Five More Great Moments From Newport 2009

This week's Take Five installment features five of our personal highlights from NPR Music's recordings of the Newport Jazz Festival. If you don't know where to start with our many hours of Newport 2009 recordings, try this: Highlights From The Newport Jazz Festival 2009

We weren't the only people to think in these terms. Writer Jim Macnie, whom I had the pleasure of meeting briefly, wrote about five of his favorite moments from the entire festival.

Of course, there were clearly more than just five great moments. I've already given some thoughts to day one (Saturday), but as a Macnie-inspired addendum to our Take Five, here are five additional observations culled from watching day two. I was busier on Sunday, glued largely to the Harbor Stage for production assistance, but I tried to make it to as many shows as possible. Ready go:

Around 11:00 a.m.: When the Rudresh Mahanthappa Indo-Pak Coalition walked on stage, and the only one dressed in traditional South Asian garb was the white guy with the Jewish name: percussionist Dan Weiss. Of course, Weiss is the hinge on which that group turns; he's devised a way to play the tablas plus a snare, bass drum and ride cymbal in complicated, Indian-inspired rhythmic patterns that feel totally unforced. At one point he even started doubling his solo with his voice: the man knows what he's doing. If I can attach a rider to this moment, it would be at the end of the fascinating, richly detailed set. Mahanthappa was doing his closing credits, and forgot his pre-cooked closing line for a second. But he went back to the mic for a Conan O'Brien-inspired joke: "You can find us on Twitter, on YouTube, on Facebook, and the new one: YouTwitFace." (Full Set)

Around 2:00 p.m.: Upon finishing a riveting, warm, colorful set with his Fellowship Band — one which caused the Boss Lady to remark, "These guys have, like, five different levels of pianissimo" — Brian Blade was mobbed. He was first roundly congratulated by other musicians, who were the closest in proximity to him, but once he did all his handshaking and backslapping, he was held up for at least 15 minutes by massive crowds of admirers asking for autographs and posing for photos. And many of them were high school students, several of whom asked me if they could borrow a Sharpie. Which is slightly strange, right? He's still worshipped by teenagers, who can't have listened to him for more than a handful of years. Did these guys even know about the first two Fellowship discs, or any of the Joshua Redman recordings that I and my fellow pubescents loved when we were worshipping Brian Blade? With all this blogospheric chatter about the young jazz audience disappearing, that was an encouraging sign, to say the least. (Full Set)

Around 2:45 p.m.: I didn't quite catch what prompted it exactly, but after a 20-minute extended dance remix of "St. Louis Blues," Steven Bernstein in his best carnie voice, issued a "that's what she said" (followed, of course, by a rim shot). This to the New-England-resort-town Newport crowd, and knowing he was being recorded by NPR Music. Bernstein is, of course, a total ham, and that's part of his band's appeal: his Millennial Territory Orchestra was formed for a New Year's Eve gig, after all. But this just struck me as a wonderfully immature thing to do, and moreover, encapsulated a refreshing attitude: that jazz could be fun. Bernstein's band makes serious music, stuff that's labored over intensely in its arranging and performing of old material. But with properly ribald finesse, its spirit penetrates the coldest of attitudes. Which is, coincidentally, what she said. (Full Set)

Around 4:30 p.m: As the crowds were going wild over James Carter's pyrotechnics — it's fair to say he's a wee bit of a showboat — Hammond B-3 organist Gerard Gibbs decided to get in on the fun. He had brought along a little keyboard synth, which he set up atop the organ, and used it to trigger a "choir of voices" effect through his whole solo. It was humorously over-the-top, but so was that entire set. And that's the thing about organ combos, and this one especially: there's such a immediate, visceral appeal about them. The idea was only to swing as ridiculously hard as possible, springboarding Carter to some breathtakingly virtuosic yet substantive solos. I had never see Carter perform live before, but it certainly seemed to me that he and the group was on in a take-no-prisoners sort of way. The band was there to entertain in a time-honored, simple and emotionally direct sort of way, and its members sold it like champions. (Full Set)

Around 5:40 p.m.: Is when I spotted Roy Haynes at the sparsely-attended Waterside Stage show of the By Any Means trio. And not just hanging behind the curtain: he was pressed directly up against the stage, staring down drummer Muhammad Ali (brother of Rashied Ali, who was originally scheduled to appear). If you aren't familiar with By Any Means, it's a free improvising unit with three veterans of the music: saxophonist Charles Gayle, bassist William Parker and Rashied. In pure sonics, the music was some of the most unfamiliar of all the Newport acts; it came off as a process music as much as it presented a product, though it did have moments of conventional beauty. Roy Haynes isn't known as a free improviser, and especially not at this stage of his 60+ year career. But after the set, he was all love, wanting to congratulate and talk to these fellow aged veterans whom he must rarely see any more. The musicians' community is always surprising me with who-knows-whom-and-likes-what, but the sight of a certifiable jazz legend making a special effort to see this particular out-jazz crew was revelatory to behold. (No recording here, but there's more on this forthcoming.)

There are other highlights I only partially caught, or was told of: our interview of the guy who had been to every Newport Jazz Festival since 1954, the Joe Lovano guest jam on "A Night In Tunisia" with Michel Camilo (full set), Dave Brubeck sitting in with Tony Bennett. And I have high expectations for the Joe Lovano UsFive set, whose debut album mysteriously got vastly better from my first listen in April to my revisiting it in early August. For more of my various impressions of what I saw, as soon as I saw them, check the @blogsupreme Twitter feed. And what the hell — since I wrote about "Take Five" for this Take Five piece (see what I just did there?), here's something I've been meaning to share, just cause:

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