed fitting. The two share much musically. Longtime bandmate Bob Cranshaw also did his part to offer many gorgeous moments, and percussionists Sammy Figueroa (congas) and Kobie Watkins (set) grounded the group with spirited solo work and solidly artful playing throughout.

I have to mention the one detraction to the night’s otherwise outstanding musical adventure: the Flynn Center’s eternally temperamental sound system in the house was not on its best behaviour to host a night with the jazz legends. I was fortunate to have seats 8 rows back, dead center, and I strained to hear Rollins through the first several numbers when all of the other instruments were playing. Really? Really? Sonny Rollins can’t be heard? If that’s what my experience was, what was it like for folks sitting futher back, or on the balcony? He did come through loud and clear in the ballads, and by the end during his tradeoffs with Hall the mix sounded just fine. But no one should ever have to work that hard to hear Rollins. He certainly did his part.

After the first couple of tunes, the gentleman sitting next to me whispered to his partner, “He’s got a lot of WIND!” That’s a fact.

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a more musical experience at Burlington’s Discover Jazz Festival, and it certainly surpasses many I’ve had elsewhere. I’m very happy that memory will be my last from this year’s events.

discover jazz – day 9

June 13, 2010

Easy Star All-Stars

I heard the band before I saw them, as I was was walking up the long path from the parking lot to the waterfront tent last night. The heavy 1-3 offset reggae beat on Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was the giveaway: Easy Star All-Stars were in the house. (Tent, actually. But still.)

The anticpipated follwup to their hugely popular Dub Side of the Moon and Radiohead albums came out last fall. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band is a unique dub/reggae takeoff on the Fab Four’s 1967 classic. I’d been listening to the recording all day as a warmup, and when the time came for Lucy, Eleanor Rigby, and When I’m Sixty-Four (three of my faves) I was happy to hear the group sounded even better in person than on the release. “They could have been the headliner!” – was a statement I heard repeatedly.

Easy Star was the main attraction for me, though the two following groups were sure to be great as well. I would have left happy if it had only been them.

From there the evening moved on to the Itals and the Wailing Souls, as the tent and waterfront filled up. I didn’t hear much of either group, unfortunately. By the time Easy Star left the stage it was time to walk up the hill and get to the Flynn for the Sonny Rollins concert.

Day 9, part two coming shortly…

discover jazz – day 8

June 12, 2010

OK, so, Friday. It has been a week now since the Discover Jazz Festival kicked off with Arturo Sandoval’s brassy, sassy, blazing opening salvo. In the last seven days the waterfront has buzzed with soul, funk, and folks clad in more raingear than sunglasses. We’ve Met the Artists, stayed up much too late (every night), and experienced the creation of art in real time with the lively JazzLab sessions.

What’s left? Well, concerts with two jazz legends, Jim Hall and Sonny Rollins (concerts which also include future legends like Joey Baron, Russell Malone, Scott Colley, and Greg Osby); a concert with a rock legend, Levon Helm; and an evening of reggae with the Easy Star All-Stars and the Wailing Souls. And all of the stuff happening in restaurants and other venues on Church Street and elsewhere. And don’t forget the Other Music Festival has its final show tonight too. Not bad.

Friday afternoon was the final Meet the Artist session, with Sonny Rollins and resident critic Bob Blumenthal. It would get to music and Rollins’ history soon, but the first question was more personal. Rollins: “What’s a day like? It’s easier to say what I don’t do. I don’t have any hobbies. I don’t cook – I do my little vegetables or whatever…and I practice. That’s about it.”

Rollins also confessed to still being addicted to “noise in the background” ( a really funny statement for a jazz front man) so he keeps sports radio on for company each day.

I knew that Rollins was from New York City, but I found it interesting that the first music he listened to was Fats Waller, on records and on the radio. Fats Waller:  the ace protégé of James P. Johnson, the “father of the stride piano” whose own history is so closely tied to New York City and the blossoming Harlem jazz scene of the 1920s and 1930s. Interesting.

