Review and photographs by Rudy Lu
In the form of a giant fine painting by Mark Carson English, Charles Mingus’ spirit was smiling down upon the fairy tale-like Venetian Theater at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, the home of the 20th annual Caramoor Jazz Festival in Katonah. Over the course two days and three nights, the audience was treated to the sparkling sights and sounds of the world’s finest jazz.
The presence of three big bands added to the grandeur of the festival, including the critically acclaimed Charles Tolliver Big Band, who played a strong set on Saturday that included originals as well as arrangements of well known music originally performed by John Coltrane. Notable among the originals was “The Emperor’s March,” inspired by a film about Emperor Penguins and “Along the Nile,” a Coltranesque jazz journey through Egypt. Also included was a performance of JC’s interpretation of the traditional folk song, “Greensleeves,” as well as the ballad “I Want to Talk About You.” For the final number of the set, trumpeter Tolliver told the audience to guess the tune. It was the old standard, Thelonious Monk’s “Round Midnight.” This band is widely acclaimed in Europe; it certainly deserves more attention on this side of the pond. (Special note to Nippertonians: The piano bench was filled by Theo Hill, a young piano player with roots here, who is currently making a big splash in the Big Apple.)