Virtual Charlie Parker jazz fest, day 2: Live music trumps recordings but good video is second best
Hurricane Irene wiped out both days of NYC’s annual Charlie Parker Jazz Fest — but not the avant-garde/glance at the past show of post-Coltranesque Archie Shepp, Israeli-born woodwinder Anat Cohen, hipster pianist Gerald Clayton and one-time busker Madeleine Peyroux available via YouTube. Here’s a dry, speculative approximation of what might have gone down at Tompkins Square Park, across the street from Yardbird Parker’s last home, if not for threat of storm (see yesterday’s post for the virtual fest with Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park lineup of Toots Thielemans, James Carter, Tia Fuller and Cecile McLorin Salvant).
Pianist Gerald Clayton and his trio would have opened with something propulsive (thanks to bassist Joe Sanders, drummer Justin Brown) as in 2009 at the Berlin Jazz Festival:
Although it’s early in the afternoon for guests, would that pianist Hod O’Brien show up to duet with Clayton on “Close Your Eyes.” (Ella Fitzgerald did a definitive vocal version, but in Chicago Gene Ammon’s bold tenor rendition is the favorite). To end, Clayton essays “Con Alma” by Dizzy Gillespie (I like the trumpeter’s 1954 version with four Cuban percussionists).
Cohen also plays lovely soprano sax, as in a studio duet with guitarist Howard Alden on Billy Strayhorn’s “Isfahan.”
Of course, the composition was originally recorded by Duke Ellington’s Orchestra as part of his Far East Suite.
Cohen really gets down on “After You’ve Gone” (from the 2010 Newport Jazz Festival) so she finishes with that (Jason Lindner on piano).
Madeleine Peyroux is a controversial (at least to me) choice to program at a festival dedicated to bebop diety Charlie Parker and music in his wake. Now established as a singer-songerwriter, Ms. Peyroux began her career busking in Paris with a set list of covers exploiting the aspect of her voice which most resembles Billie Holiday’s (and maybe Edith Piaf’s).
Ms. Peyroux could have introduced sly wit by segueing into her version (still in Holiday voice) of “Walkin’ After Midnight,” one of Patsy Cline‘s countrypolitan hits, following up with “Lovesick Blues,” which goes back to the last-of-the-blackface minstrels Emmett Miller, and closing with “Dance Me to the End of Love” (composed by Leonard Cohen).
Such would be her appropriately bluesy jazz stand.
Archie Shepp‘s jazz bonafides need no justification — he emerged in the early 1960s as a tenor saxophone protegé of John Coltrane. In recent years, Shepp has struggled with problems affecting his embouchure, taking a toll on his intonation. But he’s a smart man who studied drama in his college years; he knows how to build to a climax. He’d start strong — as he did in 1978 on this tune (which I ought to know the name of, but don’t –that’s Clifford Jarvis playing drums).
Addressing the inexorable passage of time, Shepp could dip into “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be,” by Duke Ellington — which he record in an iconoclastic 1961 session led by pianist Cecil Taylor. Taking a cue from the news, he delves in “Lybia” — as he played it in 1975 accompanied by Charles Greenlee, trombone; Beaver Harris, drums; Dave Burrell, piano and David Williams, bass.
No performance of Shepp’s these days is without his piercing composition “Steam” about the gang-related Philadelphia street shooting of his 15-year-old cousin. Shepp sometimes plays this on piano intoning the lyrics himself, but the version recorded on the album I Know About The Life features vocals by Joe Lee Wilson, who died July 17, 2011.
Makes for a cool afternoon fest, right? But you haven’t heard the end of it ’til you see and listen toColeman Hawkins and Bird himself, on a video that purports to be from 1950 —
Hard to top Bird et al (Hank Jones, piano; Ray Brown, bass; Buddy Rich, drums), virtually. But live music trumps recording, and there are nearly two dozen jazz fests, coast-to-coast, over Labor Day weekend. So there’s a chance — grab it! And Tweet about WHO you hear, WHERE you hear ’em, plus the hashtag #jazzlives.