Nordost Playlist – November 2021

Nordost products are designed to allow you to enjoy your favorite performances as they were intended to be heard. All of us here are passionate about great music, and want to share our passion with you. Each one of us has our own style… We listen to a wide variety of artists and genres but, in a way, we appreciate them all. We thought that we would share a few of the songs on our own personal playlists with you each month. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your tastes, but we hope that there is something here for everyone.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this November.

You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  | SPOTIFY  |  QOBUZ

  1. Midnight Mischief—Jordan Rakei—Cloak
  2. Heels—Sir Babygirl—Crush on Me
  3. Texas Sun—Khruangbin, Leon Bridges—Texas Sun
  4. You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me—Smokey Robinson & The Miracles—OOO Baby Baby: The Anthology
  5. Find Yourself—Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real—Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
  6. What Kinda Music—Tom Misch, Yussef Dayes—What Kinda Music
  7. Easy On Me—Adele—Easy On Me
  8. The Boy With The Perpetual Nerves—The Feelies—Crazy Rhythms
  9. Ship In A Bottle-From “The Lovely Bones”—Brian Eno, Jon Hopkins, Leo Abrahams—Brian Eno-Film Music 1976-2020
  10. The Hardest Cut—Spoon—The Hardest Cut

Hi-Fi+ Reviews the Valhalla 2 Ethernet Cable

We are happy to share a new Ethernet cable review! This Valhalla 2 Ethernet Cable review, written by Andrew Harrison, was published in the September issue of Hi-Fi+. Not only does this in-depth review explore the construction of our Reference Ethernet cable, it speaks to the audible differences that cable lengths make!

For Harrison, the V2 Ethernet Cable transformed his system, allowing him to experience tighter, more controlled bass, improved top-end detail, lower noise floor, and a more natural performance from his listening sessions. In the conclusion of his article, Harrison states, “…this is a network cable that’s not just a bit sonically different, it’s a palpable triumph in digital audio sound reproduction.”

You can read Hi-Fi+’s Valhalla 2 Ethernet Cable review in its entirety, along with many other fantastic write-ups on the Reviews page of the Nordost website.  

Dealer Spotlight: Woodbridge Stereo/Video

By Steve Greene

This past February, Nordost was absolutely delighted to add Woodbridge Stereo/Video to our fine roster of authorized dealers.  Located in Woodbridge, NJ, this NYC metro area dealership was established in 1971 and has grown steadily during the past 50 years.  Their longevity in the marketplace is quite admirable having faced many challenges over the years — a devastating fire in 1978, store expansion, the birth of the custom home theater industry (along with its proliferation of numerous inexperienced/unqualified “integrators” working from the trunks of their cars), as well as several US economic downturns.  However, these challenges ultimately made Woodbridge Stereo/Video stronger and more dedicated to adhering to their core, guiding philosophy: consumer electronics should be a fun labor of love, focused on the music and the technology behind it.  This was their guiding principle back in 1971 and it remains just as important to them today!  

Tom Altobelli joined this company in 1980 and began its expansion into high end audio.  He carefully brought in many high-end audio lines that met his high standards.  They were lines that paid careful allegiance to the accurate reproduction of music, and had robust build quality and longevity in the marketplace. This growth and adherence to superior music reproduction continues today!  These folks intimately know (and love) the gear they sell to their legion of dedicated customers.  In addition to their two channel audio offerings, Woodbridge offers a wonderful array of custom home theaters and home automation services.  These services run the gamut from the initial design stage all the way through installation, all done in-house.  They are dedicated to competently building robust yet easy to use systems.  Custom designed for each individual client, these services include lighting control, distributed audio, home networks, motorized window shades, HVAC and so on.

However, that does not mean they have minimized their dedication to putting together awesome home audio systems for their loyal clients.  After all, this was their first true love that guided them 50 years ago when opening this wonderful retail environment.  Woodbridge S/V has several well appointed and acoustically treated sound rooms in which to demo the fine gear they offer.  Brands like Mark Levinson, Revel, KEF, Hegel, JL Audio, Krell, Martin Logan, Moon, Prima Luna, Sony, Totem, VPI, Thorens, Music Hall and many more, now including, of course, Nordost! 

