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Ornette Coleman at the SF Jazz Festival

Jazz Legends celebrate at D.C.'s Kennedy Center

“Legends of the Clarinet” was the overall billing for a week at the Iridium by Buddy DeFranco, 80, and Tony Scott, 82. Conceived by publicist Jim Eigo, the event was booked into the establishment on Broadway and 51st Street and eventually became part of the JVC Jazz Festival’s club affiliations. Most of the participating clubs had different artists every night, but DeFranco and Scott, with the Bill Mays Trio (Mays, piano; Martin Wind, bass; Matt Wilson, drums), were in residence Tuesday through Sunday. The difference here was that each night a third clarinetist was added to spice the stew. The diverse group of guests included (in order of appearance) Perry Robinson, Don Byron, Kenny Davern (two nights), Marty Ehrlich and Ron Odrich.

I was there for the first of the two Davern appearances, and it turned out to be a good mix. Mays, a confident, harmonically astute player, opened in trio with an upbeat “Isn’t It Romantic” that maintained interest as it moved among meters. Then DeFranco and Scott came on for “What Is This Thing Called Love?” Buddy, with fluidity, was at his bopping best while Tony was choppier, in fits and starts, scoring when unleashing those passionate bursts that have been part of his musical character throughout his career. “East of the Sun,” at a relaxed pace, was mostly DeFranco with Scott playing an abbreviated solo before retiring to a chair at the side of the stage. Tony has had dental problems. In Rome, a couple of years ago, he showed me a clear, plastic clip that fits over the middle of his upper gum, enabling him to play.

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