Touring the Jazz Museum

JVC 2000 Looks Backward

Cesaria Evora's band, with its Djangological guitarists and meticulous arrangements, was as enchanting as her slow, subtle, midregister Cape Verdean blues. Cassandra Wilson was as shoeless as Evora, whose encores she followed with a smaller and more cohesive band than usual. A highlight of Wilson's engaging set was a duet with Cyndi Lauper, bearing a dulcimer; Lauper sang "Blue in Green" (Kind of Blue) while Wilson sang "Blue Skies" (Irving Berlin) and why it worked I do not know, but it did. João Gilberto had an attack of nerves and arrived at Carnegie an hour late to sing a 95-minute set that was like listening to a waterfall; Warren Vaché's big band at Kaye Playhouse was practiced, and offered a rare chance to see Jake Hanna, one of the swingingest drummers alive; Diana Krall at the Supper Club pretty near made me a believer, but I'll save her for another time.

I can't do justice to the concert that was the most fun—the tribute to 90-year-old Milt Hinton at Kaye—because it was an uncontained and unembarrassed lovefest; reviewing it would be like evaluating a family affair. Still, a few things: John Clayton managed an intricate program with incomparable savoir faire; everyone played well; Byron Stripling's vocal on "Minnie the Moocher" was a riot and so was Jay Leonhart's song-memoir of knowing Milt Hinton; Ron Carter's unaccompanied "Willow Weep for Me" reminded me why he is revered. On "Jumpin' at the Woodside," Jimmy Heath reached back into his bag of riffs and, even amid the hustle, made the place sit up a little more. It was the kind of dyed-in-the-wool moment that obviates, for the time being, questions of jazz's vitality and relocates the music where it lives best—in the spontaneous exertion of a great soloist touched by the spirit.

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