Well, the first 2007 Discover Jazz weekend offered us solid jazz, not the soft something-or-other of some past openers. (That comes later in the week this time.) I too mightily enjoyed the All State Jazz Ensemble. L.J. has already cited the considerable contributions of Michael Hardin and Grace Gaylord, while the entire well-rehearsed group earned its applause. Let's hope they continue a full musical career; we don't need any more pastry chefs in Vermont.
As expected, Eddie Palmieri's concert was marked by precision and the by-now-familiar magic. No one bridges salsa and mainstream jazz quite as gracefully as Palmieri, and Monk's "In Walked Bud" demonstated this early in the set. And what a cohesive unit this is! I don't mind Conrad Herwig's showboating any more than I do Ray Anderson's, since the underlying musicianship of both is so solid. I will say, however, that the last time I saw Palmieri, about eight years ago at the Regattabar in Cambridge, MA, Craig Handy's saxophone replaced Herwig's trombone and the textural diifference that resulted was striking. Sometimes such a change can be invigorating, though this time the rock-solid long-standing band was utterly reliable.
Quick disconnect: Watching Sr. Rivero's mesmerizing performance on congas, I flashed back to Ray Barreto, another player who can never be replaced and who is up there with Eddie Palmieri in the Latin Bandleader Hall of Fame.
Maybe it was my imagination? Pharoah Sanders appeared to me to be more subdued than the last time I saw him seven years ago, while Kenny Garrett seemed to overcompensate a bit. Whatever, Sanders still has chops, heart, and soul intact and Garrett only gets better. The concert seemed basically to be in three movements. The first was the extended free blow that gripped everyone. Maybe John Coltrane was listening too. The second began with a lamentation of sorts, and I wish I knew the title. It was perfect preparation for the subsequent surprisingly low-key and moving version of "Naima", as noted in postings below. The last one was the crowd pleaser. DJF audiences always yearn for overt participation, and Kenny gave them a great opportunity.
It would be hard to find a more fitting rhythm section that Garrett's longtime associate Nat Reeves and Jamire Williams. High energy and hard drive on the supporting level all the way.
No encore? Go figure.