Cape Cod Jazz Festival: already a trend-setter?

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Young musicians playing jazz of the '20s, '30s, '40s, and '50s and making it sound fresh and inspired booted the first annual Cape Cod Jazz Festival into prominence as a trend- setting event.

Scott Hamilton's group, the Widespread Depression Orchestra, Roomful of Blues , and even veteran pianist Earl (Fatha) Hine's quartet of young white jazzmen fired up a legion of jazz and blues classics and American pop standards with enthusiasm and skill. Melody staged a comeback. The familiar mellow old harmonies poured out, and the beat was solid and dancy.

Jack Bradley, the festival producer and president of the Cape Cod Jazz Society, sees it as a "definite trend," and told the Monitor, "It's regrettable they're mostly young white musicians so far."

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The festival, cosponsored by the Jazz Society and the Harwich Cranberry Harvest Committee, was a Two-day event held at Dunfey's, a resort complex here.

On the whole the festival fare represented a thoughtful, innovative combination of local, regional, and national jazz talents. Cape favorites such as Marie Marcus, Dick Wetmore, Lou Colombo, Lee Childs, and others shared the spotlight with jazz greats like Buddy Rich, Earl Hines, Vic Dickenson, Doc Cheatham, Scott Hamilton, and Bob Wilber.

Day 1's afternoon session featured the efficient Dixieland of the New Black Eagle Jazz Band, a widely acclaimed regional 7-piece group of two-career men (music and other professions) and the rocking, gutsy rhythm-and-blues music of Roomful of Blues, a band in the Lionel Hampton mold: Irrepressible drive and joy.

The Eagles emphasized lesser-known early jazz tunes (Ellington's "Rent Party Blues," for instance, or "Funny Fumble," recorded in 1928 by Omer Simeon). Dick Wetmore, in a guest spot, played violin in a duet with Eagle Clarinetist Stan McDonald on soprano sax, doing Django Reinhardt's wistful "Nuages." It added a delicate souffle to the Dixie menu.

Roomful of Blues's front line -- guitar, tenor, baritone, alto, trumpet, trombone -- punched out in honking, buzzing, pulsing riffs and licks tunes from the Ellington repertoire and the R&B file, and an uproarious time was had by all.

The first day's evening program suffered from what became a chronic festival ailment: interminable intermissions between groups. Even the showing of vintage jazz film excerpts, though interesting, didn't help much.

Headliner Buddy Rich didn't come on till 11 o'clock. It was s long sit-out from the 8 o'clock starting time, burdened to some extent by two appearances of the Dick Johnson Band, a hard-blowing, up-volume group sparked by leader Johnson's hyperactive reed style. It concentrated on tunes by bop and post-bop notables Thelonius Monk, Clark Terry, Dizzy Gillespie, and Chick Corea.

Finally on stage, rich greeted the audience with, "Well! Welcome to the breakfast club! The band charged through a succession of unannounced numbers (one recognizable, Cole Porter's "Love for Sale"). Its style, though mellowed somewhat, is still so overloaded with dexterity that it cows even admirers, antagonizes others or scares them off. It speaks in a contemporary musical idiom to the young, and any others willing to listen and learn. As always, Rich's drum plays were expertly coordinated, his designs on snare, cymbals, high-hats, bass, and tom-toms executed with electrifying intensity and control. He is the centerpiece of his band. Everything it does emanates from and is indivisible from that drum center. Buddy could sit on stage all by himself, without a horn in sight, and make music.

Day 2 brought the festival back to roots. The afternoon program, a tribute to the late Bobby Hackett, focused on the Bobby Hackett Memorial Jazz Band, featuring veterans Doc Cheatham and Vic Dickenson, with Bobby's son, Ernie, on drums. Cheatham, tall and straight as a redwood, his trumpet pointing characteristically skyward, offered lyric, Armstrong-like solos on "Rose Room" and Hoagy Carmichael's "New Orleans." Dickenson played a tender, affecting trombone solo on a tune he said "always intrigued" him, one that Bobby played -- "A Room with a View." They were joined by trumpet/cornet men Wetmore, Lou Colombo, Bob Branca, and Jim Blackmore, who spoke warmly of Bobby's meaning to them and played individual tributes.

It wound up with a spectacular all-in jam session reminiscent of the tremendous lineups, often including Hackett, that used to jam out the famous Eddie Condon Town Hall concerts in the '40s.

In both afternoon and evening programs Day 2's music was mellow and relaxed, the musicians enjoying it and one another. Listeners heard again the timeless poetry of classic horns "singing" old refrains.

Marie Marcus, who plays fistfuls of piano, drew rousing applause in a trio with guests and her Dixieland band. If you hadn't seen young Scott Hamilton's white face and only heard his big-toned, soulful tenor sax, you would have sworn Coleman Hawkins or Ben Webster was on stage. Ears were bent plenty also by his guitarist, Chris Flory, and guest pianist, Norman Simmons of New York. In wel-shaped phrases and constantly creative figurations, Simmons built chorus upon chorus with fine feeling for unfolding drama. A young black with an already imposing list of jazz credits, he was brought in and his salary paid by Hamilton and his quartet members as a surprise "gift" to Producer Bradley and the festival.

the Widespread Depression Orchestra, looking the part as three saxes and two brass huddled close to read from only three music stands, turned out a galaxy of '20s-'30s tunes and a special Ellington retrospective, with enthusiastic authenticity. A quintet within the band dusted off a lovely Benny Carter tune, "When Lights Are Low."

Fatha Hines, the great style-setting pianist, seemed to be experiencing difficulties in playing, but he garnered deserving and affectionate acclaim, though his overall performance was disappointing. However, his quartet harbored a phenomenal young reedman, Eric Schneider, whose tenor sax work devastated the audience.

Soprano-alto-tenor-clarinet man Bob Wilber appeared with the Depression rhythm section and charmed listeners as usual with his pure tone and fluent, beat-ful style. He was joined by Dickenson and Cheatham for some Glimpses into jazz history. Their long teamship. Wilber noted, began in Eddie Heywood's 6 -piece band in the '40s. Easily the stars of the entire festival, this "odd couple" were at their most endearing when they played, and sang, a duet on "I Want a Little Girl."

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