[Dixielandjazz] Farewell Carnegie Hall Jazz Band

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet@earthlink.net
Tue, 25 Jun 2002 19:09:04 -0400

Here's the review of the band's final performance at Carnegie Hall.

Steve Barbone

June 25, 2002  -  The New York Times

Bidding Farewell to Carnegie With the Best From the Past


     The Carnegie Hall Jazz Band's farewell concert, part of the JVC
Jazz Festival on Friday night, summoned up a good representation of the
aesthetic currents within the group.

The band played a kind of best-hits program: a bunch of American
standards, as realigned by its own staff arrangers. Slide Hampton's take
on "The Days of Wine and Roses" was very Gil Evans, with plush
high-and-low pitch combinations across the horns; Michael Philip Mossman
made "I've Told Every Little Star" a jocular cha-cha, aware of its own
size and weight; Michael Abene built "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To"
into a long, fast and winding bop passage, harmonized among brass and

The band's basic frame of reference is in the mod beginnings of 60's
big-band music: harmony runs riot, brass tickles the intellect like a
crossword puzzle. (Frank Foster's arrangement of "Fascinatin' Rhythm"
had the typically devious sense of humor: it isolated and repeated the
fizzy Gershwin melody, trying it in one key, then another, then

But every once in a while the band threw out anchors into older, more
earthy and less ironic styles, and the saxophonist Frank Wess, now 80
and playing beautifully, remained its conscience and anchor. He played a
tenor saxophone solo in "Body and Soul" that was full of an older,
Coleman Hawkins-like, ballad gravity; it was tender, with chord-based
improvisations falling ripely from the horn.

The evening ended with the trumpeter Clark Terry and the singer Carrie
Smith performing "Blues in the Night," chosen perhaps to strike a note
of sadness for the band's frustration at having 10 years of commissions
and a serious body of work halted by a new administration at Carnegie

The pianist Brad Mehldau opened the concert and established the terrain
with his highly functional working trio: it was depth and more depth,
sometimes in proper scale, sometimes grandiose. In "I've Grown
Accustomed to Her Face" Mr. Mehldau offered a cliché of depth, playing a
tremolo chord in the left hand while limpidly picking out a rubato
melody in the right. But in other places he and the group (Larry
Grenadier on bass and Jorge Rossy on drums) were extraordinary, keeping
grooves volatile and suspended, never letting a given time signature or
chord sequence define a tune.