I have kind of a strange perspective on this particular event since I'm kind of an insider, having played in the opening act of the show. I had an absolute blast playing the new Steinway (best instrument I've ever played bar none) and Eddie was gracious enough to allow me to use it (Ahmad Jamal last year was not, and I was stuck on my piece of crap Prokeys 88). Something about that stage inspires great playing, and Paul Brana (1st trumpet) in particular absolutely played his brains out. I play with Paul on a regular basis (he's in my sextet) and I personally believe he's going to be one of the most important jazz trumpet players in my coming generation, because every time he picks up his horn to solo, all kinds of surprises come out. Sometimes he even surprises himself.
As for the main attraction, I agree with most of L. J.'s assessment but I have to say I enjoyed trombonist Conrad Herwig's performance more than a lot of the people I've talked to. I think he's a trombonist with great technical facility, solid ideas, and he's a particularly good showman. He does play what we call "parlor tricks," drawing from what is probably a canned vocabulary of fast runs and other acrobatics which are only there to impress and entertain, but there is certainly something to be said for the ability to connect with an audience, and it's not something everyone can do. His towering presence onstage was a positive addition for me. Brian Lynch was definitely impressive as well, taking time to build his solos in intensity, though I would have liked to hear him push a little further outside harmonically.
I feel compelled to mention the bassist as well, Luques Curtis. I got to see him play at Newport last summer with Christian Scott, a young trumpet player on his way up to superstardom. Chris Barosky (bassist in the All State Jazz Band and one of my best friends) and I talked with him a little bit before the show--he remembered Chris from when they talked at Newport. Luques is a really down-to-earth kind of guy and he was really friendly to us. It's really encouraging for young musicians like ourselves to meet someone only a few years older than us who has really made it and is playing on a high level. His one solo on the concert had really interesting textures and was structured differently than most of the bass solos I hear. I liked it even if it was a little cluttered.
I'm kind of upset about missing out on Kenny Garrett last night, especially after all the great things I've heard. As a side note, the bassist on that show, Nat Reeves, is a professor at the Hartt School of Music where former Vermont high school trumpet star Josh Bruneau (All-State from 2003 to 2006) has become good friends with him. I'm also a little upset about missing Esperanza Spalding this coming Wednesday, but my sextet has a gig on the marketplace at 7 pm that night. At least I still have Chick and Bela...