Newport Jazz Festival 2016

July 29-31, 2016 Newport Jazz. Coltrane’s last performance. History that reaches back to 1954. And, yes, the oldest annual jazz festival in North America is still under the stewardship of founder George Wein for one last year. Newport, along with the Monterey Jazz Festival on the West Coast in September, stands taller than the rest and for good reason. The stunning Ft. Adams setting, the showcase for fresh directions and emerging acts, and the legacy of musical giants past and present all converge for an event that has long been on my jazz bucket list. Having the good fortune to drop in at Newport Folk the past few years, this was my first shot at Newport Jazz, which retains the stage layout from the previous week’s Folk Fest. The smallest tent is barely more than a dozen rows deep, while the largest stage is set against a backdrop of breathtaking bay and bridge views. Both events are incredibly relaxed and attendance is capped at 10K, creating one of the more intimate festival experiences of any year. Sure, the crowd and vibe skew differently between weekends, but damn if jazz isn’t alive and well in the Northeast, and a younger Millenial […]

Mardi Gras Bhangra with Red Baraat and Butler, Bernstein & the Hot 9, Royce Hall

February 9, 2016 Fat Tuesday in Los Angeles is hard to discern from any other day of the year in this sun spoilt metropolis. Once you get past the pre-packaged king cakes in Whole Foods, there are limited options to channel any decent Mardi Gras energy. Fortunately, the Center for the Art of Performance (CAP) at UCLA, who never fail to pull a season together of the worldly and eclectic, really hit on something when renowned New Orleans pianist, Henry Butler (with Butler, Bernstein & the Hot 9) travelled west at the same time Brooklyn dhol’n’brassers Red Baraat kicked off a coast-to-coast tour. This Mardi Gras Bhangra bill was as close to real deal as we’ll get in this town, and a convergence of river deltas like no other. Words tend to fall short when describing Red Baraat. This speaks less about my limited vocabulary and more about music that bends and infuses the seemingly disparate global elements of wedding music from Northern India (“baraat” is Hindi for a groom’s wedding procession) and the fat horns and funk of New Orleans, and then makes such utterly perfect sense when you experience it. Suffice to say it is a mashup of […]