Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

The fi­nal two Santa Fe con­certs of the 2010 New Mex­ico Jazz Fes­ti­val were both dou­ble fea­tures and both ex­cel­lently played and tremen­dously dy­namic.

On July 23, the Miguel Zenón Quin­tet fea­tured mu­sic from the alto sax­o­phon­ist’s al­bum Esta Plena. The long opener in­doc­tri­nated the au­di­ence into the hot polyrhythms of Puerto Rico’s plena mu­sic. Héc­tor “Tito” Matos played pan­dereta, plena’s tra­di­tional hand drum, and Zenón wailed on alto — it was easy to see his old love for Jimi Hen­drix.

Af­ter a hand-drum duet by Matos and the leader, pi­anist Luis Per­domo took off and just flew! In Zenón’s long, out-there solo, I sensed what was per­haps the anger-en­ergy from the bar­rio, where plena mu­sic arose, but also joy. Then came one of the coolest bass so­los ever from Hans Glaw­is­chnig. It had a dry edge but very cool rhyth­mic com­po­nents; he was very ath­letic but also knew when to let air in. Over­all, Zenón’s band worked up some com­plex, tran­scen­dent mu­sic.

The stage was full for part two, a per­cus­sion­fest fea­tur­ing the 12mem­ber New York band Los Plen­eros de la 21. One num­ber be­gan with ex­u­ber­ant call-and-re­sponse vo­cals and a solo by the dread­locked pi­anist Elio Vil­lafranca. Then Nel­lie Tanco started sing­ing with a shout, jolt­ing a few drowsy au­di­ence mem­bers. Col­or­ful danc­ing by Tanco and Ju­lia Gu­tiér­rez-Rivera punc­tu­ated the hap­pen­ing.

The party vibe jumped up still higher when Zenón and Per­domo joined the group for the fi­nal songs. What a show.

The fes­ti­val’s head­liner, and its last act this year, was pi­anist/com­poser Toshiko Akiyoshi, whose quar­tet started things off with “Af­ter­noon in Paris” by Al­bu­querque na­tive John Lewis. The song boasted su­perb treat­ment by Akiyoshi’s hus­band, sax­o­phon­ist Lew Tabackin, play­ing rich-toned tenor. The pi­anist her­self played amaz­ing, swinging mu­sic, in­clud­ing bun­dled clus­ters of notes de­liv­ered at odd times.

It turns out that Tabackin is the stand­out in this quar­tet. He was all over the range of the tenor sax­o­phone and very melodic. On his wife’s beau­ti­ful “Sumi-E,” he was equally stel­lar on flute, switch­ing to pic­colo for the end­ing.

Akiyoshi waxed vir­tu­osic on Bud Pow­ell’s “Tem­pus Fugit.” It was dif­fi­cult to hear ev­ery­thing she was do­ing — the pi­ano was mixed a lit­tle low at the Len­sic — but her play­ing was in­tense.

Tabackin took over again with “Stu­dio F,” which he in­formed the au­di­ence was in the “free­bop” genre. This guy is just about the most en­ter­tain­ing sax­o­phon­ist I’ve ever wit­nessed, both mu­si­cally and vis­ually. He took this tune into outer space, while the en­gag­ing bassist Boris Ko­zlov re­peat­edly hit his low­est string as he tuned it down, down, down to a buzz.

This dou­ble fea­ture wrapped up with Akiyoshi lead­ing the Al­bu­querque Jazz Or­ches­tra. Bobby Shew, who for years played first trum­pet in Akiyoshi’s big band and nor­mally leads this or­ches­tra, told the au­di­ence, “She’s an im­age maker, like an Im­pres­sion­ist painter. ... This stuff is hard. ... This is some real ear food. This’ll be good for you.” The ap­plause me­ter hit high with Shew’s gor­geous treat­ment, on fluegel­horn, of the bal­lad “Mem­o­ries.”

The stars of this seg­ment were soloist Tabackin and his wife, for her ar­range­ments that high­lighted the won­der­ful sound of three so­prano saxes play­ing in uni­son, four trom­bones, and four muted trum­pets play­ing in uni­son. She closed the night with “Hope” from her 2001 al­bum Hiroshima: Ris­ing from the Abyss.

— Paul Wei­de­man

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