'Now 60' really brings jazz of today to MCG

Musicians on the “Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60” tour
Musicians on the “Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60” tour
Photo by Jimmy Katz
| Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, 6:17 p.m.

Karrin Allyson and Anat Cohen think the word “now” is the most important part of the title of their current concert tour.

“The ‘now' part is what jazz is all about,” says clarinetist-saxophonist Cohen. “It is about people creating music right now.”

She is talking about the “Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60” tour that will visit the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild in the North Side Feb. 15.

Singer Allyson agrees. She says the title certainly hints at a look at the past. But there is more to it than legacy.

“We are going to bring both sides to it,” she says. “A group of ‘veteran players,' if that's what you want to call us, can do that, and we are going to bring a real mix to the tour.

The tour is a celebration of the founding of the Newport Jazz Festival in 1954, an event that changed the jazz world. When promoter George Wein, still active at 88, decided to bring some jazz acts to Fort Adams State Park in Newport, R.I., he brought jazz into an outdoor setting, attracting a different breed of listeners. It also led to the creation of a summer festival circuit that has become part of the way of life for jazz musicians.

“You have to look at the long history,” Allyson says, “but with players like this, there will be a lot of fresh music. We are all bringing some of our music to see what fits in.”

The “Now 60” tour will perform internationally in coming months, including a stop at this year's Newport festival in August. Along with Cohen and Allyson, it also features trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist Mark Whitfield, pianist Peter Martin, drummer Clarence Penn and bassist Larry Grenadier.

Cohen is part of an Israeli family that has grabbed attention in a number of ways in the past few years. The have played together as the 3 Cohens, apart in individual projects and within a great variety of other projects.

She has been named music director for the concerts and is proud to have that role, but downplays it a bit.

“A music director on this kind of show can organize things a little but, mostly, the music is left up to the great work of the musicians,” she says.

It is hard to tell exactly what will happen in these shows, she adds with a chuckle. “Once you are onstage, it is a democracy.”

Allyson, who has a strong sense of song and grasp of lyrics, has performed in the same kind of varied settings as the Cohens. Her music ranges from sensitive readings of standards to vocal versions of the work of jazz legend John Coltrane.

In 2013, she entered the world of self-production with a Christmas album and says she probably will create a non-holiday release this year.

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bkarlovits@tribweb.com or 412-320-7852.

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