Newport Jazz 2010: The Lesser-Known Giants Some of jazz's all-time greats will play a legendary festival in the seaside Rhode Island town next weekend. Not all the acts are quite so well-known -- but many of them deserve to be. Hear music from Fly, Gretchen Parlato, Arturo O'Farrill and the Matt Wilson Quartet.

Newport Jazz 2010: The Lesser-Known Giants

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/128881399/128914687" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

(Soundbite of song, "Perla Morena")

GUY RAZ, host:

If you happen to be lucky enough to be headed to Newport, Rhode Island next weekend, you might catch this piece by the jazz trio known as Fly. They're performing at the Newport Jazz Festival along with some of the giants of jazz: Marsalis, Jamal, even 89-year-old Dave Brubeck.

Now, you can hear a lot of the festival at our website, nprmusic.org, but if you can't wait that long, we've got a preview of some of the other acts that'll be there.

Patrick Jarenwattananon covers jazz for us. And Patrick, this piece we're hearing by Fly, I can't believe it's modern jazz. It sounds so timeless like classic jazz.

PATRICK JARENWATTANANON: Yeah. Well, Fly is a trio. It's a saxophone trio of three people; Mark Turner on saxophone, Larry Grenadier on bass, Jeff Ballard on drums. There are two phenomenal saxophone trios, actually, at this year's Newport Jazz Festival. One is led by the saxophonist JD Allen. Fly is the other one.

When I say saxophone trio, I should explain. It means saxophone, bass and drums. It's a format that was popularized in the 1950s, and it's popular again now, especially lately, in the last few years.

RAZ: Why is it gaining popularity now?

JARENWATTANANON: Well, I think it has somewhat to do with the fact that there's no chordal instrument, right? There's no piano or guitar, sort of quote, unquote. "comping along". You know, sometimes those instruments will suggest harmonic directions OR ways to go or phrases or something like that. And sometimes you want that. Other times, it's really nice to have that sense of freedom.

You know, so you get to listen to that bassist and your drummer a lot more if you're the saxophonist and really get to interact with them. And it can feel really free and swing really hard.

It's not just the two rhythms section players support the saxophonist as he solos. You know, there's even a section in this particular song where Mark Turner, the saxophonist, is sort of playing that chordal instrument, playing these arpeggios as the bassist sort of grooves and solos himself, and the drummer just plays a great beat.

(Soundbite of song, "Perla Morena")

RAZ: The piece is "Perla Morena." The band is Fly. Patrick, who's up next?

JARENWATTANANON: Well, that was a band that did a lot with a little, only three people. Here's a track that does a lot with even less.

(Soundbite of song, "Doralice")

Ms. GRETCHEN PARLATO (Singer): (Singing in foreign language).

RAZ: So I think I recognize the song, but it's not who I think it is. Who is this?

JARENWATTANANON: This is Gretchen Parlato. She is in duet with a frequent sparring partner, a guitarist named Lionel Loueke.

RAZ: And obviously, this is a cover of the classic track that was on the Getz-Gilberto album recorded in the '60s.

JARENWATTANANON: Sure. "Doralice," it's an old samba turned bossa nova classic. And Gretchen Parlato definitely has a thing for bossa novas. That's something she really enjoys.

But she also likes standards, and she also likes interpreting R&B in the sort of jazz context. The lead track on her latest album is "I Can't Help It," which is a popular...

RAZ: A Michael Jackson song.

JARENWATTANANON: Right.

RAZ: Now, as you said, this track is with Lionel Loueke. You said he's a guitarist, but I'm just hearing percussion and vocals here, right?

JARENWATTANANON: Right. He's also a vocalist. He does these amazing things here, using the bass line and doing these vocal interjections. And while Gretchen is clapping and singing the melody...

(Soundbite of song, "Doralice")

Ms. PARLATO: (Singing in foreign language).

JARENWATTANANON: When she does this tune live and Lionel Loueke isn't available, which is probably the situation it'll be at Newport, she does this as a duet with a drummer. So just imagine all that percussion happening and all that happening in the bass drum. That's pretty spectacular too.

(Soundbite of song, "Doralice")

Ms. PARLATO: (Singing in foreign language).

RAZ: My guest is Patrick Jarenwattananon. He writes about jazz for our website, nprmusic.org. And we're hearing music form some of the lesser-known acts that'll be playing at the Newport Jazz Festival next weekend. Patrick will be there.

This next track you brought, wow, I was listening to this last night, Patrick, and it has that big, classic sort of tropical sound.

JARENWATTANANON: Yeah. From one kind of Latin jazz to another. This is Arturo O'Farrill's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, a song called "Caravan."

(Soundbite of song, "Caravan")

RAZ: You could just picture the sort of like a Havana dance hall from the '50s and, like, giant plastic palm trees behind them. Now, Patrick, Arturo O'Farrill, a son of the legendary jazz composer Chico O'Farrill, right?

JARENWATTANANON: Right. And Arturo O'Farrill created his Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra somewhat modeled after the bands that his father led and or wrote for in 2001. He's been directing it ever since. Arturo O'Farrill is also a pianist in his own right, but he leads this big band, and it's great.

RAZ: And I'm assuming he'll be bringing the whole band to Newport?

JARENWATTANANON: Yes, exactly.

RAZ: And are big bands making a comeback?

JARENWATTANANON: Yeah, it's funny. The big band is kind of an anachronism, right? It's huge...

RAZ: It's big.

JARENWATTANANON: ...so it's expensive. You have to pay all those musicians, which makes it also hard to travel with. And it's sort of this relic, you know, of times before amplification when you needed all those musicians to fill that hall.

But it has just so many possibilities, and I think nowadays, people are sort of rediscovering that fact.

(Soundbite of song, "Caravan")

RAZ: That's Arturo O'Farrill's Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra with their version of the classic "Caravan."

Now, Patrick, we've got time for just one more. What are you going to leave us with?

JARENWATTANANON: We've got something lined up here by the drummer Matt Wilson

(Soundbite of song, "Celibate Oriole")

JARENWATTANANON: Matt Wilson is this great, incredibly versatile drummer. This track is something which you might call free jazz to some extent. You know, he gave a clinic on free jazz, actually, at Jazz at Lincoln Center. But he'll play plenty of things with more form and conventional beauty, too. This particular piece is called "Celibate Oriole."

RAZ: "Celibate Oriole," I'm assuming there's a story behind that.

JARENWATTANANON: Sure. "Celibate Oriole" was originally called "Celebratorial," but that isn't an actual word. It is actually nearly an anagram for the jazz legend "Ornette Coleman." I actually talked about this with Matt once, and he said the tune is written by his bassist in this band, Christ Lightcap. It wasn't designed as an Ornette Coleman tribute, but he heard a certain similarity in there.

(Soundbite of song, "Celibate Oriole")

RAZ: The piece is called "Celibate Oriole." It's by the Matt Wilson quartet. It's one of the many acts you can see next weekend at the Newport Jazz Festival. NPR music producer Patrick Jarenwattananon will be there, and NPR Music will be there.

Patrick, they'll have a live web stream of the festival at our website, nprmusic.org, right?

JARENWATTANANON: Right. We'll be streaming live from midday to about 7:30.

RAZ: That's amazing. Patrick, thanks so much for the preview, and enjoy Newport.

JARENWATTANANON: Thanks for having me, and I certainly will.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: And for Sunday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. We'll be back next weekend. For now, thanks for listening and have a great week.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.