Pat Metheny met his match. No matter how many quicksilver notes cascaded down the neck of his guitar, Mother Nature beat him out with raindrops during a Saturday afternoon deluge at the weekend’s Newport Jazz Festival.
But Metheny kept soaring, pianist Gwilym Simcock kept a towel close to his keys and Antonio Sanchez played through spray flying off his drums and cymbals. And when rain surged into downpours, persistent fans by the stage only cheered the moment, while the Grammy-stocked, onetime Cambridge guitarist dug into nuggets like “Bright Size Life.”
Luckily, Newport weather was great at Fort Adams State Park on Friday and Sunday and eventually the sun broke through on Saturday – ironically at the peak of Andra Day’s resilient “Rise Up.”
Day’s closing set also saw the soul singer transform her idol Billie Holiday’s anti-lynching ballad “Strange Fruit” while adding more contemporary zip to her own tunes and look, swapping do-rags for hair extensions and chiffon green.
It was particularly a strong weekend for jazz vocalists, including Cecile McLorin Salvant with the all-woman Artemis and transcendent upstart Jazzmeia Horn.
This year’s Newport Jazz, curated by bassist Christian McBride, truly ran the gamut, from Friday’s cranked up rockers Living Colour to Sunday’s Parliament-Funkadelic free-for-all with George Clinton. McBride himself partook in perhaps the strangest combo, an often-abstract Saturday strings trio with performance artist Laurie Anderson, who played electric violin and led the crowd in a cleansing rainy-day scream patterned after Yoko Ono’s the day after the 2016 election.
Luckily, two of the stages were covered on Saturday, which led to additional highlights including art-song project Code Girl with Brookline-bred guitarist Mary Halvorson (who added a Jazz Journalists Association trophy to her recent besting of Metheny in guitar polls), a solo piano Jon Batiste, and singer/guitarist Jose James, who led a resonant Bill Withers tribute that kicked off with, of course, “Ain’t No Sunshine.”
And the weekend belonged to 80-year-old sax sage Charles Lloyd, who appeared Friday with free-form world group Sangam spiked by tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, Saturday with his New Quartet featuring pianist Jason Moran, and on Sunday with his Friends including rough-hewn Lucinda Williams, who touched on their joint album Vanished Gardens as well as her own edgy affirmation “Joy.” There was plenty of joy to go around over the weekend, even in Saturday’s pouring rain.
Teks & Pic by Paul Robicheau
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