Saturday February 28, 2015
Review: Bridge Jazz Festival @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 2/27/15
By: Greg Haymes
TROY — “That’s the thing about jazz,” Marcus Roberts explained as he settled in on the piano bench in the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Friday night. “There’s room for everybody’s personality and perspective.” And certainly the opening night of the inaugural Bridge Jazz Festival proved that with a diverse array music all nestled under the big umbrella of “jazz.” Three bands. Three unique approaches. All with a decidedly international spin.
Led by composer-keyboardist Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius, Heard – the Capital Region’s “world Jazz ensemble” – kicked off the evening in fine fashion, melding jazz with influences that ranged from classical to African music. The percolating percussion duo of Zorkie Nelson and Ade Knowles with bassist Bobby Kendall laid the foundation, while Woodbury Kasius and clarinetist Jonathan Greene soared through a five-song set of buoyant, joyous melodies beginning with “Waltz for the Aviary” and the upbeat “Karibu.” While the set was primarily instrumental, they added the only vocals of the evening on “O Feche” and “Market Song,” singing in Ga, the native language of Ghana.
Israeli clarinet master Anat Cohen and her quartet served up the most adventurous set of the night, showcasing five songs from their upcoming album, “Luminosa,” with Brazilian influences – including a dip into Milton Nascimento’s rich songbag and a tribute to Baden Powell – bubbling up from under the band’s fusion-esque attack. The most off-beat selection of the night was a jaunty, jazzy re-make of Flying Lotus’ electronica hit, “Putty Boy Strut,” but they hit it out of the park with the joyously swinging crescendo of “In the Spirit of Baden.”
While Anat Cohen was looking forward, pianist Marcus Roberts and his trio – dazzling drummer Jason Marsalis and bassist Thaddeus Expose – offered the most old-school performance, focusing primarily on such time-honored standards as Harold Arlen’s “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love?” and a triptych of Gershwin gems (“The Man I Love,” “Lady Be Good” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me”). Of course, the trio didn’t always play them straight up (the Cole Porter tune was in a 9/8 time signature), but they rarely strayed too far from the melodic path. Roberts was at his best with his lone solo excursion, “As Serenity Approaches,” a ballad full of spirit and hope that could serve as a soundtrack to a sunrise.
The Bridge Jazz Festival crosses the Hudson River to conclude tonight (Saturday, February 28) at the College of St. Rose’s Massry Center with performances by the Fred Hersch Trio, Cécile McLorin Savant and the Gretchen Parlato/Alan Hampton Duo beginning at 6pm. Tickets are $40.
Greg Haymes is a frequent contributor to the Times Union.
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