My apologies to the regulars who were slavering at the mouth for that final Jazz Holiday report... both of you. :-}
"Get here if you can" went the lyrics.
Tens of thousands of people took that advice for the last day of the Clearwater Jazz
Holiday, as Nu Soul Company gave way to the return of Oleta Adams, last years
headliner, who was kind enough to return to fill a rumored last minute opening in the
Her set ranged all over the map, including a rare cover of Billy Joel's "New York State
of Mind", and a not especially swingy version of "If it ain't got that swing". I've
always sort of figured that you can tell the stature of an artist by the ratio of
originals to cover tunes in a set, and by that measure, Adams' performance was somewhat
weak. On the other hand, it was good musicianship, and, especially if you're a fan of
the Steve Vai guitar god school of music, you probably liked it a lot.
The songs included, of course, her first radio hit, "Circle of One", which I don't
know how it got as much airplay as it did, but *I* liked it. Another cover, in
Elton... excuse me: "Sir" Elton John's early attempt at Michael Jackson's theme song,
"Don't Let Your Son Go Down On Me", slowed things back down again. The covers worked
well, actually, since I so rarely hear these songs covered by anyone.
She closed with, no surprise, "Get Here", and as an encore, an uncredited track that
is, presumably, the first single from the new album she's got coming out this spring.
She was followed on stage by 94.1's Alicia Kaye who is always less funny than she
thinks she is, but of course, that's been said of me, too. More people listen to her
than read me, so I guess I should be careful.. :-)
'ja ever do that thing where you're listening to music playing, and you start singing
along with whatever words fit what you're doing just then?
Fred Johnson gets *paid* to do that.
And he does it damned well, too. The hometown boy took over Sunday afternoon about the
same was Bellevue Cadillac did on Saturday. Superlatives fail me. *Man, can that cat
sing*. I couldn't tell you what the songs were, but who cares?
Of course, that wasn't all the man sang; other highlights of the set included standards
like "The Nearness of You" (a standard being defined as "a song old enough you don't
remember who wrote it" :-), and a couple of tracks from his latest album performed in
collaboration with his longtime composer, Cliff Downes. And, of course, it wouldn't be
a Fred Johnson show if they didn't, in his words, "in the grand tradition of jazz...
make something up". The result was "Beautiful Chocolate, an piece of music never heard
before, and which, likely, will never be heard again.
But jazz is like that.
Johnson was followed by Monty Robinson, playing ultimately forgettable covers of Bob
Marley tunes -- forgettable, that is, unless you happen to *like* Marley; I can take
him or leave him alone.
Closing out the night was trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who is reknown for his film
scoring talents. He's a damn good trumpeter, but I wouldn't have pegged him for a
headliner, even a Sunday night one.
Things they got right this year: KO Productions were doing the sound, and they did an
exceptionally good job. Couple of rough spots, but I'm told that's what you get for
letting the touring engineer mix in a park. GTE (now Verizon) Americast supplied the
video truck, shooting for BET on Jazz. The direction was much better this year, but
the shooters *still* don't understand the music. Hooters Calendar Girls, dancing with
Bellevue Cadillac. Three, count 'em, three Alessi Lemonade booths.
Things they got wrong this year: Not much, really. They haven't had phone booths the
past 3 or 4 years, but it seems like damned near everyone has cellphones these days, so
it doesn't much matter. The only real problem I saw was not as many people as last
year, so we didn't sell out of as much stuff as we'd have liked to in Merch. But
that's to be expected, since last year was the 20th Annual, and this year was just the
20th Anniversary (year 21). :-)
Damn fine show, in any case, and I'm sorry you missed it.