Recapping 2008's Vision and JVC Jazz Festivals

Charles Lloyd, Kidd Jordan, Herbie Hancock and more

If pop appropriation fell flat during Hancock's JVC show, it flew fine at William Parker's Sunday-night Vision Festival closer. Parker fronted a seven-piece band for his "Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield," with the brilliant Leena Conquest singing, the ever-provocative Amiri Baraka chanting original verse, and even a youth choir joining in at one point. He played Mayfield's r&b and gospel tunes faithfully in some stretches, and trolled successfully for improvisational possibilities in others. In the show's best moments, it was a swirl of recombined yet familiar elements, with Mayfield's' anthems—"People Get Ready," "It's Alright," "This Is My Country"—somehow newly animated, vital as ever, staked to the resonant, ever-sturdy thrum of Parker's bass.

Bebop a lulu: Charles Lloyd at the JVC
Willie Davis
Bebop a lulu: Charles Lloyd at the JVC

JVC closed on a note of spiritual uplift, too. Charles Lloyd's concert at the Society for Ethical Culture would've fit under the Vision Fest banner, free as the saxophonist plays. But Lloyd, whose 1966 album Forest Flower sold a million copies, is that rare combination of sage and star. The quartet that animates his beautiful recent CD, Rabo de Nube, is among the most interesting bands in jazz right now. In concert, drummer Eric Harland and bassist Reuben Rogers teased all sorts of rhythmic possibility from Lloyd's bebop-inflected, gracefully flowing music. And pianist Jason Moran, typically inspired, spun slightly askew improvisations from Lloyd's "Booker's Garden" and crafted a gleaming introduction to his "Prayer." At evening's end, Rogers bowed his bass and Harland chanted in a deep, breathy voice as Lloyd, an adherent of Vedanta philosophy, recited verses from the Bhagavad Gita. Then, lifting his horn, he blew one more wise and lovely improvisation. Like Kidd Jordan, he felt something stir deep inside. And he just had to let it in.

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