We spent Wednesday, 13 August 2014 at the Jazz en Baie festival in Granville on the Normandy coast of the Bay of Mt St Michel. Although we had heard about the festival for years, it being only 115 KM (70 miles) from us, we had never been. It took a suggestion on the part of one of Marie-Renée’s cousins and her husband to accompany them, for us to finally get there. Dominique is an excellent amateur jazz saxophonist, and Sylvie is a jazz enthusiast; we have attended many concerts together, followed by lively critiques. We said yes right away, not even bothering to check out who would be playing, and it was not until we picked up the tickets that I saw that we would be listening to first, the trumpeter, Roy Hargrove and then the bassist, Avishaï Cohen. Even then, never having heard either one, I did not know what was in store for us.
Needless to say, the music was excellent. Hargrove began in a bee bop style which I thought was long gone. He and saxophonist Justin Robinson are masters of the genre, technicians of the highest order. And drummer Quincy Phillips kept a perfect swinging rhythm. Alas, I don’t much like bee bop, and so it was not until about halfway through the concert when Hargrove switched to the mellower flugelhorn and the melodies took over that I found myself enjoying the music. And Hargrove can sing! – with a kind of velvet blues, full of emotion but not overwhelmed by it. The standing ovation at the end was well-earned.
There is not much to say about Avishaï Cohen. He is a genius, pure and simple. His music is complex without being obscure or complicated. Like Bach, it is the complexity, the richness which makes the music so inviting and enjoyable. And the group plays it perfectly, as if they were one musician, this in spite of what seemed to be a certain fatigue in the middle of the long festival season in which musicians of this quality are heavily solicited.
We enjoyed ourselves, but I once again realized that festivals like this are not my cup of tea. I do not like paying 22 euros to sit immobile for an hour and 1/2 far from the stage, listening to jazz as if we were at the theater or a classical concert. (For my wife and I to see two concerts, one after the other in the same tent, we paid 88 euros, a sum which at some festivals would have gotten us a weekend of music.) My old legs need to move and my camera lenses scream for that special angle. I had vowed to myself that I was there only to hear the music, but it wasn’t long before I had the camera out and was doing my best to capture something in between the constantly shifting heads of the spectators in front of me. The meager results are below. Unfortunately they do not do justice to the music.
1 – 4, Roy Hargrove; trumpet, Justin Robinson; saxophone, Sullivan Fortner; piano, Ameen Saleem; bass, Quincy Phillips; drums.
5 – 10, Avishaï Cohen; bass, Nitay Hershkovits; piano, Daniel Dor; drums.