Esperanza Spalding (photo by Stanley Johnson)
Review and photographs by Stanley Johnson
Additional photograph by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Mario Abney and his band the Abney Effect started Saturday afternoon in the amphitheater with a bright mix of progressive grooves, modern soul and traditional jazz schools. Dressed in white, the trumpeter and his band showed their influences in both Miles Davis and New Orleans’ second-line brass band sounds. “A Hundred the Hard Way” had notes flying over accompanying piano, bass and drums. The band featured some material from their 2010 debut release “Spiritual Perception,” and later, during their gazebo stage performance, got the audience up and involved in second-line march and sing-a-long. “We rolling,” they sang, which eventually morphed into “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Until the following evening’s set with Trombone Shorty, this was as enthusiastic a reception from the audience that I saw all weekend.
Which doesn’t mean that other performers didn’t excite the crowd. However, with all the partying on the lawn and beyond, sometimes it was difficult to get the audience’s attention. (We literally could not hear Diana Krall on Sunday because of the crowd until we moved up along the front border of the lawn.)
Indeed, it was saxophonist Hailey Niswanger, next on the gazebo stage, who had the strongest “You don’t want to miss this” buzz. The Portland, Oregon native, with Takeshi Ohbayashi on piano, Max Moran on bass and Mark Whitfield on drums, played a number of selections from her sophomore album, “The Keeper,” including the original compositions “Norman” and “Straight Up,” which she dedicated to “all of you that tell the truth, always.” Niswanger, slim and easy-on-the-eye in a diaphanous skirt, channeled a lot of wind through her horn, sometimes squealing in a way that reminded me of John Coltrane. “She’s doing it right,” one of my neighbors commented. “That’s my kind of jazz.”