Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Review: The 17th Dominican Republic Jazz Festival

In the sweaty beach air, power, spirit—and lots of hand percussion

Bassist Rufus Reid and saxophonist George Garzone giving a workshop, Dominican Republic Jazz Festival 2013. Drummer Billy Drummond is obscured.
Marco Pignataro and group, Dominican Republic Jazz Festival, 2013

What connects the six groups I saw at the free, sweaty Dominican Republic Jazz Festival Oct. 31-Nov. 3? Energy and rhythm. In terms of power and spirit, three of the bands hit very hard. They went for it. And all but one of the performances featured either a hand percussionist, multiple hand percussionists or hand percussion at some point. The three nights of music I encountered in the Dominican Republic-I missed the first evening, when Bernie Williams and a group called Pengbian Sang and Retro Jazz played-included subtlety, but the big idea was one of drive and punch. The more cerebral acts, for instance, were assigned to open. The message was clear.

Italian saxophonist Marco Pignataro’s Trio Más was something you’d hear at a jazz club. With drummer Billy Drummond, bassist Rufus Reid and tenor saxophonist George Garzone as his house band-there were some sit-ins-Pignataro, a strong, smart player, gave a set that had swing and bebop in it. But this also seemed to be a performance tailored to the occasion. The hit opened with Joe Lovano’s “Alexander the Great” and closed with the Wayne Shorter-influenced Pignataro original “Grande Theodore,” but in between, the audience, seated beneath and around a tent on the beach in Cabarete, was offered a Jobim song, and “Naima” with a Latin groove underneath. When Pignataro explained that the first song was by Lovano, that bit of information was met by no special reaction from the house. But when Pignataro said that he was about to do a Jobim tune, the crowd got excited. And it got excited again when the melody was played.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published