Jazz Festival sizzles; Bobby Short sparkles; 'Coppelia' wobbles.
When it comes to jazz, the spirit must move you. Insofar as it does, jazz becomes a celebration of life's untethered freedoms, a sail into inner space. When the spirit is lacking, jazz can seem disconnected and incomplete.
The spirit was present in three distinct if not entirely satisfying forms at last week's Boston Globe Jazz Festival - the Jackie McClean/ Rene McClean Sextet , the McCoy Tyner Quintet, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago, all at Berklee Performance Center.
Jackie McClean and Rene McClean are father and son and have a bit of a saxophone dynasty going between them. They've put together a sextet that gave an admirable though not really inspired show last Thursday.
Individually, the performances were fine: Jackie and Rene were especially engaging with sax and flute - like two serenading songbirds on ''Dance, Little Deesa, Dance.'' Ralph Bishop was smooth and sweet on the keyboards. And African-clad Kamati Denizulu worked up some pungent rhythms on drums. But together they failed to find the synergy, the synthesis of spirit, that gets inside you and makes jazz music irresistible.
How different the McCoy Tyner Quintet. Theirs was a liquid sound, five superior players molded into one undeniable whole. First, the band: John Lee's bass was a solid, driving force; Gary Barts's alto sax was winning in its subtlety; Wilbee Fletcher played drums with an easy, rhythmic confidence; and John Blake sizzled on the electric violin.
Then there was McCoy Tyner, the renowned percussive pianist. A quiet, self-effacing man, he and his piano stayed in the background through most of the show, allowing band members to take the spotlight. Finally, on ''It's You or No One for Me,'' Tyner let loose: There was a tumble of keys, a scatter of notes, and he had the audience wrapped in his blistering style. That produced an encore: Duke Ellington's ''Prelude to a Kiss,'' which began in a blizzard of arpeggios and gradually wound down until, to end, he dropped one beautiful snowflake of a note.
In contrast to that peaceful ending, the Art Ensemble of Chicago (AEC) wrapped up the Festival Sunday night with its cacophonous brand of avant-garde jazz. Five standout artists who have been playing together for 31 years, they call their concert ''Great Black Music: Ancient to the Future.''
The band employs some 50 instruments, ranging from conch shells, bike horns, and cowbells to sirens and every kind of drum, sax, and clarinet imaginable.
At times they sounded like a Boston traffic jam - and at others like five elders sitting under an acacia tree somewhere on the African plains. It was, at turns, annoying and utterly enchanting. For those willing to take the trip and allow themselves to hear sounds they've never heard before, it was delightful. For anyone else, it could be disturbing. But through it all was that familiar spirit of jazz, in its most adventurous form.