Requiem for a Flag-Waver

On the other hand, Celia Cruz--in great form, her vibrato rolling rs like a drill--and Tito Puente couldn't be anyone but themselves if they tried. Arturo Sandoval, opening for them, did an exciting if overlong meditation on Dizzy Gillespie, with triple-tongue scat singing, but couldn't resist synthesized strings on numbers only a record label could love. The Cubans, as usual, played to a packed, exuberant house at Carnegie Hall, suggesting a problem for JVC, or BET, which bought Festival Productions. These days, not many gringos do nearly as well, so that Latin musicians now have taken over Mel Torme's old job, albeit for a different audience--guaranteeing a moneymaker. The mainstream is in twilight. Jazz missed a beat in the 1965--75 period; struggling against the rock hegemony with the avant-garde or fusion, it produced few mainstream stars. The only solution is creative producing, a Wein strong suit when the festival represented something of an annual world series of the art. Festivals still thrive in Europe, and not avant-garde festivals, either. Putting aside Sonny Rollins, who won't participate, you have to wonder where were Tommy Flanagan, Geri Allen, the Heath Brothers, David Murray, and two dozen others. In New York, however, JVC is looking yellow around the gills. Another year like this one, and it will be a miracle if anyone takes note.

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