By Dave Read (Aug. 31, 2002 concert) – In comparison to the Friday and Sunday night concerts, the Saturday afternoon portion of the 2002 Tanglewood Jazz Festival was a disappointment, but not due to any fault of the musicians. A combination of unfortunate scheduling and electronic feedback spoiled one’s enjoyment of the Hammond B-3 Organ Summit in the Tanglewood theatre near the Main Gate and the taping of Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz radio show in Ozawa Hall.
The painful feedback problems began early in blues organist Jimmy McGriff’s set in the Theatre and recurred several times, spoiling the otherwise delightful singing of special guest Lady Ce Ce and guitarist Wayne Boyd.
Preceding McGriff was Joey DeFrancesco, who this year supplanted Jimmy Smith atop the Downbeat critic’s poll as best organist. Legendary saxophonist David “Fathead” Newman was supposed to join DeFrancesco’s trio but didn’t arrive on stage until McGriff’s set was underway.
The 1:30 program culminated in a jam session, giving the organists a chance to challenge each other, and was just getting warmed up when it was time to make the jog across the Tanglewood campus for the 3 PM start of Marian McPartland’s Piano Jazz, with guest Sir Roland Hanna.
As things turned out, people were being seated in Ozawa Hall throughout the taping, and it was an unfortunate decision to bolt the very real gig underway in the Theatre for the mere novelty of McPartland’s radio program.
McPartland’s show is wonderful, as edifying as it is entertaining, but there’s no rationale for calling a taping of it a concert. Brilliant in its own medium, it pales on stage, unlike Garrison Keillor’s, which with it’s house band, guest musicians, and cast of actors has plenty of visual appeal.
McPartland’s and Hanna’s solo and duet piano playing was fine, if constrained, but their conversation was not particularly sparkling and some of it even had to be re-hashed for the eventual broadcast. We’re sure we’ll enjoy listening to the broadcast, and it was a pleasure to see these wonderful artists up close.