This jazz festival spreads its variety through 20 US cities

It would seem that 1982 is them year for New York's big summer jazz event.

There is not only a vast and varied program in and around town (including concerts at Saratoga Springs, Waterloo Village, and State University of New York at Purchase), but for the first time, a series of concerts in 20 cities across the United States.

And if the kickoff weekend here is any indication, there's enough variety in this huge Kool (formerly Newport) Jazz Festival to please just about any jazz fan.

The New York events include a couple of innovations this time around -- several seminars on the future of jazz and a series of late-afternoon concerts, making it possible for people to attend more than one concert per day.

As always with such an enormous festival, some things work, others don't. It's easy to see in the early stages just which things are likely to work. The question is, why do they work? Or, for that matter, why do some of the others not work so well? Two concerts that worked beautifully, the Benny Goodman/Teddy Wilson/Lionel Hampton Reunion and the Buddy Rich Retrospective, contained several vital elements - great musicianship, excellent pacing, taste, and the easy humor that comes with years of camaraderie in the business.

There was no question in anyone's mind that this was the best in jazz - Goodman was in rare form, playing with great skill and energy, and it's hard to find words to describe the artistry of Buddy Rich, who, after decades in the business, plays with more fire and imagination than ever.

On the other hand, the Jazz and World Music concert at Avery Fisher Hall - a four-hour attempt to show the fusion of jazz and the music of other countries - failed, not because it was necessarily a bad idea, but because the idea was poorly presented. Leaning rather heavily toward the music of India, with a bit of Brazilian and American Indian thrown in.

The main problem was that the sets were too long - farm too long to sustain the interest of very many listeners. And then the obvious question arises - is this really jazz? Or, what does this music really have to do with jazz?

A tribute to Alec Wilder at Carnegie Hall was a mixture of things that worked and didn't work. It's true that the great composers of the American popular song deserve more than a casual nod in a festival of this magnitude, but such tributes should be done with jazz in mind - after all, this is a jazz festival.

But the Alec Wilder tribute focused on many of the Wilder concert pieces for woodwinds and horns, pieces that bear little or no resemblance to jazz. Unfortunately these occupied a large part of the concert, and left far too little time for the wonderful songs that Wilder wrote, songs that have been played again and again by jazz musicians over the years. Thank heavens the afternoon was redeemed. Two brief songs rendered with impeccable taste and profound feeling (with just the right touch of restraint) by Mabel Mercer, a favorite of Wilder's and a treasure indeed, were enough to turn a generally blah afternoon into something quite magical.

For this festival producer George Wein has assembled most of the top names in jazz, including: Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Gerry Mulligan, George Shearing, Marian McPartland, Zoot Sims, Roy Haynes, Dexter Gordon - one could go on and on. Among the newer names are: Wynton Marsalis, Paquito D'Rivera , and Hamiet Bluiett.

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