And it turns out that Louis Jordan was the reason the seven year-old Rollins implored his parents to get him his first sax. (An alto.)

On his young life in Harlem, Rollins said: “The Apollo Theater was my cathedral – and my university, when I got old enough.” He went there every week to catch everything from movies to live music and other theatrical performances. He attributes his lifelong love of melody to those early movie experiences.

Other random Rollins thoughts:

  • “I was destined to be a leader and do my own thing. My music is so singular I don’t think I can fit in with a lot of people.”
  • “I still practice today because I have the same feeling (of wanting to learn). Practice doesn’t stop just because you put out a few records.”
  • On composing: “There are melodies going around in my head all the time. Like today. It all came about in a very natural, organic way.”
  • “I always felt I was destined to be a musician.  I turned out to be right.”
  • On transcribing other musicians’ solos to learn from them: (and this is an UNDERstatement!) “I never was really good with duplication.”
  • “I’m a pretty self-deprecating person. I know I have a lot to learn.”
  • “Transition is part of everyone’s life.”
  • On Coltrane: “I knew I would get the Coltrane question! He was like a minister, a great musician. As a person he was a beautiful person. We visited each other, spent time together. I would say we were very good friends.”
  • And, finally, on Bob’s question “What was it about your playing that drove you to taking a sabbatical?” – Rollins: “You can not listen to what people say if you know differently.”

Rollins & Blumenthal

Near the end of the generous session, when the discussion was opened for audience comments, Rollins was starting to answer a question when he unexpectedly smiled and said, “You know I hope I’m not boring you. I’m beginning to bore myself with this conversation.”

Like the best of jazz players, Bob Blumenthal jumped in without missing a beat. Laughing, he said “So much for “that’s a good question”!” Really funny moment, as a veteran interviewer speaking with a veteran interviewee.

One of the nicest moments of the evening happened at the end of the talk. Bob, seated, was wrapping up the session with a few announcements including the fact that this year’s appearance at Discover Jazz was his 10th anniversary in the role. Sonny Rollins and the rest of the house were already on their feet since the session was concluding, and the Saxophone Colossus joined the enthusiastic, grateful crowd in clapping at Bob’s quiet announcement.

Right on cue with his hallmark quick wit once again, Bob popped off with: “I never thought I’d see the day I’d be getting a standing ovation from Sonny Rollins!”

Kudos, Bob, and a big thanks for ten years of sharing your humor, curiosity, and your deep experience to encourage everyone to enjoy jazz like you do. It wouldn’t be Discover Jazz without you.

From there it was on to the Jim Hall/Scott Colley/Joey Baron/Greg Osby concert at 8. Understated, with beautiful flashes of color. In particular, Hall’s hilarious arrangement of Benny Golson’s ballad Whisper Not (punctuated raucously by the occasional rhythmic group “HEY!” – really fun), his tribute to Sonny Rollins with Rollins’ own composition Sonnymoon for Two; Chelsea Bridge (featuring Osby in a hauntingly subdued, gorgeous solo) and the finale, another Rollins classic St. Thomas. Sweet.

Can’t wait to hear Jim Hall sitting in with Sonny tonight to revisit some of the great moments from their iconic 1962 recording together, The Bridge.

discover jazz – press release

June 8, 2010

Late afternoon press release from the Burlington Discover Jazz Festival: this week’s Meet the Artist Sessions with Jim Hall and Sonny Rollins have changed times and dates!

Jim Hall’s Meet the Artist session is on Thursday, June 10 at 5:30pm in FlynnSpace. Please note that Mr. Hall’s Meet the Artist session is on Thursday, June 10, even though his performance is on Friday, June 11.

Sonny Rollins’ Meet the Artist Session is Friday, June 11 at 5:30 pm in FlynnSpace. Please Note that Mr. Rollins’ Meet the Artist session is on Friday, June 11, even though his performance is on Saturday, June 12.

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