Giants of Jazz

Last night in South Orange a friend and I headed over to listen to this annual concert. It’s in its eleventh year and she’s been to most of them, but it was a first for me. It was a thoroughly amazing show.

The theme of the evening was a tribute to Slide Hampton, and along with him there were something like 13 other trombonists there to pay homage, each in his own way more amazing than the last. Plus, a seriously all-star cast of guests including Billy Taylor, Roy Hargrove, Jimmy Owens, Jimmy Heath and … well it was a long list.

Here’s what grabbed me the most:

  • Hampton’s own arrangements played by the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band in the grand finale. Brilliant, surprising, colorful and virtuosic. By the time the large group took the stage the concert had been going on for three hours, but I could have listened to them all night.
  • Roy Hargrove’s beautiful and lyric work on flugelhorn
  • Frank Greene looking and sounding like Miles in the ’50s
  • Bassist Linda Oh, just out of the Manhattan School, keeping up with — and sometimes going out in front of — the veterans. We don’t hear many bass solos we like, but hers was one of them.
  • Jimmy Heath and Frank Wess’ duet. Two vintage pros who made beautiful music.
  • Don Braden’s simply incredible tenor solos. He was ready to levitate.
  • Steve Turre’s take-no-prisoners trombone playing.
  • Billy Taylor’s elegant and musical piano work
  • And most of all, Barry Harris. Aged and infirm, he slowly worked his way to the piano, sat down and made magic. His playing was simply transcendent.
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This was one great night of music. I’m hooked on this series.

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