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At Newport, Rain Rules the Day

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Hiromi Since the beginning of the Newport Jazz Festival on Sunday it has been raining, sometimes hard and loud and overwhelming, sometimes a thick harborside mist. The main stage, where there is no tent for the audience, has it the hardest.

Maybe 150 hardy people are out there right now watching James Farm, the co-operative quartet with the saxophonist Joshua Redman, the pianist Aaron Parks, the bassist Matt Penman and the drummer Eric Harland. They're playing way back from the lip of the stage to avoid getting wet, huddling closer than they would at a small club. They're sounding good—strolling, right now, through a minor ballad.

Hiromi is back for round two on a smaller stage with her trio, wowing them with amiable virtuosity. Earlier, John Hollenbeck's 19-piece big band— including bass saxophone, vibraphone and two singers— played a great set, including songs by Ornette Coleman, Jimmy Webb and Imogen Heap and a version of the traditional “I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow," with a solo by the tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby that came in chapters, getting destabilized and righting itself, using a few notes of the melody or, or of Hollenbeck's strong arrangement, to start a new section. It takes at least a half-hour to start to understand this band's range, from sci-fi to pastoral, loopy to dead serious. It's come a long way over the last 10 years.


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