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Persuasive advocates of traditional jazz celebrated at Walt Disney Concert Hall

Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60 ensemble
Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60 ensemble
Photo courtesy of LA Phil

60+60 Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60 and 60th Anniversary of Jazz at Massey Hall

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On May 15, 1953, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Charles Mingus and Max Roach played together for the only time in their lives at Massey Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Collectively referred to as The Quintet for ‘The Greatest Jazz Concert Ever’ Jazz At Massey Hall, the concert remains as one of jazz’s most impressive concerts.

Fast forward to another great concert on March 15, 2014, when Jesse Davis on alto saxophone, and trumpeter Jon Faddis united with the Bill Charlap Trio (Charlap on piano, Peter Washington on drums, and Kenny Washington on bass), at Walt Disney Concert Hall to pay tribute to the 60th Anniversary Jazz at Massey Hall. This audience was the recipient of yet another virtuosic concert, one that was filled with inventive, intelligent soloing and “in the pocket” bebop.

During the concert, the ensemble performed many of the same compositions played on that historic date in Toronto. “Groovin’ High,” “Salt Peanuts,” “All The Things You Are,” “Wee,” Tadd Dameron’s “Hot House, and “Night In Tunisia" all received several appreciative ovations because of the intense bebop style, Washington’s walking bass lines as harmonic foundation, Kenny Washington’s repetitive ride cymbal patterns, and the ensemble’s riff patterns that produced coherent textures.

Some of the most passionate and memorable solos of this evening came from Jon Faddis and Jesse Davis during “Night In Tunisia.” Their improvised solos were virtuosic and in the case of Davis, the raw energy in his tone was only surpassed by his startling improvisations. Faddis’ cascades of triplets and chromatic scales, piercing high notes and startling intervallic leaps brought him several enthusiastic ovations. Together, this ensemble paid a stellar tribute to the memory of their predecessors.

After intermission, Musical Director Anat Cohen led the Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60 ensemble in a tribute to the Newport Jazz Festival. As the first annual jazz festival in America, the Newport Jazz Festival continues to feature numerous legendary artists on their stages in Rhode Island each year. Tonight’s touring ensemble included Karrin Allyson on piano/vocals, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Mark Whitfied on guitar, Peter Martin on piano, Ben Allison on bass and Clarence Penn on drums.

They opened their set with “Blues Connotation,” which was followed by a rousing version of “Can’t We Be Friends,” sung by Karryn Allyson. Ben Allison and Karryn Allyson later offered an interesting duo version of “'Round Midnight.” The entire ensemble concluded their set with “Yeh, Yeh” before launching into their encore of “Cuba: New Orleans.” Overall, their set was ripe with memorable melodic ideas and the kind of stellar soloing that would delight many of the legendary musicians who have graced the stages of the Newport Jazz Festival over the past 60 years.