Written by Patrick Jarenwattananon from National Public Radio
This weekend, NPR Music and our partners WBGO and WGBH are presenting 16 hours of live video webcasting from the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival. For your convenience, here’s a breakdown of what you’ll see online and hear on WBGO. Everything is subject to change, as with all broadcasting; for the latest, check out npr.org/newportjazz, where you’ll find the streaming video. And, if you happen to be going to the festival, we’ve even written up all the other bands also appearing on day one. (Come say hi if you’re there!)
We start at 11 a.m. Saturday, August 4. Ready?
11:00 Pedrito Martinez Group: Not the diminutive retired baseball pitcher, but the energetic Cuban conguero, a phenomenal talent and charismatic bandleader. With microphones for both his drums and voice, Martinez and his band go way beyond what you’d think of Latin and/or jazz.
11:50 John Ellis & Double-Wide: A personal favorite band, Ellis is a commanding saxophonist with a most gorgeous tone. This band is all about how you can take the boy out of New Orleans, but you can’t take the New Orleans out of the band he’s put together.
12:40 Jack DeJohnette Group: The great drummer, who was named an NEA Jazz Master in January, currently leads a band which cuts through with electric guitar and keyboards. He may be turning 70 within a week’s time, but he’s not going quietly into retirement age.
1:40 Dafnis Prieto Sextet: Like his countryman Pedrito Martinez, Prieto came over from Cuba around the turn of the century and promptly put every drummer in New York City on notice. His next-level clave drives his sextet, and is liable to cause bug-eyed amazement.
2:25 Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society: A man of open ears, the composer Darcy James Argue has steadily been rescuing the big band from the dustbin of anachronism. His “co-conspirators” have already recorded his much-anticipated sophomore album; 18 of them will give us a taste.
3:25 The Bad Plus + Bill Frisell: Here’s a collaboration that raises the question, “Why hasn’t this happened before?” The Bad Plus has been a revisionist cover band, but today mostly makes original piano-trio music sui generis. Frisell is down for anything and will do it well.
4:25 3 Clarinets: That would be Ken Peplowski, a Swing-era specialist; Evan Christopher, a living historian of the New Orleans Creole clarinet; and Anat Cohen — what doesn’t she do? Supported by a full band, this one promises some ad lib fireworks.
5:05 Jack DeJohnette All-Stars: The aforementioned jazz master flips through his Rolodex for this ad hoc band. Some of these folks were also heard on the record Sound Travels, out earlier this year — they include pianist Jason Moran, who will spar with DeJohnette in duet.
6:10 Bill Frisell plays John Lennon: Frisell is a soft-spoken guy who does a lot of talking with his guitar (and its pedals and effects). Being of the boomer generation, Beatles songs run through his blood; he won’t reinvent the wheel here, but he’ll certainly give it a different spin.
Also appearing at the festival:
RIMEA All-State Jazz Ensemble: Rhode Island teenagers play big-band charts. Expect some precocious soloists, and maybe a special guest appearance, too.
Christian McBride & Inside Straight: McBride is the bassist of choice for anyone between Sonny Rollins and Sting. But, like the name implies, he put this band together so he could bang around on some straight-ahead acoustic jazz. See: live at the Village Vanguard.
James Carter Organ Trio + Special Guests: Perhaps the best saxophonist at the festival this weekend, Carter leads an organ trio that will swing you into bad health. He’s also got underheralded guitarist Rodney Jones and singer Miche Braden with him. See: Newport 2009.
Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Quintet: Two of the top composer-performers of a generation, together at last. This is a new band with new tunes and some young rhythm-section members; it’ll look like your “typical” quintet, but reports indicate that it’s anything but.
Dianne Reeves: If you like classic, virtuoso, grab-you-by-your-lapel jazz singers — Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Betty Carter — this would be the place to go. NPR named her one of “50 Great Voices” in a year-long 2010 series; that’s about right. See: Toast of the Nation concert.
Pat Metheny Unity Band: Perhaps you know the guitarist with the hair and the imagination. He’s just released his most “jazz” record in quite a while, featuring killer saxophonist Chris Potter, regular drummer Antonio Sanchez and rising-star bassist Ben Williams.
Friday Night Concert: This year’s opening-night theme is New Orleans, starting with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, conservators of the jazz traditions native to the Crescent City. Then there’s the colorful singer-songwriter Dr. John, who — well, it’s Dr. John! He’ll be with his Lower 911 band, filled with outrage at the state of post-Katrina NOLA and filled with city bigwigs including the fantastic pianist Jon Cleary. The show also highlights special guests Jonathan Batiste, an up-and-coming pianist from New Orleans, and Catherine Russell, whose new album of old songs draws from the time when her father Luis Russell was musical director for Louis Armstrong.