No stuffy salespeople here either!  Tom and his dedicated staff are just about the friendliest and most passionate group of folks you will ever meet.  Tom’s vast knowledge of this industry, honed over a forty year plus period, is second to none.  This passion and expertise for putting together great sounding audio systems for his clients is based on one major premise — everyone is different, so throw out the cookie cutter formula.  Getting to know each client individually is paramount to building a unique system that satisfies their needs and tastes. 

You will greatly enjoy a visit to Woodbridge Stereo/Video because they love what they do and they love their clients!  Next time you are in the area, please drop by to get a demonstration of Nordost products from a very talented group of individuals who will make you feel at home and help engage you in this wonderful hobby we call high performance audio!

Questions and Answers (October 2021)

Our product specialists receive questions on a daily basis about Nordost products, their application, and hifi in general.  We thought that we would take a minute to share some of those questions here so that everyone can get the answers they are looking for!

Q: I have seen that Nordost advocates using jumpers instead of links that come with loudspeakers. Why is this? I would have thought the links are better. 

A: The metal plates that speaker manufacturers supply with speakers are far from ideal connectors.  The plates are not of ideal material nor are they even the proper shape.  They are supplied to allow the speakers to work if the customer doesn’t bi-amp or bi-wire them. Jumpers, on the other hand, are small runs of proper signal carrying cables, just like the cables from your amplifier to your speakers. That consistency yields better results.

Q: Right now, I am currently running Red Dawn Speaker Cables and would like to slowly upgrade all of my cables to Nordost. Ideally, I would like to stick to the same series of power cords (i.e. Red Dawn) for the entire system. However, due to budget constraints, does it make sense to prioritize based on component…for example, Red Dawn for my pre-amp, and Blue Heaven Power Cords for the rest of the system? 

A: We completely understand why it might be hard to stick with your “ideal” cable throughout the system, so prioritizing does make sense. One of the reasons why we design our cables the way we do is so that they can easily be upgraded and mixed throughout your system without any drawbacks. In terms of prioritization, we recommend that the BEST power cord in your system be placed from your wall to your distribution bar. Once you have that covered, then you are correct in saying that your pre-amp (or integrated) should be next in line. After that, you want your amplifier(s) covered. Following that, it’s a question of “what is used most”. For example, if you mostly listen to CDs, use your better power cord on your transport, however if you use your server more, then prioritize your DAC, etc. 

Q: Is there any benefit in connecting a component through multiple QKORE Wires to a QKORE? 

A: No, once a component is connected to a QKORE with one cable, connecting additional cables will not enhance it further. Just one cable does the trick!

Nordost Playlist – October 2021

Nordost products are designed to allow you to enjoy your favorite performances as they were intended to be heard. All of us here are passionate about great music, and want to share our passion with you. Each one of us has our own style… We listen to a wide variety of artists and genres but, in a way, we appreciate them all. We thought that we would share a few of the songs on our own personal playlists with you each month. Some may be classics, some may be brand new, some may not even be to your tastes, but we hope that there is something here for everyone.

Here are some of the songs that we will have on rotation this October.

You can now listen to our monthly playlist here:  TIDAL  | SPOTIFY  |  QOBUZ

  1. Tamala—Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate—Monistic Theory
  2. Three O’Clock Blues—Eric Clapton, B.B. King—Riding With The King
  3. Days of Wine & Roses—Jacintha—Autumn Leaves (The Songs of Johnny Mercer)
  4. Beat Hotel –Allan Taylor—Closter To The Music Vol. 1
  5. When It Rains It Poors—Twiddle—Somewhere On the Mountain
  6. A Night on Bald Mountain—Modest Mussorgsky, Dimitri Mitropoulos, New York Philharmonic—Tchaikovksy: Symphony No. 6- Mussorgsky: A Night on Bald Mountain
  7. Your Bright Baby Blues—Jackson Browne—The Pretender
  8. So What—Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans—Kind of Blue (Legacy Edition)
  9. Lost It—ZHU—DREAMLAND 2021
  10. Ravel: String Quartet, M. 35: II. Assez vif – Très rythmé—Maurice Ravel, Quatuor Ébenè—Debussy, Fauré & Ravel: String Quartets

Why Are Audio Cables Important?

