Day 4 was a lighter day schedule-wise, but still included a wide variety of musical styles.
At 12:30 pm, the Brian Barlow Big Band presented their tribute to the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s 1956 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival – hailed as a key moment in the revival of big band music at a time when rock & roll was moving to the fore. Brian does not mess around when assembling a band – these were some of the region’s top jazz musicians and, as if to put an exclamation mark on the ensemble, they were joined by special guest Guido Basso on flugel horn. For 60 minutes the band swung mightily as they made their way through some of the repertoire Duke’s band performed 60 years ago. It was a treat for any jazz lover, but as a big band enthusiast I especially enjoyed the show. Their performance of “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”, including an extended, standing-ovation-earning tenor sax solo from Alex Dean was a highlight.
The afternoon was quiet. I enjoyed the downtime but was simultaneously craving more activity – I find it sometimes difficult to sit idle at festival time! Shortly before 5 pm the Spandettes arrived on site, following their acoustic mini-tour of Toronto Kops Records stores, to prepare for their Outdoor Stage performance at 6:30 pm. I saw this group live a few months ago at their CD release party and enjoyed their take on disco, soul and funk; the three leading ladies sing in impressive harmony and the whole band seems to be having a blast. They brought similar energy to yesterday’s show – the 10-piece band (the three vocals joined by three horns and a groovy rhythm section) kept the crowd moving.
Next up was Grace Potter on the mainstage, and she wasted little time in getting the audience to their feet. This was a rock show through and through, and while I didn’t personally get as much out of it as other shows so far this festival, I did enjoy seeing the band in action. Grace is an absolute powerhouse singer, but also revved up the crowd on electric guitar and hammond organ. She has a dynamic stage presence, and the audience was perfectly happy to dance, clap and sing along. She performed for nearly two hours and while much of the music was high on bombast, there were some nice stripped-down moments too. Her audience got exactly what they came for – a fun, high energy show.
My penultimate stop of the night (does that word make me sound smrt?) was the Horseshoe Tavern for some of Kiefer Sutherland’s set. His music is more in the country vein, and the band was a tight unit – what one would expect after nearly 100 tour dates. Here again I was less inspired musically, but Kiefer and his bandmates held nothing back; the tunes where they sang in harmony especially sounded good. He also seemed to be having a blast on stage, performing in a venue he used to attend regularly when younger; he took time to repeatedly thank the capacity crowd for being there, at one point even raising a glass to toast the Horseshoe itself. A class act performing music he clearly loves.
Off to The Rex for the jam session! I wasn’t sure how long I was going to stay last night (this morning?) – after four late nights in a row I was feeling a bit tired. But then the band (Chris Gale on sax, Dave Restivo on piano, Malcolm Connor on bass, Sly Juhas on drums and a guest guitarist from Scotland) launched in and suddenly I had a drink and ordered food and I was firmly ensconced. That’s what happens when a band starts swinging as hard as those five swung. Ultimately, it did end up being an earlier night – a nice collection of musicians was there, but missing was the audience so we called it a night sooner than usual – but I was glad for the opportunity to hear some straight ahead jazz before the end of the day.
A quick collection of stats from Day 5:
Contribution to my #jazzfestdiet provided by: onion rings
Number of outstanding backline issues resolved to satisfaction: zero (grumble)
Number of brilliant ideas brainstormed while at the late night jam: two, at least. Well, definitely one. We don’t actually need bouncy castles at the festival.
We’re now entering into our busiest few days at the festival, so I’ll be doing lots of running around – Wynton Marsalis (with the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra), Gregory Porter (with Kandace Springs), Oliver Jones and Robi Botos (in duo with Paul Novotny) are all in action tonight. It’ll be hectic, but it’ll be fun.
See you on the square!