By Day Four, I am running on empty. It's not the time at the festival or the gyrations necessary to capture some decent images. It also the late night and early morning image processing. So I come with low expectations, hoping I can snag one or two decent images and hear some great jazz.
For me, the two highlight performances of the day were the Norman Simmons, Marlene Rosenberg, and Greg Artry trio and the Barry Altschul 3Dom Factor. The trio was fantastic, offering a set of just plain great piano trio music. You have to love the interaction between the musicians, particularly Simmons and Rosenberg, but Artry is no slouch. He can drive his kit when it is called for, but after hearing him perform many times, I still am amazed with his nuanced subtlety, which makes him a standout drummer. His skills were on full display today.
Altschul is a name long associated with free jazz. I first encountered him playing on Circle, Arc and Conference of the Birds, but his career was well underway by the end of the Sixties. As well regarded as those recordings are, Altschul had seemed to disappear from the scene. I had assumed he was probably living in Europe. He certainly was doing something right today if you watched bass player Joe Fonda repeatedly glance toward Altschul. Fonda always had a smile on his face, egging Altschul on. Saxophonist Jon Irabagon took full advantage of the rhythmn section.
The night's performance at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion opened with Michael Zerang & Blue Lights (with Chicago favorite Josh Berman on cornet, cool cat Mars Williams on saxophone, Dave Rampis also on saxophone, and Kent Kessler on bass). The music consisted of waves of propulsive rhythms, punctuated with solos. Berman seemed to be particularly on tonight.
Next up was Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, another in a long line of trumpet phenoms, particularly given his heritage. He is related to Donald Harrison, Jr. The man is intelligent, very colorful with that devil and orange thing going on, and he can play the trumpet. The set was generally relaxed, with some hip hop influences running through it. He certainly is a showman. Time will tell whether he has the talent to sustain a long career. His stories about how he met each band member were fun, but too lengthy.
Then it was time for the Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons of the jazz world: John Scofield and Joe Lovano. Both are phenomenally talented musicians who each play in a variety of settings. They have had the quartet thing going for years. The combination reminds of Norman Granz's efforts in the Seventies--combining seeming incompatible instruments for an album of duets. I wouldn't necessarily expect a full set of saxophone and guitar duets to work, but it certainly did, particularly with a strong rhythm section supporting the duets. My one disappointment was that Scofield seem to take the majority of solos when the two weren't working it together. Next time, a little more Lovano would be much appreciated.
Finally, it was time for the headliner, Cuban congueros Candido, who was celebrating his 95th birthday. The set went much as I suspected: A lengthy two-song introdution by the band, sans Candido. Nor was I all that surprised when he arrived in a wheelchair--much like Benny Waters at the Showcase 15 years ago. Like Waters, once it came time to play, Candido demonstrated that he still had the chops, as well as the taped fingers. The supporting band was top flight, with everyone, including Candido, enjoying the fact that a "best-in-class" musician could still dominate the stage and bring an audience to its feet at such an advanced age. We should all be so lucky.
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