Capricious nature relented last night and allowed Jazz Under The Stars to open its second week under ideal conditions. The soft breeze, the Empire State beacons sweeping over Central Park and the hotel towers silouetted against the gray sky behind the stage at Wollman Memorial Theater provided a setting no other city could match. And generally speaking the music lived up to the setting.
The program opened a bit weakly with the Kal Winding Septet consisting of four trombones and three rhythm. It was simply a matter of too many trombones. Mr. Winding has made some fine recordings of trombone duets with J.J.Johnston. Evidently he thought if two trombones were good, four would be twice as good, but the law of diminishing returns set in.
The next group, the Modern Jazz Quartet, must be treated a bit more delicately because of their international renown. They are richly talented, remarkably inventive and deeply serious about their music. But perhaps they are not too serious. Their performance was an aesthetic delight but it lacked the freedom, the excitement this writer believes are essential to jazz. It's good music, music deeply influenced by jazz but is it jazz?
There was no question about it when tenor man Stan Getz, drummer Jo Jones, pianist Hank Jones, and bass player Wendall Marshall took the stage. They too are modern but they swing. Mr. Getz was at his whispering best and the irrepressible Jo Jones performed that rare feat, an arresting drum solo. On "Lester Leaps In" the quartet swung with fierce restraint and their "You're Blase" proved music could be pretty and yet be jazz.
Queen of the Blues
Dinah Washington, as usual, captured the audience. The unchallenged Queen of the Blues showed the youg crop of whining singers how it should be done. And when she sang Blowtop Blues, she showed where jazz came from. She alone was worth the admission.
Gerry Mulligan and Billie Holiday were held over from last week. Mr. Mulligan's performance was up to his usual hig standard and Miss Holiday, well, she was as defiant, as beautiful and as great as ever. Only the greatest restraint causes this corner to hold it to that.
Before intermission, a "battle of the drums" was held between Jo Jones and Buddy Rich. It proved only that Mr. Rich is as fast and loud as ever. On the balance, however, a good evening of jazz.
This series of concerts ran from Sunday July 28, 1957 to Sunday August 4, 1957
Participants include Jimmy Giuffre Trio, Modern Jazz Quartet, George Shearing Sextette, Kal Winding Septet, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Buddy Rich and Jo Jones. Commentary by Al (Jazzbo) Collins and Jean Shepherd.