Friday, July 28, 2006

Now It's Time for Music

SEQUIM--We've had several good days of tourist-y stuff on this trip, so it's time to let the jazz begin.

But first, a bit about what's going on here this week: The festival, known as Jazz Port Townsend, is put on by a group called Centrum--no, not the vitamin people, but a local arts advocacy group based at Fort Worden State Park in Port Townsend. Fort Worden hasn't been an actual fort since 1953, but it now serves as a wonderful venue for conferences and things of that nature. During the week, they also have a jazz workshop that's sort of like our jazz camp on steroids--they have around 250 attendees this year (that's twice what we had), and two-thirds of them are adults. Like us, they have a whole big band's worth of faculty (we'll see them on Saturday), and the days are filled with theory and improv classes, combo and big band rehearsals, master classes, and so on. Today, I got to catch a bit of the workshop, as well as the nighttime activities.

Part I: Genesis of a Combo, or Who's Your Buddy? The afternoon concert featured the legendary clarinetist Buddy DeFranco in what would amount to a public rehearsal with the combo that will join him for a Saturday afternoon performance on the main stage: Bill Mays on piano, Dan Balmer on guitar, Chuck Deardorf on bass and Jon Wikan on drums. He had played with maybe one of them in the past, so they really were having their first meeting right there on the stage. DeFranco discussed how they would figure out the specifics of each tune at the spur of the moment, and what they played really did sound as if it had been rehearsed already, which is one of the great things about jazz music--people who are well-versed in the style and in a certain body of work (the "standards") can get together and make it sound like they've played together forever. (There was one great moment as well, when the master was brought down to earth for a split second: He noted that he hoped he could get a good sound out of his clarinet--which he referred to as the "agony pipe"--after having just flown in that day, and sure enough, on the first tune, the clarinet let out a big squawk...but one and only one.) They did only three tunes (one in each of the usual styles), but it was a lot of fun to see a group of masters come together like that.

Part II: Jazz Goes Clubbing One of the great features of this festival is that the main concerts are followed by a number of performances in clubs around town. Since there wasn't a mainstage show tonight, the clubs started early at 8:00 (it waits until 10:00 tomorrow night, when we perform). There were only three locations going tonight (as opposed to the seven or eight that will be running tomorrow and Saturday), and a couple of us found ourselves at the Public House, where trumpeter Ingrid Jensen got top billing. Among those joining her were altoist Steve Wilson (who's worked with such luminaries as Chick Corea and Dave Holland, and whose sound bears more than a little resemblance to that of Kenny Garrett), guitarist Bruce Forman (whose name I remember from my radio days) and drummer Jon Wikan. Jensen and WIlson had a lot of great moments together; in many tunes, their solo section consisted of them trading fours or eights for an extended time. I really enjoyed Forman's soloing and will have to check out his recordings when I get back, and I was quite impressed with Wikan, especially during an extended turn on the hand drums, where he came up and sat at the front of the band. Trumpeter Terell Stafford, who's spent a bit of time with Bobby Watson and Horizon, sat in for a tune and nearly blew the roof off the place. This was a great way to start the nighttime portion of the festival, and I'm looking forward to the next several days.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "There are no bad solos; there are no good just be."--John Clayton, renowned bassist and festival director, in a speech to the workshop students this afternoon.

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