JAZZ FEST 2012, Day 5: Benny Green, IPA, NeWt

BY RON NETSKY

There were few fireworks from the Benny Green Trio Tuesday night in Kilbourn Hall, just a solid concert. Green had great support in the bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington, who are not related but probably have played together more than any other musicians in New York.

The program featured salutes to colleagues, including “Tales of Malone,” dedicated to Green’s long-time collaborator guitarist Russell Malone, and “Jackie Mclean,” written for the late saxophonist. There were a variety of compositional styles on display, from a nicely structured samba (“Magic Beans”) to a slow blues with some unconventional turns (“Golden Flamingo”). But the best tune of the night, with some unison lines played mile-a-minute fashion, was Thelonious Monk’s “52nd Street Theme.”

The music was more urgent at the Lutheran Church when the Scandinavian group IPA took the stage. The quartet had no pianist, so it was up to the bassist and drummer to keep the decidedly agitated rhythm moving under fiery solos from the saxophonist and trumpeter. They were more than up to the task.

Although IPA is one of the most avant-garde acts to visit the festival this year, the group managed to hold on to the vast majority of the audience for the entire show. This might have been due to a wise strategy of alternating the wild rides with some more melodic tunes. The best of the latter was a calypso tune that reminded me of “St. Thomas” by Sonny Rollins. Sure enough, it was dedicated to Rollins and another saxophonist, Albert Ayler, who was an inspiration on the avant-garde side.

I had a tough time getting a handle on NeWt, a trio from Scotland at Christ Church. Only one of them was actually Scottish (the others were Australian and Canadian), but they all were wearing kilts, which seemed a bit over the top. It was, I must say, an unusual combination of instruments: electric guitar, trombone, and drums.

They told stories like the one about traveling to the farthest reaches of Scotland, the Shetland Islands, and, while walking on a cliff-side, encountering giant birds that could have carried them off. This and other stories were evocative inspirations for songs. The trouble was I could not feel any connection between what they played and the things they talked about. That is, until the very end. It was then that they mentioned an old Royal Air Force base they came upon and proceeded to play a piece that nicely evoked military excess.

Wednesday evening I’ll be at Kilbourn Hall where the wonderful pianist/singer Eliane Elias performs. I’ll be back at Christ Church to hear saxophonist Osian Roberts, trumpeter Steve Fishwick, and their group and, finally, Montage for the nicely wild group, Kneebody.

Where did you go on Tuesday night? What was your favorite show? Leave your reviews in the comments.

Looking for more of City’s Jazz Fest coverage? Click here for City’s 2012 Jazz Fest Guide, click here for our Jazz Blog landing page, or Like City on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @roccitynews.

3 comments

  1. Paul Goldberg · · Reply

    We covered a lot of territory including NeWt where we didn’t last long at all and IPA which we left after a couple of numbers for Abilene. We really enjoyed Jayme Stone Group at Max and bounced in our seats through Benny Green until the last note and the house lights came up.

  2. Bobby Digital · · Reply

    Agreed that neWt was tough to get a handle on, and my picks are usually leaning towards the experimental. The guitar was hard to discern, and the vibe seemed generally uncomfortable and dumbstruck for the 15 min I was there. That’s too bad because Breach, which included neWt’s drummer and and guitarist, was a highlight earlier in the week. If Radiohead released a jazz record, it might sound similar to what I heard at Breach’s early show. IPA was the redeeming act for me after not-so-memorable Monday night (I couldn’t get into Hatch for Eldar) and possibly the weirdest and most energized performance of the fest so far. My only complaint there was the $20 price tag on their CDs, which is tough to justify when you think of all the Poutine you can eat for the money! Others I saw on Weds were Big Sam and Clinton Curtis – crowd-pleasers and accessible safe-plays but relatively average. Also caught 15min of Benny Green – solid, will definitely want to see more of him at Hatch tonight.

  3. Jazz Diva · · Reply

    Honestly, is it that only fireworks turn you on? It sounds like the writer feels that the serious craft of playing at the level Mr. Green plays with Peter and Kenny is “just solid”— and therefore less desirable? I’d say it sounds like someone is an adrenaline junky.

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