Music Review: 'Newport at 60' earns audience's approval

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"Newport at 60," the concert commemorating the Newport Jazz Festival, came to the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on Saturday, and it seemed that everyone was into it -- not just the listeners but also the musicians. Not simply because the audience during the latter of two shows gave the seven members of the band numerous ovations throughout but also because pianist Bruce Barth's flight to Pittsburgh had been cancelled and he drove all the way from New York to make the gig.

While it was an all-star band, it did come across as a real band. While everyone on the bandstand has a name in the jazz world in his or her own right -- that's the point -- and probably didn't spend that much time going over the material, all seemingly knew just what to do and how and when to do it. On top of that, during the show they also introduced each other deferentially, as though there was an "I-can't-believe-I-get-to-play-with-so-and-so" vibe.

The show started out with "Move," a polyrhythmic cut-time groove composed by drummer Clarence Penn and with numerous fluid solos, especially from Mr. Barth. Larry Grenadiner delivered an a cappella bass solo as a introduction to the heartfelt vocal of Karrin Allyson on "Good Morning, Heartache." "In the Still of the Night" featured a trio setting with Mr. Barth, Mr. Grenadier and Mr. Penn; at the end they were all "trading eights."

I appreciated the angular chord progressions of the fast swinger "Free Fall," a composition by trumpeter Randy Brecker that allowed Mr. Penn to bash a bit. Guitarist Mark Whitfield took the spotlight on a rubato "The Very Thought of You," which moved into another Brazilian groove, "Modo de Amar." The show closed with "Yeh Yeh," with Ms. Allyson taking her turn at the piano, followed by a very sweet rendition of "Honeysuckle Rose."

While all the participants had chops to burn, the Tel-Aviv-born Anat Cohen, who switched between tenor saxophone and clarinet, stole the show on the latter instrument on "La Vie en Rose" but also on "Modo de Amar" and "Yeh Yeh."

The biggest minus was that Ms. Allyson's vocals had trouble being heard over the ensemble throughout, which I first noticed on "Move." And the Antonio Carlos Jobim song "Favela" didn't seem to have the bite of the rest on the material, perhaps in part because she was singing in Portuguese.

Rick Nowlin: rnowlin@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3871.


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