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Newport Jazz 2022

On a sunny Saturday morning on July 30, I set out with three friends to attend the Newport Jazz Festival.  After a long ride in through traffic, we got to take our seats at the Fort Stage around 12:30.  But soon enough, we all went in different directions to enjoy the many different groups playing on that day.  Alas, one of my favorites, Jack DeJohnette was sick and had to cancel, but the order was shuffled a bit and is shown in this picture.  Amongst the many fine musicians, my eyes were drawn to the Quad stage lineup.  

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The Quad stage is within the fort (here at Fort Adams) and had several hundred chairs, typically all filled and lots of room on the outskirts for standing and placement of chairs. With a bit of patience, I was able to find a seat as audience members moved in and out.  

The first group I saw there was Antonio Sanchez and Bad Hombre. Sanchez has played with a number of other groups, including notably several with Pat Metheny, but on this day, he played with his own quartet.  The music was heavily percussion driven and easily filled the area. Excellent vocals were provided by his wife, Thana Alexa.  On a song called Suspended Animation, her vocals soared high and included long non-verbal stretches.  Toward the end, she offered birdlike sounds that swirled with help from an echoplex effect. Here is a picture of the band, which also included a fine keyboard player and a bassist (hidden behind Alexa in this shot).   

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The next group, named after their lead percussionist Yuseef Dayes, hailed from the United Kingdom and mentioned how happy they were to play at Newport.  The band members didn't get introduced for a while, but featured great alto sax work on the first song from Malik Venna. He then disappeared for a while, as the band featured more percussive music, but when Venna returned, he continued to add the best saxophone sounds that I heard on this day.  Here's a look at the band, with Venna on the left and Dayes behind a big drum kit.  The keyboard player was also excellent on both piano and when adding Corea-influenced synthesizer lines. Here's a shot of the group.  

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The next group was one of my favorites for the day, the Maria Schneider Orchestra. She was very animated and played a couple of pieces from a recent work called "Data Lords."  She expressed concern about trends in recent years toward Artificial Intelligence in high tech and the music was a hyperkinetic rejoinder to this trend. On the intro to this song and the next, she talked about world annihilation and then proceeded to conduct the orchestra and use her hands to extract the traumatic sounds she wanted from the players.  This music was far different than the pastoral sounds I heard from her group when she played at Newport a few years earlier. Nonetheless, the musicians were outstanding both in ensemble and in their solo work'; Schneider herself gave a shoutout to guitarist Ben Monder (on far left) for the work he did on a song about the debris that is swirling above all of us in orbits around the earth. Here's the full group we saw playing under her guidance:  

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From here, Schneider's group played a deconstructed version of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," but I made a tough tradeoff and began to walk back around to the Fort Stage.  When I arrived there, Esperanza Spalding was singing against the backdrop of some fine piano work. On the next song, Spalding did stunning work on both her upright bass and in vocals that reached into the stratosphere. Many of us in the audience were mesmerized was we watched her play and sing with her curly black hair flowing along with the music.  Alas, I have no picture to share of this moment, but I assure you that she captivated us.  She also was the only musician all day that stood up and gave thanks to the vision offered by late Newport Jazz founder, George Wein, who passed away last year.  Spalding ended her set with a Wayne Shorter song and I was glad I'd had a chance to listen to her abbreviated set.  

The last artist that caught my attention was back at the Quad Stage -- the remarkable Cecile McLorin Salvant. Salvant was backed by a strong group, which included the wonderful pianist Sullivan Fortner, who was fresh from a set played with his own group earlier in the day.  Salvant's forte is to bring alive music from the American Songbook and she ranged broadly in her renditions of such standards, but she also sang some of her own material. One song, called "Do Do," was sang in French with some backup vocals from other musicians as well, adding another dimension to her singing style.  She seem to be able to stretch her voice to hit any note she wants and the songs seemed to get stronger as she got deeper into the set.  She finished with one of her own songs -- "Ghost Song," where one of the lyrics talks of "... the ghost of our long lost love."   Here is a glimpse of Cecile (see her in the bright luminescent green outfit) and her group toward the end of their set.  

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