The Tanglewood Jazz Festival made it through two days of sporadic rain to end with one of the most beautiful days of the summer — and some of the most powerful music in recent memory.
Singer/songwriter/pianist Spencer Day opened the afternoon in the Jazz Cafe, following up on his Day 2 performance with Marian McPartland. He quickly won over the crowd with intimate performances of mostly original material. He also covered a Depeche Mode tune toward the end of the set — and you never would have guessed if you didn’t already know. After the show, I sat down with Spencer for an interview. Look for it on an upcoming episode of The Jazz Session.
Despite losing drummer Joe LaBarbera to a broken left hand less than 48 hours before the gig, clarinetist and saxophonist Eddie Daniels still managed to put on a perfect show for a summer afternoon. Last-minute replacement Steve Schaeffer fit right in with the rest of the group, and Eddie Daniels proved to be as adept at communicating with the crowd as he is at playing his instruments. From the interesting biography file: pianist Tom Ranier has a day job. He’s the assistant musical director on Dancing With The Stars. Look for an interview with Eddie Daniels on an upcoming episode of The Jazz Session.
Violinist Mark O’Connor has covered a lot of musical ground in his career, from fiddle music to symphonies and everything in between. He performed at Tanglewood with his “Hot Swing” band, including guest vocalist Jane Monheit. For me, the standout musician in the ensemble was guitarist Frank Vignola, who can play more musically at ridiculous tempos than just about anyone I’ve heard. Vignola had the crowd in the palm of his hand for every solo, and Monheit was a hit, too.
Pianist Alex Brown is currently a member of Paquito D’Rivera’s band, and you can hear some of his boss’s fire in the interplay between Brown and the members of his trio — particularly drummer Eric Doob. Brown’s trio played the evening set at the Jazz Cafe and were definite crowd pleasers.
Three years ago, nearly to the day, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. The storm and its aftermath were, to me, our country’s absolute lowest point during my lifetime. I always knew we’d start wars and bomb people in distant places, but the idea that we’d let a city drown right here at home was almost too much to comprehend. Spike Lee’s 2006 documentary “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” was a powerful artistic statement about the storm and the human failures that led to the flooding of New Orleans. The film was made even more gripping by the haunting music of trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who composed the soundtrack.
Blanchard decided that the soundtrack wasn’t enough, and so he and the members of his band created the album A Tale Of God’s Will: Requiem For Katrina (Blue Note, 2007). The final performance of the festival was a rare opportunity to hear this music played by the Blanchard quintet and the 40-piece Tanglewood Jazz Orchestra. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe the majesty and sadness of this music. Suffice it to say that it was a concert few in the audience are likely ever to forget.