Minnie the Moocher's Revenge

Sing Along With the JVC All-Stars

Blade kept time with hand patterns on "Atlantis," which began with arco bass and found Perez referencing "Aung San" in his comping. Played at a yawningly slow tempo, it did not induce yawns because after wondering where it was going, you realized it was already there; like "Nefertiti," it was a vehicle for the rhythm players. Shorter was standing out front, but in repeating the theme, he was really the background, until the last note when the quartet resolved on a lovely consonance. After the ritual hugs and standing cheers, he reached back to the Blue Note womb—from which so many jazz boomers were yanked into life—for "Juju." As Perez pummeled the keys with crossed hands and Blade, who just may be at the forefront of Gen X drummers, set off flairs and bombs, Shorter played his busiest solo of the evening, only without dynamics—reclusive, enigmatic, alluring. Imagine the old "Juju" phrased like the old "Infant Eyes," and you get an idea not only of this number but of the entire set.

Last year, I demurred on Diana Krall because I was on the fence; I've now got my feet on the ground, but am demurring again until her new CD is released. The concert was retro and lush, with orchestrations for strings by Johnny Mandel and Claus Ogerman, and she was often compelling, not least in her piano solos. Gladys Knight arrived half an hour late, but once she got going all was forgiven; excepting an unnecessary guest saxophonist, her 90-minute set, including a vaudeville routine with her sole remaining Pip, was show business heaven. Yes, she could probably sing jazz, but her old material is so good she doesn't need to.

Wayne Shorter: no more pined-for sight in jazz
photo: Hiroyuki Ito
Wayne Shorter: no more pined-for sight in jazz

One of the festival's best new ideas was to run parallel evenings at Birdland, enabling players who can't fill the major halls to sell out a club that enshrines bebop and its derivations. A Phil Woods quintet plus guest Johnny Griffin and a Dewey Redman quartet plus guest Sonny Fortune delivered the goods and more. Woods revived a couple of pieces you don't often hear anymore ("Bohemia After Dark," "Little Niles"), eliciting from pianist Bill Charlap the kind of inventive sparkle absent on his own recent CD. After Fortune deconstructed "What's New?" Redman went from an Ornette stop-and-go piece—inadvertently demonstrating how close the Coleman and Adderley legacies really are, at least from this vantage—to a backbeat rocker worthy of your neighborhood bar, during which he wandered around tables getting everyone to clap. It was that kind of night, that kind of festival. A boomer thing.

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