Artemis, Maqueque Soar Following Newport Deluge

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An intense and unrelenting rainstorm pummeled Rhode Island all day Saturday, taking some of the luster off the 2018 Newport Jazz Festival, held at Fort Adams State Park on Aug. 3-5. That deluge, which forced vendors to fold up their tents by midday and had some festivalgoers fleeing early, was bookended by sunny skies and hot temperatures Friday and Sunday, providing two glorious summer days for the 64th edition of the outdoor jazz festival.

Guitar great Pat Metheny tried to lift dampened spirits during Saturday’s deluge at the Fort Stage with buoyant numbers like “James” and “Bright Size Life,” featuring his quartet of pianist Gwilym Simcock, bassist Linda May Han Oh and drummer Antonio Sanchez. But the storm, which reached the peak of its intensity during his set, chased some of the crowd away.

Clarinetist Anat Cohen struck an uncanny accord with Brazilian 7-string acoustic guitar marvel Marcello Gonçalves in their spirited duo interpretations of Brazilian composer Moacir Santos’ large ensemble works like “Amphibious” and “Outra Coisa.” Their appealing chemistry on these engaging numbers, underscored by Gonçalves’ unerring rhythms, played to the back row in the Harbor Stage tent on Saturday afternoon, making folks forget for an hour just how soaked they were.

On a sunny Friday afternoon, by contrast, keyboardist Robert Glasper matched the mellow vibe of sailboats in the harbor at the Fort Stage with his R+R=NOW anthem “Change Of Tone.” Glasper’s bandmates—saxophonist Terrace Martin, trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, electric bassist Derrick Hodge and drummer Justin Taylor—then stretched with abandon on the percolating Headhunters-inspired “Resting Warrior.”

Tenor star Joshua Redman led his Still Dreaming quartet—an Old and New Dreams tribute band, featuring cornetist Ron Miles, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade—at the Quad Stage on Friday. Their galvanizing set included interpretations of Don Cherry’s “Guinea” and Dewey Redman’s urgent “Walls Bridges,” along with new compositions like Redman’s crackling, conversational “Unanimity” and Colley’s lyrical waltz, “Haze And Aspirations.” Remarkable rhythmatist Blade added bounce to the proceedings with his intuitive touch and rapid-fire fills, while Redman and Miles blended on the frontline in the spirit of elders Dewey and Don.

Two all-female ensembles scored high marks with festivalgoers on Sunday. At the Fort Stage it was Artemis, the all-star sextet named for the Greek goddess of wilderness and the hunt. With a powerhouse frontline of trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana and clarinetist Cohen, and a solid rhythm section of pianist Renee Rosnes, bassist Noriko Ueda and drummer Allison Miller, they turned in a swinging rendition of Monk’s “Brilliant Corners” and delivered a twist on the Beatles’ “Fool On The Hill.” Celebrated singer Cécile McLorin Salvant won over the crowd with her mesmerizing take on Billie Holiday’s “Fine And Mellow,” and elicited audible sighs at the start of her intimate duet with Rosnes on Stevie Wonder’s poignant ballad, “If It’s Magic.” At the Harbor Stage, soprano saxophonist-flutist Jane Bunnett led another all-female ensemble, the dynamic Afro-Cuban sextet Maqueque, on rhythmically charged numbers from 2016’s Grammy-nominated Oddara. Vocalist Melvis Santa fronted the group with enchanting charisma, while electric bassist Celia Jiménez and classically-trained pianist Dánae Olano were standout soloists in the group.

The unlikely triumvirate of experimental violinist Laurie Anderson, Albanian cellist Rubin Kodheli, and bassist and Newport Jazz Festival artistic director Christian McBride combined for some of the most provocative sounds and overt political statements of the three-day event. Anderson led the Fort Stage crowd on a cathartic 10-second group primal scream, citing a video Yoko Ono posted the day after the 2016 presidential election as her inspiration. The rest of the set ranged from chamber-like delicacy to sheer sonic mayhem, with Anderson’s heavily effected electric violin leading the way. Swing stalwart McBride seemed all-in for this outré adventure, whether anchoring the proceedings with resounding pizzicato bass lines, accompanying Anderson’s compelling storytelling or sawing away in the fray.

This year’s artist-in-residence, Charles Lloyd, performed brilliantly in three different settings. On Friday at the Harbor Stage, he focused on flute with Sangram, the flexible trio featuring tabla master and South Indian carnatic konnakol ace Zakir Hussain and drummer Eric Harland, who also nimbly shifted to piano for one tune. On Saturday at the main Fort Stage, Lloyd dipped into his Trane bag on modal excursions with his New Quartet, featuring pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers and Harland. On Sunday at the Fort Stage with his Friends (Moran, Rogers and Harland, augmented by guitarists Marvin Sewell and Stuart Mathis), Lloyd kicked off his set with a medley of Ornette Coleman’s “The Blessing” and “Ramblin’,” before shifting to a deep blues number that showcased Sewell’s piercing Muddy Waters-styled slide guitar work and had Lloyd alternately double-timing altissimo squeals and reaching back to his Memphis roots. Raw-voiced singer Lucinda Williams later joined the group for earthy renditions of Blind Willie McTell’s “Ain’t Nobody’s Fault But Mine” and her own haunting “Dust.” DB




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November 2018
Stefon Harris
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