Audio cables can be a controversial subject in the audio community, and people tend to end up in one of two camps: cable believers and cable deniers. So, instead of blindly joining one side or the other, get informed!

Sure, you can say that cables are an indispensable component in virtually every hifi system. But why? What do they do? What characteristics should you look for in cable design and how do they impact performance? What is the harm in mixing different brands of cabling? Why should you invest in aftermarket cables instead of opting for what is provided with components at purchase? When upgrading the cables in a system, where should you start?

In this download, you will find the answers to all these questions, and more, so that you can be confident about why audio cables really are so important.


  • Characteristics of audio cables and their effects
  • An introduction to the “sonic signature” of cable designs and the importance of complete cable looms
  • Aftermarket cables vs cables “included with purchase”
  • Upgrading cables and where to start in a system


Dealer Spotlight: Audio Video Therapy

I had the great pleasure of sitting down with John Rein, owner of Audio Video Therapy in Nashua, NH.  John and his knowledgeable staff are dedicated to giving their clients a hi-fi experience tailored to their specific needs and budgets.  I hope you enjoy reading this interview with John as much as I enjoyed sitting down with him.  

– Amy Hansen

Q: What started your passion for HiFi?

A: When I was in high school, I walked into Tech HiFi in Harvard Square and, for the first time, I heard a good speaker that impressed me…and I remember there was a wall of receivers all lit up.  Everything was back-lit dials, and it was mesmerizing.  That’s when I started spending all of my money on audio.  In college, I heard a pair of early B&W 800 series driven by Audio Research monoblocks and realized, oh my god… there’s a whole other level I didn’t even know existed.

Q: How did AV Therapy come to be?

A: About 8 years ago, it was time for me to move into a different area and concentrate more on two-channel audio.  The driving force was that it seemed like everyone in audio had left the people in the middle behind.  There were no feeder systems for younger people to get into the hobby because ultra high-end products were so expensive. After places like Tweeter closed down, there was really no place for someone who had a $3-4K budget and wanted better stuff to go to in order to get started in the hobby.  My goal was to have everything from $199 to $50K speakers in the same place. To help, we even have a trade-up policy to help people gradually work towards their goal. 

But, what’s going to keep this going when we’re not here?  We have to build for the future. I want what AV Therapy is doing to continue whether I’m here or not. 

Q: How has this past year been? Has the pandemic been the most challenging thing you’ve had to face as a business owner?

A: COVID has been the weirdest time because it exploded our business! I really have to say that you are either on one side of the pandemic or the other.  You’re either a restaurant owner, or a business owner that is working in a field where people are stuck at home and need your product. We are blessed enough to be on the right side of this pandemic. I have friends who own restaurants, that have not been so fortunate. Anyone who’s in this business should be incredibly grateful.

Q: How do you incorporate music into your personal life?

A: As you know, I’m on the board of trustees for Symphony NH. But that’s only part of it. Music for me has always been an emotional switch. When the right music comes on, it can transport you into any moment of your life. Music is relaxing, invigorating, and one emotion after another. How often do you watch your favorite movie? Once in a while? Once in five years? Now, how often do you listen to your favorite music? You can do that every day and you don’t get tired of it!

I have five systems at home and a very tolerant wife. With five systems, I have obviously taken over a fair amount of real estate in our house, and she has tolerated this for over 40 years.  For me, music and quality of life are synonymous. It’s playing all the time. Whenever I can, I play with toys at work during off-business hours—that’s one of the joys of work and it’s a great thing.   

Q: Is there any genre of music you prefer?

