[Dixielandjazz] The First Review of Jazz At Lincoln Center's Opening.

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Tue Oct 19 07:28:28 PDT 2004

It's a Vision Thing.

Steve Barbone

October 19, 2004 - JAZZ REVIEW - By Ben Ratliff

Soaking Up the Spaces at a New Jazz Center

Some basic impressions of Jazz at Lincoln Center's new space, which opened
last night: It is a sophisticated, cosmopolitan, fairly expensive-feeling
experience; it is flexible and alive.

Jazz has so many different connotations for different people. But at least
some part of this three-theater complex, taking up the fifth and sixth
floors of the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle, could ring the bells of
recognition of someone who had never been to a jazz performance before and
only possessed the received wisdom of photographs and album covers: yes,
this seems right; this is jazz. And it contains enough attention to detail
to impress those who have spent the better part of their lives hearing it,

Last night's invitation-only opening shows, broadcast live on PBS, are not
going to remain in the imagination as any kind of normal night: it was an
evening for board members, donors, critics, musicians and those involved
with the construction of the hall. And so it is too early to tell what it
will feel like as the theaters begin their season-long schedule, with the
bigger concerts in the 1,200-seat Rose Theater and the 550-seat Allen Room
overlapping with shows in the 140-seat Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola.

The Rose Theater, especially, was hard to get a grip on in a first
encounter. It was set up as a theater-in-the-round, which won't always be
the case, and for the sake of television, the ceiling lights were torching
the house. And there's no way that all the different configurations of
music, with guests coming and going for every song (among them Abbey
Lincoln, Tony Bennett, Mark O'Connor, Giovanni Hidalgo, Cyro Baptista and
Wynton Marsalis's musical family) could have been sound-checked to their
best advantage. The music itself worked as a statement of purpose: a version
of the organization's desired eclecticism in miniature, with a blues, a New
Orleans tune ("Dippermouth Blues"), an orchestration of forró music from
Northeastern Brazil, ballads, Coltrane, Basie and so on.

But at certain moments - as when the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra suddenly
cut away from the tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano, who played a few
unaccompanied bars during his solo in "Body and Soul" - you could hear some
of the richness we have in store. His saxophone sound had tremendous depth
and resonance, a more intimate sound than we have become used to at Avery
Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall, where Jazz at Lincoln Center's concerts
were held since the mid-1980's.

For the basic potential of hearing jazz in a theater, it might not get much
better than the Allen Room. The Lincoln Center Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra,
eighteen musicians on an oval bandstand, set up there for three sets,
through more than three hours of music, and they played their repertory,
from Machito to new works like Tom Harrell's "Humility." The room is
exceptionally well-balanced. With only light amplification (and the idea is
that some performances in the future will have none), the music was
detailed. Pablo Calogero's baritone saxophone came through as well as Milton
Cardona's conga drums. And the high windows overlooking Central Park South
give another staggering dimension: toward the top of the glass, you see the
reflection of car headlights playing on the windows.

>From the smaller windows behind the bandstand at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, you
see half Trump International Hotel and Tower, half Central Park treetops.
Bill Charlap played three sets there, a small space with a variety of guests
sitting in, including Wynton Marsalis, who played whinnies and melodic
inventions through "Just Friends," in front of Clark Terry, stopping by to
check out the new place.

Adjustments, acoustic and otherwise, are made to nearly all theaters after
they open. I've seen some clubs proceed for years in a fairly raw or
problematic state. But already these rooms impressively translate into
bricks-and-mortar reality how the planners of Jazz at Lincoln Center have
raised the stakes for jazz to become visible and powerful in the city. In
their thesis, jazz isn't secluded; it's right out there, exposed and
imperious, peering over the street.

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