5 Acts Not To Miss At Newport Jazz 2014
The Newport Jazz Festival turns 60 this year, and NPR Music will be there for the anniversary celebration. Along with our partners at WBGO, we'll be there to grab special videos, take photos and record performances for archival listening next week. Look for sets and highlights starting next week at npr.org/newportjazz.
In between our recording activities, we'll have our eyes and ears on what's going on at other stages. Here are five of the many performances we'll try to check out. To follow what we're up to throughout the weekend, follow us on Facebook (facebook.com/nprjazz), Twitter (@blogsupreme) and Instagram (@nprmusic).
Newport Jazz Preview 2014
John Zorn's Masada Marathon
Saxophonist and composer John Zorn has a few projects called Masada. One is a band which sounds a bit like the classic Ornette Coleman quartet (two horns, no chordal instrument, free improvising) mixed with klezmer ideas. Another is an enormous set of more than 500 short compositions, all based on certain Jewish music ideas and designed to be interpreted in radical new ways. Both are featured during an afternoon marathon at Newport this year, with nine different groups interpreting the Masada songbook in their own ways. String chamber ensembles, rock bands, crazy Brazilian percussion and the acoustic quartet itself — they're just part of the action on Friday afternoon.
Ron Carter Trio
The great bassist Ron Carter, now 77, has now maintained a professional career spanning more than a half century. Over the last decade of that career, he's led a trio that hearkens back to his early chamber-jazz recordings, with heaps of taste and long-ingrained elegance. The Golden Striker trio, named after a 2003 recording, featured guitarist Russell Malone and the late pianist Mulgrew Miller (Donald Vega plays this gig) weaving deftly around each other, all the while maintaining rhythmic propulsion without a drummer. Its intimate brilliance is perfect for candlelight clubs or a small stage on a rainy summer afternoon — as the weather reports predict during Carter's Newport show.
Vijay Iyer Sextet
Usually, when composer and pianist Vijay Iyer is booked for a "jazz" gig, he's playing with his trio, or perhaps solo. (You might also see him collaborating with spoken-word artists, or Indian classical musicians, or string quartet — he's a busy musician.) Less frequently seen is his sextet configuration, which combines his core trio with three horns (Mark Shim on tenor sax, Steve Lehman on alto sax and Graham Haynes on cornet). It's a sound reminiscent of classic hard bop, though oriented around Iyer's distinct and increasingly pace-setting sensibilities. The band doesn't have a formal album, but here's an intriguing clip from 2011.
Stefano Bollani & Hamilton de Holanda
The Italian pianist Stefano Bollani and the Brazilian musician Hamilton de Holanda — a specialist of a custom 10-string Brazilian mandolin — are two of a kind. Both are fleet-fingered virtuosi known for collaborations across genres and cultures, so it was natural that the two would eventually meet for eclectic fireworks. Their chemistry is captured on a recent live album called O Que Será, which is anchored around Brazilian tunes but incorporates classical, tango, flamenco and bebop influences. Born of folk forms but evolving into something far beyond, here's a taste of their interrupting interplay.
Mostly Other People Do The Killing
The band Mostly Other People Do The Killing has a particularly postmodern love for jazz history, where avowed reverence may be obscured by absurdist interludes and anachronistic jump cuts. Though bassist and bandleader Moppa Elliott oriented MOPDTK around a core quartet who could play anywhere between straight-ahead and unhinged, on last year's Red Hot he expanded the band to seven pieces to better address a new obsession: '20s and '30s jazz. You hear the polyphony, the banjo, the structures and devices of the era. You also hear periodic fits of wild enthusiasm which remind you it's nearly a century later.