Sunday, August 3, 2008

Caramoor Day Two: Wynton Bores Man to the Point of Medical Emergency

That title is serious. There's nothing funny about what happened a few seats away from me at Caramoor last night; a man had some sort of serious medical emergency and fainted, prompting the on-site medical personnel to rush him to a hospital. "Do we need to call a doctor," asked Wynton from the stage. People laughed. "Nah, I'm serious," he drawled. People laughed again. Didn't they understand when they bought tickets to a Wynton Marsalis show that they were going to be plagued by their consciences because of this kind of horrific occurrence? Wynton kills! He brushed it off: "whatever it is, sir, the music will make you feel better." Surprise! It didn't.

The tell-tale signs were there from the beginning of the show; as Luce introduced Marsalis, the clouds that had cleared up during the Cuban Piano Summit earlier had come back with a vengeance and began to thunder. Marsalis introduced the first four tunes in his set, called "Uptown Rider," "Down Home With Homey," "The Death of Jazz" and "Oh, But on the Third Day." While I could go on for hours about the implication on Wynton's psyche of naming two tunes "The Death of Jazz" and "Oh, But on the Third Day," I'll let you put that one together. Suffice to say, if they made a remake of "The Ruling Class" set in New Orleans, Wynton's acting skill could be called upon. The tunes were a bunch of boring updates of New Orleans style jazz, but with crazy twists; "Uptown Ruler" was in 5/4 (gasp), and "Down Home With Homey" was, according to Wynton, a 12 tone composition, although after having heard it I don't believe it.

"The Death of Jazz" was just that; it sounded like it was recorded in 1923, although it did contain some pretty great clarinet playing from Victor Goines, who looked alarmingly like either an accountant or a high school English teacher. "Oh But on the Third Day" opened with Herlin Riley, finally realizing that his drum set had a cymbal, playing some good stuff, but dissolved into another New Orleans romp. In the middle of the "Third Day," the man in the row across from mine had the medical emergency, which wound up being considerably more interesting than Wynton's predictable read through "Embraceable You." After that, I left.

Later on, while watching a scene from Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" set in the 1920s, my non-jazz inclined companion commented that the music they were playing in the background sounded exactly like Wynton. "Why do you dislike him so much," she asked. "That's why," I said.

In ten minutes I'm off to see Day Three of the Caramoor Jazz Festival, which includes pianist Aaron Diehl, who I have never heard of, Jimmy Heath's big band, and Michel Camilo's trio with Dafnis Prieto on drums.

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