A: I embrace every kind of music there is.  Since I went to college in Boston in the 70’s, there was always a reasonable amount of live folk music available, and I’ve always liked it because of that. I go to the Montreal Jazz Festival every year, so Jazz has always been part of it too. I grew up in the rock ‘n roll era, so there is a lot of rock ‘n roll in my background too.  When I was 13 years old, my mother bought two records: one was a Mozart record, and one was a Beatles record, so my musical taste has been diverse from the beginning. There’s beauty and complexity in classical, and modern classical has incredible diversity that pushes the envelope and is quite engaging. I like to explore everything, and I like it all. 

Q: How do you see vinyl and digital evolving in popularity?

A: I think streaming has opened the door and that digital’s quality has gone up astronomically in the last few years. The edginess of the 80’s and 90’s is well in the background if you just spend a little more money. I think you can get a more liquid sound for less money in vinyl, but you can get a lot of that same liquidity in digital, it just tends to cost a little bit more. I think that one of the things people are starting to realize is that high resolution streaming is much closer to vinyl than a lot of people actually want to admit. I love vinyl and have 6,500 records at home! So, I’m a vinyl person with turntables all over the house.  We tend to be a lazy species… so even though I have 6,500 records, 80+ percent of the time I’m playing digital because it’s convenient, and now that it’s good enough with Naim, Chord, and Linn streaming at home, I’m listening to more and more digital even though I’m a vinyl lover. I think that the whole ritual of vinyl is part of it.  I love the fact that you tend to sit down and listen for 20+ uninterrupted minutes.  When you’re doing digital, a lot of times you flip the track before the song is over. Patience is hard.

Q: What other changes are you noticing in the industry that have had an influence on your business?

A: I think “whole-house audio” and streaming has been a godsend. Not only do they allow you to spread music everywhere in the house, but it has created a category that didn’t exist years and years ago.  We sell a lot of products like Bluesound; sometimes 7 or 8 units per house to have music everywhere. It allows music to be more integrated into people’s lives when it’s everywhere. 

Q: What does a typical day look like for you at AV Therapy?

A: I see customers in-person, and I spend hours on the phone with customers.  I average 40-50 phone calls a day. Recently, especially since the start of COVID, a lot of our sales have started over the phone, in order to narrow things down for customers before they come in for a listening session. We have thousands of customers now and a lot of them will call up and say, “You know my system and I’m thinking of doing this, this, and this.  Which of these would you recommend?”. That resulted in a lot more home trials. Before the pandemic, people would just wander in and sit down, and we’d audition one thing after another. I think our focus has increased on getting things right quickly when they get here, because a lot of people don’t want to spend a lot of time in a store, where before they wouldn’t mind spending 4 or 5 hours auditioning.  In the last month or two, I am seeing a trend where people are starting to spend more hours here again. 

Q: You are one the nicest, most genuine, and trusted people in the industry.  What do you attribute to that and to your success?

We put the customer first. We try to give them the best stuff we can give them, while being fair and reasonable, and always…their needs come first, yours second.  In the end, this benefits us. I think you have to have a long-term vision.  I understood when I came into this industry from corporate life, what I had wanted as a customer forever. What did I want?  I wanted someone who looked out for what I was doing…and I didn’t see a lot of that.  I was a kid who had been thrown out of audio stores because I had no money.  We don’t do that to anybody.  Whether your 12 years old or 80, you’re going to be treated the same. This business is about enjoyment and fun.  If you’re buying toys, it should be about fun—it’s that simple.   


Audiophilia Reviews Valhalla 2

We are thrilled to share a fabulous review which was published this month on Anthony Kershaw evaluated our Valhalla 2 range, and was so impressed with our reference cables that he dubbed the range one of Audiophilia’s Star Components! Here’s a taste of what Anthony had to say:

“The cables allowed laser-like focus of the multi layers to play exactly as the engineers and performers envisioned. So, every effect the young Stravinsky brought to his orchestration…is heard clearly, but, most of all, musically. As such, the timing, transparency and resolution of the cables are astounding. So, while everything in the orchestra is laid clearly before you, the sheen and tactile effects from the V2’s design, construction and materials make every musical choice a delicious event. This is playback way beyond technique.” – Audiophilia 

This glowing Valhalla 2 review is now available, in its entirety, on the Reviews page of the Nordost website.  

