NEWPORT, R.I. — Arguably the best birthday party in North America wrapped up Sunday with another who’s who in the world of jazz.
At the grandfather of all jazz festivals, the third day of Charles Lloyd’s (belated) 80th birthday bash was enlivened by performances from young stars like singers Cecile McLorin Salvant and Jazzmeia Horn along with elder statesmen like funkmaster George Clinton and Lloyd himself.
The most essential performances of the day were a handful of projects new enough not to have any digital footprint: no description on the artists’ websites, no collection of shaky video footage by fans, no related Google search results.
Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, who performed with Mary Halvorson’s Girl Code band the day before, gave a rare look at a new concept, Origami Harvest. And joining him in the group was a guy who became famous for the 2008 flash hit/mass irritant “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.” But Victor Vazquez, better known as Kool A.D., has long since left rap group Das Racist, and his nihilistic lyrics were exactly the thing to both dress down the performance and add to its profundity.
The genre shorthand for Origami Harvest is the increasingly widespread hip-hop and jazz mix. But it was equally an hourlong suite for strings (Mivos String Quartet), augmented by jazz trio and rap. Each piece of the group was added and removed with an aching slowness, as if comparing them one at a time. The absence of bass in the group gave enough space to hear each part distinctly, and it is among Akinmusire’s most thoughtful work.
Another digitally untraceable band on Sunday was supergroup Artemis, directed by pianist Renee Rosnes and featuring other top female performers Anat Cohen (clarinet), Ingrid Jensen (trumpet), Melissa Aldana (tenor saxophone), Noriko Ueda (bass), Allison Miller (drums), and Salvant (vocals).
The group, named for the Greek goddess, packed plenty of talent in post-bop idioms, but it wasn’t clear that this was any more than a casual first-call swing hang. In fact, the most daring the group sounded was playing the head of Thelonious Monk’s “Brilliant Corners” (it was certainly far out when it was written in 1956). If the intent of the group’s name is to call attention to gender, perhaps their strongest statement was that they are in the dead center of the jazz tradition with in-the-pocket swing, a touch of 6/8 Latin, and requisite (though lovely) covers of Stevie Wonder and the Beatles.
The group was a perfect fit for Salvant, who is also a traditional stylist. Still, it’s tantalizing to imagine what Salvant could do to sing to the present instead of the past. With her unparalleled diction, what if lyrics were about tailored sweatpants instead of Billie Holiday’s “He wears high-draped pants/ Stripes are really yellow”?
After all, at 77, George Clinton was clad in exactly that (tailored sweatpants, that is) in his festival-ending set. The veteran funk singer-bandleader, whose career began around the time the jazz festival was founded, recently announced that this is his last year of touring.
And his most recent album, “Medicaid Fraud Dogg,” which he drew from in the set, suggests that geriatric funk is less hung up on bones and more on health care. It also leans heavily on younger contributors, namely Clinton’s son and grandson. With the exception of “I’m Gon Make U Sick O’Me,” those new songs were the slowest parts of the set. But the all-ages crowd got down for the 10-minute-plus renditions of “Atomic Dog,” “Get Up for the Down Stroke,” and other P-Funk classics.
With a band of a dozen-odd members and amps cranked up, it was significantly louder than any other performance on the day. Perhaps it was even loud enough to bring the funk aboard the passing yachts of Narragansett Bay.
NEWPORT JAZZ FESTIVAL
At Fort Adams State Park, Newport, R.I., SundayLucas Phillips can be reached at email@example.com.