By Dan Bilawsky
While Long Island’s Huntington Summer Arts Festival doesn’t hold status as a jazz feast per se, the music most certainly plays a significant role on its calendar. The not-so-distant past has seen everybody from drummer Roy Haynes to pianist Vijay Iyer to vocalist Jane Monheit grace the Chapin Rainbow Stage, and the lineup for 2018 had more than its fair share of fine acts to keep up the tradition. The Huntington Arts Council saw fit to program a jazz week that included shows from saxophonist-vocalist Grace Kelly and contemporary jazz keyboardist Lao Tizer, present its annual day-long celebration of John Coltrane culminating with concerts from Michelle Coltrane and Joe Lovano, and deliver a number of dynamic standalone events, including a show from Colombian harp phenom Edmar Castaneda‘s trio. Add to that the appearance of local big bands of the student and professional varieties, a performance from jazz-influenced blues guitarist Duke Robillard, and several other appropriately tangential offerings, and all of a sudden jazz proved to be a crucial component in this forty-two night marathon of free shows.
Within that mix—or, perhaps, stylistically beyond it—sat the Danny Green Trio Plus Strings. After spending a day as visiting clinicians at the USDAN Summer Camp For The Arts, the San Diego-based pianist and his trio mates teamed up with a string quartet culled from that institutions faculty to deliver a chamber jazz program largely focusing on material from his latest album—One Day It Will (OA2, 2018). Over the course of ninety minutes, Green and company delivered a show that proved emotionally vibrant and rich in nuance. All the while the music highlighted Green’s skills with the pen and showcased the time-strengthened rapport he’s developed with bassist Justin Grinnell and drummer Julien Cantelm over their eight years (and counting) as a working unit.
Opening with “Down & Out,” the trio immediately adopted a loose-knit funk aesthetic given a slight brush with formality through the strings. “Time Lapse To Fall,” a visceral snapshot of a season’s passing, followed. Green’s entrancing ostinato, both of the moment and in keeping with the titular form of video’s brisk motion, carried the music forward. From there they visited “One Day It Will,” shifting from pensive to hopeful realms while proving propulsive all the while; explored “As The Parrott Flies,” using pizzicato postulations as a launching pad before the playful-turned-feverish interplay of Green and Cantelm set the stage on fire; invested “When Opportunity Knocks” with myriad influences—Spanish tinge, classical allusions, and a strong dose of mystery included; and encapsulated dawning beauty into “View From The Sky.”
Each and every number on the playlist managed to bring a change in character with its arrival while simultaneously marking the consistency of voice carried within the trio’s exchanges. Whether exploring a downcast tone in a motile zone on “Snowy Day In Boston,” viewing fall from another angle on “November Reveries,” balancing elegiac introductions with a cheerier waltzing core on the ballad-esque “Lemon Avenue, or descending into the nether world on “Katabasis,” that proved profoundly true.
While the marriage of a well-oiled jazz unit with an ad hoc string quartet comes with its challenges, most were surmounted over the course of this performance. Green capably guided the string players through the twists and turns of his music, the trio proved sensitive and potent all at once, and the emotional impact of the music as heard on Green’s album(s) was amplified by the night air itself. Whether measured as concert or cooperative venture, this performance earned high marks.
See review at All About Jazz