samedi 30 avril 2011

New Orleans Jazz Fest find its Haitian roots as Emeline Michel ignites local improvisors

Published: Friday, April 29, 2011, 8:24 PM Updated: Saturday, April 30, 2011, 8:22 AM By Chris Waddington NOLA.com
At the New Orleans Jazz Fest, the measure of a great closing act is if you never want the performance to end. That's what happened at the Economy Hall Tent on Friday as Haitian vocal star Emeline Michel joined clarinetist Dr. Michael White, his well-drilled traditional jazz band, and a string orchestra hand-picked by Loyola University professor Jean Montes.
To judge by Michel's incandescent performance, her next appearance (3:35 p.m. Saturday at Congo Square) should be one of the highlights of the festival.
Tomorrow's show will feature Michel's own band from Haiti, but she hardly sounded out of place among so many New Orleanians on Friday. In fact, this smartly programmed concert of rhumba-inflected jazz, Haitian rah-rah and folk material gave tangible, often danceable evidence of the profound connections between the Caribbean nation and the Crescent City.
You heard those connections when the crowd -- and the regal Michel -- joined trumpeter Wendell Brunious in a lively account of "Eh La Bas." You also heard it when Loyola vocal student Riva Precil wrapped her classically trained mezzo voice around Michel's soaring contralto. Their arching unison lines and haunting harmonies unlocked the deep emotion in a series of Haitian songs.
This fertile cultural interchange got a further boost from the brilliant arrangements crafted by alto saxophonist Godwin Louis -- a Haitian native who has lived here for two years as a student at the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance. His Institute colleague, drummer Nicholas Falk, offered sensitive support -- a tough job when the music ranges from roaring brass to passages that set a banjo amid a mass of plucked string instruments.
White's band had many strong soloists, including trombonist Ronell Johnson, and Brunious on trumpet. White himself showed why he's a first-call sideman with stars like Wynton Marsalis. In his solos, he ranged across the full range of the clarinet, dipping into it's burbling depths and rising to stars. It was a night of triumphs.

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