Monday, June 16, 2008

Father's Day At The 2008 Indy Jazz Fest

Jazz Fan Wayne Miller Had A Front Row Seat

Friend Wayne Miller and I made a road trip to Indianapolis on Father's Day to check out the 10th annual Indy Jazz Fest. Two nice band stages, lots of food & drink vendors, jazz merchandise booths, and great music were offered to the approximately 3500 jazz fans who entered Military Park in downtown Indianapolis.

Alex Brown & Paquito D'Rivera

Paquito Was Dazzling On Both Clarinet & Alto Sax

The highlight of the day for me was hearing Paquito D'Rivera again. This was the third time that I have had the opportunity of hearing the multi-Grammy award winner in concert. I am a huge fan of his music and am always mesmerized by his incredible mastery of the clarinet. In past concerts I had heard him perform with his touring quintet and with The Caribbean Jazz Project. Yesterday I thoroughly enjoyed the fascinating set he performed with 20 year old piano phenom Alex Brown. The music was filled with energy, beauty, fire, and extreme precision. They treated us to a couple of compositions from Paquito's newest and grammy award winning album "Funk Tango" along with pieces showcasing latin, jazz, and classical music styles. The entire set was very interesting and one that would be difficult for any other clarinet/sax-piano duo in the world to pull off to such perfection.

The Ramsey Lewis Trio

Opening with "Wade In The Water", the Ramsey Lewis Trio played a joyful set filled with finger popping grooves and some of his pop jazz staples including "Betcha By Golly Wow" and "Close Your Eyes And Remember". Bassist Larry Gray and drummer Leon Joyce smiled continuously as the kept their eyes on Ramsey Lewis for his musical ques throughout the performance. It was fun to watch and hear the musical conversation and interplay between the members of the trio as they played off each other's musical lines throughout the set. All three musicians had almost constant eye contact with each other and expressions of happiness as they played. The high point of the three time grammy award winner's set was a gospel medley that resulted in chants of "Hallelujah" and "Testify" from some in the crowd. It was an exciting set by an old pro who seems to still have a blast when he plays. At one point in the set Ramsey took the microphone and proclaimed "This a good day for jazz." I couldn't have agreed more with him!

Ramsey's Trio Found A Smooth Groove

Vocalist Robin McKelle and Her Jazz Trio

I enjoyed vocalist Robin McKelle's set very much. She displayed a wonderful, rich alto voice and was comfortable scatting, swinging, singing the blues, and making a ballad her own. McKelle opened with a swinging version of Steve Miller's "Abacadabra" and included a lot of jazz standards such as "Lullaby Of Birdland" and "Save Your Love For Me". After her set I was fortunate to meet her. She told me that some of her favorite singers include Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, Sarah Vaughan, Gladys Knight, and Nina Simone. No wonder I loved her style! She sounded to me a little like a modern day up and coming Dinah Washington, a little like Anita O'Day at times, and with swinging scatting skills and phrasing emulating the great Ella Fitzgerald. I told her that her version of "Never Make Your Move Too Soon" reminded me of one I love that Ernestine Anderson did with The Frank Cap-Nat Pierce Juggernaut Big Band. She replied that she had learned that song listening to the very recording I referenced. Robin's exciting trio included pianist Alain Mallet, bassist Peter Slavov, and drummer Jeremy Clemons.

Oliver Nelson, Jr. Was Featured With The IUPUI Jazz Ensemble

Oliver Nelson, Jr. joined the IUPUI Jazz Ensemble as they played some classic Count Basie charts including "April In Paris". They also performed a couple of tunes written by Jr's famous father. Jr's flute and piccolo chops were showcased on "Flute Salad" and "Reuben's Rondo". Their portion of the concert was dedicated to the late Jack Gilfoy, a drummer and instructor of the IUPUI Jazz Ensemble.

Guitarist Mike Moreno, Bassist Thomas Morgan & Drummer Eric Harland

The Aaron Parks Quartet was scheduled to play, but Cole Porter Fellow Piano Competition Winner Parks was ill and could not make the gig. The other members of his quartet played the set without him and did a nice job. Guitarist Mike Moreno displayed some nice technique as well as sensitivity throughout the set. Rhythm section members Thomas Morgan and Eric Harland were attentive throughout and blended well with the Mike Stern and sometimes Pat Metheny-like sound of Moreno's guitar. These young musicians displayed a lot of talent and should be making good music for many years to come.

Severe weather rolled in about 8:50 and did not allow for Fourplay to take the stage. It was disappointing and a drag to miss hearing those guys, but Wayne and I left the park feeling great about the jazz that we WERE able to hear. I hope Indy Jazz Fest continues to be successful in attracting great jazz to Indianapolis each year. I will certainly be checking the artist lineup next year and hopefully be able to make the road trip from Richmond to Indy once again.


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