November 2, 2002
IL IN NY:At 80, Thielemans Orders It Sweet; Illinois Jacquet, Tart (BEN RATLIFF, November 2, 2002, NY Times)
Just a reminder: In 1950, there were no 80-year-olds playing jazz, anywhere; appreciating the aged was not part of the discourse. Now jazz-club schedules are filled with birthday celebrations for milestones of 60 and up. Age is instant venerability, and venerability helps sell tickets; these gigs generally aren't complete until an enormous cake gets trundled out.
Two famous figures who turned 80 this year are celebrating in New York clubs through tomorrow; they are very different kinds of 80. Toots Thielemans, the Belgian harmonica-player, seemed dazzled by his glorious sunset, and found shelter under the umbrella of sophisticated schmaltz; Illinois Jacquet, the great swing saxophonist, remains as earthy as his Louisiana accent, still ordering his big band through blasting riff-tunes reminiscent of the 1950's Count Basie band; he tempered his own birthday moment with tart-tongued humor. [...]
Over at the Jazz Standard, Mr. Jacquet held forth with his 16-piece band. He appeared fatigued until he warmed into his entertainer role, singing some Louis Armstrong-style scat lines and ripping off a few tenor saxophone solos. His macho, underrated saxophone style--Coleman Hawkins-like but rawer--is still all there, and intermittently glorious. A few of his young sidemen were exceptional: one was Sean Jones from Youngstown, Ohio, who soloed in "A Night in Tunisia." After the tune, Mr. Jacquet rasped, "They ever hear you do that in Youngstown? They wouldn't know what you were playing anyways. Bunch of hillbillies."
With a seemingly bored bassist and drummer, the music couldn't get far off the ground. But the set had fascinating moments for the bandleader's own playing and for his merciless, direct, anti-nostalgia as he looked back on his life. Before heading into his own sumptuous "Blues from Louisiana," he spoke about his home state with something less than fondness, recalling an incident of racism that he suffered at age 3. "It was the woist place on oith," he said.
As our jazz critic, Glenn Dryfoos, is fond of pointing out, it is uniquely the case with jazz that you can still catch some of the founding figures, though fewer every year, playing live. I'd no idea that Illinois Jacquet was still around. Posted by Orrin Judd at November 2, 2002 9:53 AM