(Photo: Lindsay Beyerstein)
Comrades -- we played the Newport Jazz Festival last weekend.
I've known this hit was coming for almost eleven months now. Obviously there is enormous pressure to live up to the festival's 56-year legacy -- the words "At Newport" are thick with history. Contemplating the significance of our own appearance on that stage is totally daunting -- that way madness lies -- so I tried very hard not to think about it.
Of course, it's hard to not think about something you are actively involved in preparing for, and I spent nearly every day of the past three months working on a new piece, "Blow-Out Prevention," that was to feature a special guest -- a stalwart of Newport festivals past, and my own compositional mentor, Bob Brookmeyer. (He can be heard with Jimmy Giufffre and Jim Hall over the opening credits of the definitive Newport film, Jazz on a Summer's Day.)
Unfortunately, I got a call from Bob on Thursday asking if we could manage without him -- he'd come down with a bad flu and wouldn't be able to make it to Newport. I was devastated, of course, but Bob is 80 years old and needs to take care of himself -- we'd all like him around as long as possible! Meanwhile, though, I had to quickly figure out what to do with the new piece. I decided we'd go ahead and premiere it at Newport, as a "get well soon" tribute to Bob. Of course, performing the piece without him required many frantic last-minute revisions... and though the premiere of "Blow-Out Prevention" is, like most premieres, somewhat ragged around the edges, I hope the spirit of the piece comes through. (It helps that co-conspirator Mike Fahie plays his ass off on the solo part.)
Incidentally, I spoke to Bob on Monday and he is feeling much improved. He and I both promise that eventually we will perform/record the original version of "Blow-Out Prevention" together. (Anyone who would like to help set that up, you know how to get in touch with me.)
As for the rest of our set, you may listen to the incriminating evidence yourselves, but I think Ingrid, Ryan, Jon, Mark, and Erica all threw down in style, and the band brought their best seaside swagger.
After our set, we were able to relax, hang out, and enjoy to the rest of the day's music. (Ahmad Jamal, people!) I also spent a good part of the day -- at least the part before I finally had a minute to change out of my fancy Astoria thrift-store threads -- being mistaken for Jamie Cullum. (Seriously.) But every musician I saw commented on how great the vibe is at Newport -- it's a rare jazz festival where musicians can just casually hang out and take in everyone else's sets. Just one example -- drummers Jon Wikan and Obed Calvaire sat in the wings a few scant feet from Roy Haynes during his set with Chick Corea, absorbing 85 years of rhythmic knowledge. Bottom line, it was a beautiful day of music in a beautiful setting.
Incidentally, NPR offers many other sets from Newport 2010 for your downloading pleasure, including Ben Allison, Dave Binney, JD Allen, Matt Wilson, Julian Lage, Maria Schneider, and lots more. Check it all out here.