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Cadenza: Summer Nights

Notes on the 2008 JVC Jazz Festival in New York and Umbria Jazz in Perugia

Between the JVC Jazz Festival in New York and Umbria Jazz in Perugia, Italy, there was much to treasure and contemplate, including a few surprises mixed in with the anticipated highs. Having set out not to take notes at events I initially had no intention of reviewing, I rely here on the failings and advantages of memory. The failings are obvious: holes like Swiss cheese into which events and nights disappear. Yet the advantages are not to be denied—chiefly an automatic filter that cuts to the chase and eradicates the merely ordinary.

The first surprise loomed on the first night of JVC, in a tribute to Alice Coltrane, organized by Ravi Coltrane, with a harpist named Brandee Younger, and a rhythm team that ought to be revived for its own night: Geri Allen, Charlie Haden, Jack DeJohnette. It was a surprise because, while I don’t much love the multicultural spiritualism and unilateral modes of Alice Coltrane’s recordings, I was enchanted by this evening, disappointed only by Allen’s strangely unassertive performance. Ravi played with focus, building to a breakout finish; the swirling harp and harplike piano arpeggios added agreeable colors; and DeJohnette was as attentive as a surgeon. Especially affecting was a reel of home movies that transferred John Coltrane from the realm of mythology to the hearth of family life. I hope Ravi incorporates them into a CD/DVD.

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Originally Published

Gary Giddins

Gary Giddins is the author of 12 books, including Rhythm-a-Ning: Jazz Tradition and Innovation (1985), Visions of Jazz: The First Century (1998), Weather Bird (2004), and the three-volume biography Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star, of which two volumes have been published to date. Between 1974 and 2003, he wrote a regular jazz column for The Village Voice, winning six ASCAP Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in music criticism. From 2002 to 2008, he wrote JazzTimes‘ Cadenza column.