By Ayana Contreras I Aug. 16, 2022
The drive as much as the Blue Word Jazz Fest Napa on the final weekend of July, by winding roads and sunbaked hills, was an expertise unto itself. The asphalt pathways are lined with neat inexperienced rows of grapevines stretching out in the direction of the horizon, the occasional signal for roadside strawberries, wine tastings, puppies or vintage olive timber, and silence (cellphone reception was spotty, and most of the Bay Space radio stations disintegrated into static). The setting, the Charles Krug Vineyard in St. Helena, California, seemed like an oasis, shaded by what seemed to be historic walnut timber. Wine, as one may think, was plentiful. And the multigenerational lineup on the three levels, which encompassed Chaka Khan, Corrine Bailey Rae, Madlib, Alex Isley, and the all-star collective Dinner Occasion with Terrace Martin and Kamasi Washington, served as a testomony to the enduring affect of jazz on Black widespread music (arguably the thesis behind competition curator Robert Glasper’s Black Radio album sequence) and what jazz will turn into sooner or later.
Chief Adjuah beforehand carried out underneath the stage identify Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah. He shared along with his Sunday afternoon viewers that his new identify displays his coronation as Chieftain of the Xodokan Nation, one of many Black Tribes of New Orleans. His set was interwoven with highly effective liturgical voicing, blues, crackling percussion and historical past. Clad in a Def Leppard T-shirt, he performed his famed horn, in addition to a brand new bowed instrument of his personal creation referred to as the Adjuah bow, an electrical instrument derived from the normal West African kora and n’goni. Adjuah stated that he was aiming “to seed new devices for the twenty first century … [so that] kids the place I’m from, New Orleans” can play music related to their heritage. After then launching right into a glowing rendition of “West Of The West” from his album Stretch Music, he furthered that the primary jazz report was recorded in 1917 and as we “crossed into the second century” of this music, this second is primed for a reevaluation of what the music is and what it’s to turn into. Maybe in response to the cliché pronouncement that “jazz is lifeless” (which is usually credited to the 1959 movie The Cry Of Jazz), Adjuah countered, “We predict this music is for all times.”
Many of the festival-goers I spoke with had been between the ages of 25 and 55, didn’t essentially establish as straightahead jazz followers and had come from afar: one man from North Carolina, a pair from St. Augustine, two girls from New York, one younger girl, like myself, from Chicago. A lot of the identical might be stated for the artists. Chief Adjuah hails from New Orleans, fusion combo Butcher Brown from Richmond, Virginia, and Emily King, who carried out on Sunday afternoon on the Black Radio fundamental stage, lives in New York. After her set, I discussed to her that it appeared as if the competition, a part of the venerable Blue Word New York’s self-named “Western Enlargement,” had patterned itself after Newport as a form of vacation spot expertise. A seasoned tour performer who launched her first album, East Facet Story, in 2007, she shared that it was her first time in Napa, so it was a vacation spot of types for her as effectively. Her set, that includes stripped-down variations of her signature songs reminiscent of “Look At Me Now” and “Georgia On My Thoughts,” felt like a full-circle second within the sense that whereas she’s identified for crafting swoon-worthy, distinctively soulful pop/R&B gems (primarily with associate Jeremy Most, who accompanied her on the competition), her efficiency was quasi-acoustic, a jazz-flavored trio with electrical guitar, pedals and keys laying naked her jazz roots.
After we spoke in February 2019, King shared with me that the music deeply formed her early musical id. “I grew up listening to Duke Ellington, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis,” she stated. “As a baby, I used to be listening to that stuff as a result of my mother and father had been singing it. My mother and father had a singing group referred to as Kim and Marion, they usually sang when my brother and I had been younger youngsters, and now they’ve their very own separate inventive entities. My dad’s a straightahead jazz musician, and my mother, she does classical music and he or she’s a composer.” Later that 12 months, I caught King performing along with her father on a showcase curated by Quincy Jones at The Shed in Manhattan.
The Blue Word Jazz Fest Napa was primarily curated by Robert Glasper, who holds an annual month-long residency every October at The Word in New York. An excellent variety of artists who sit in throughout his genre-blending residency, together with Grammy awardees Ledisi and Isaiah Sharkey, additionally took the stage at Napa. Different artists had been featured on Glasper’s most up-to-date album, Black Radio III (rapper D Smoke, for example in featured on Glasper’s current single “Shine”), however the through-line was that the majority had notably collaborated with the Glasper earlier than.
The ensuing curatorial taste was a de facto Black Radio dwell, blended with clear nods to the 2005 basic movie Dave Chappelle’s Block Occasion. Chappelle, in truth, hosted the night units on the principle stage.
Trumpeter Keyon Harrold, who performed on Saturday afternoon on the Blue Word Napa stage, instructed me on Sunday night, “This place is … magical.” It was his first time at Napa (and at a vineyard).
“To have folks from all backgrounds come and expertise the artists, the excessive degree of curation that’s right here, it’s a fantastic factor,” Harrold continued. “Shout out to Robert Glasper and his complete staff for placing this factor collectively, and the Blue Word and all people else who dreamed up this child. It’s like the right quantity of individuals, the right climate. All people has their very own identify.”
Whereas the headliners (together with Chaka Khan, Maxwell, Mos Def and Talib Kweli, Thundercat and Flying Lotus) have identify recognition exterior of jazz circles, many festival-goers approached Harrold pleased to find a number of the extra underground or extra squarely jazz-oriented artists. “Simply seeing that and interesting with the folks is a fantastic factor,” he exclaimed. “And this being the primary large competition like this after COVID is super-cool.”
From the artist’s perspective, Harrold added that he hoped the occasion’s affect would go effectively past the competition weekend. “Backstage is a melting pot of all of the generations. You’ve received James Poyser ,who we used to hearken to as a producer, as an artist with D’Angelo. Lauryn Hill, Frequent. My first skilled gig was working with Frequent and James Poyser, an inspiration on Like Water For Chocolate. You bought DJ Jazzy Jeff strolling round, then you definately received Robert Glasper, however then you definately received Elena Pinderhughes, who’s super-young, however super-amazing. Then, you bought Christian Scott and so many wonderful folks strolling round, Derek Hines, Chris “Daddy” Dave. Lifeless Prez strolling across the again, and Nas and so many individuals, and this melting pot of tradition is one thing particular. I can solely think about what that is going to show to subsequent, the collaborations which might be coming away from simply the backstage chats.” DB
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