Outdoor “summer jazz festivals” have always been a reminder of “seasonal tradition” for jazz lovers. With the legendary “Newport Jazz Festival” tops the list, there are well over double-digit numbers of events just counting the well-known jazz fests all over the world such as those in Montreux, Switzerland, and in Concord along the West Coast. Among those festivals, I'd like to introduce three impressive pieces in particular from “traditional stages.”
“Newport Jazz Festival” started at a resort area in the State of Rhode Island in summer, 1954. This is the piece capturing the performance by Duke Ellington's band at the third festival in '56. The stage became the highlight through the festival, and especially, <Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue> has been transmitted legendarily by word of mouth. I just cannot calm down my feeling of excitement whenever I listen to Paul Gonsalves' tenor sax solo in the middle. Six and half minutes in the frenzy! In the middle of his solo, the audience started buzzing, everybody stood up before we knew it, some started dancing, which set everyone on fire, and the total blowout… a rising of enthusiasm, the typical frantic feature of the open-air fest. The original monaural LP of this album captures those live atmosphere of the event extensively. Originally, the stereo recording was done, however, the monaural LP was still the mainstream, therefore, it was ventured to be mixed to mono and released. Besides the fantastic performance on stage, the enthusiasm of audience is on microphone, and that makes us feel like we are caught in the swirl of audience.
The same monaural master was used for the first one released in the CD age, but what we can get now is the new stereo-remixed version in '99. The exciting noise from the venue was clearly cut off and Gonsalves' tenor solo stands out even more sharply. It can be said that more mastering from musical sense has been done, however, it is a matter of choice which you prefer. I definitely like the monaural master better. You have to look for secondhand market to find the monaural master CD, but I was happy to find out that the monaural master was used for the high-quality LP (MOFI 1-035) recently released from Mobile Fidelity. If you are interested, I strongly recommend you to listen to both and make a comparison.
“Concord Summer Jazz Festival” started as a part of revitalizing activities for Concord, suburban city of San Francisco. The festival, which almost no one had heard of, became known to the world at once in '73, because of the gorgeous stage by two renowned guitarists, Herb Ellis, a member of Oscar Peterson's trio, and Joe Pass developing a new field. The title number is the one Charlie Christian, who was called the founder of modern guitar, composed when he was in Benny Goodman's band. Not only the excellence in technique but also the performance full of poetic sentiment and their thrilling back and forth are perfect. It is the live performance by two musicians in perfect sync full of musicality. The great masterpiece of the early Concord label.
The open-air concert was held despite of the severe rainstorm. Although there is nothing we can do about the weather, there were some cases when the torrential rain played a wonderful role at the concert venue from the view point of rendering. “Live under the sky legend” held in July, 1979 at Den-en Colosseum in Tokyo, which does not exist anymore. Tokyo had heavy rain at that night when VSOP quintet was on stage, which was expected to be the highlight of the festival. Miles Davis' quintet members of their golden age joined by Freddie Hubbard, the trumpeter, replacing Miles performed. The sense of solidarity was created having the soaking-wet audience responded to the musicians enthusiastically performing on stage, and the performance heated-up further, which created the great performance going down the history. The performance on stage, which was even considered to be cancelled but was given a green light, was recorded as it was in “Live under the sky legend.” There is an intermission in between, but even the real sound of the rain was recorded. Nobody left the venue because of the greatest stage of enthusiasm. It was one of the concerts which would be remembered in the jazz concert history of Japan.
Surrounded by various kinds of music from his childhood, Masamichi Okazaki joined Waseda University Modern Jazz Club. He started contributing articles to music magazines when he was a student. He covers wide range of music not only trad, modern and contemporary jazz, but also from pops to classics. He writes liner notes for CDs and LPs, and is a regular contributor to JAZZ JAPAN, STEREO, and others. He joined a big band, Shiny Stockings, as a saxophone player. He is a director of The Music Pen Club Japan (MPCJ).