Upcoming Dealer Events – Fall 2021

It’s been a long time coming, and we are happy to report we finally have a number of fun, informative, and music-filled Dealer Events in the pipeline. If there is an event planned in your area, we hope to see you there!

Genesis Audio LTD

Saturday, September 18th

Time 4-8:30 PM

132 N. High Street
Gahanna, OH 43230
Phone: 614-939-0802

RSVP to Don Schmitt


Sept 23rd, 2021

6:30 – 9:30 PM

127 East 4th Ave, Vancouver, BC

Seats are limited.  Please RSVP by Sept 20th:

(604) 351-3485

Liquid Sound

Sept 24th & 25th, 2021

10:00 AM – 6:00 PM


RSVP Contact:

3mA Audio 

Oct 30, 2021

4pm until the last person leaves

1431 West Alabama St Houston TX 77006

RSVP Contact:

The Newport Jazz Festival is back, and Boston Concert Reviews was there to see it all

Real music lovers can find the melody in everything. From the park to the concert hall, our friend Nelson Brill is always on the hunt for great sound. In this blog, we welcome the return of the Newport Jazz Festival. Nelson was there in order to share the performances with you, from time-honored veterans to fresh voices of the festival.


By Nelson Brill September 1, 2021

America’s music, Jazz, is on the move again. The joys of hearing live jazz continued this summer with the return, (after a one-year hiatus), of the 67th Edition of The Newport Jazz Festival (“Newport Jazz”) ( held at Fort Adams State Park in Newport, Rhode Island from July 30th-August 1st. Newport Jazz, directed by the singular impresario George Wein for over sixty years and now captained by its Artistic Director, Christian McBride, continues to be a fertile ground for music of experimentation and verve reflecting the diversity of today’s America and its political and social movements. At the Saturday session, the sold-out crowd was teeming with young people, Black and White mingling together, clearly demonstrating that McBride and his staff have succeeded in advancing Wein’s legacy in presenting jazz that continues to be a unifying force and an inspiration for all ages.

Mavis Staples at Newport Jazz – photo by Jim Brock

The 95-year old Wein, (on a video call from New York City) welcomed to the Newport Jazz Lawn Stage one of his contemporaries, the singular Mavis Staples, who performed her magnetic “down home” Chicago blues and gospel-tinged songs before her dancing, adorning audience. After Wein’s introduction, the indomitable Mavis grabbed her microphone, punched her fists into the air and launched into the classic Staples Singers’ tune, “I’ll Take You There!” dancing alongside her tight-knit band: guitarist Rick Holmstrom, bassist Jeff Trumes, drummer Stephen Hodges and singers Donny Gerrard and Vicki Randle.

The band dug deep into several songs taken from their superb live recording, Live In London [Anti Records;]. They hunkered down on the deep grooves of the bristling “Who Told You That?” and rocked away on a spunky version of the Talking Head’s classic, “Slippery People”. Their pulsating “Can You Get To That” rode on Trumes’ thundering bass, Holmstrom’s melodic pulses and Mavis’ reveling vocals, accented by deep bass plunges from singer Donny Gerrard.

Holmstrom and Mavis made for a particularly joyful musical partnership. Mavis would lovingly clap the dapper Holmstrom on his back for his animated guitar solos that teemed with stinging notes and crisp rhythm-guitar sparks. Mavis’ voice was in fine form. Her voice still packs emotional power with its dusky low calls or gospel-rich leaps. Her bracing voice propelled the rollicking classic, “Respect Yourself!” and mined poignantly the soulful depths of the gospel gem, “Wade In The Water”. During this song, Mavis preached to the crowd about keeping up the fight against injustices and hatred (repeating in soaring calls, “My soul is anchored!).

Ledisi at Newport Jazz- photo by Jim Brock

Mavis and her band’s joyful performance at Newport Jazz was a perfect segue to hearing a fresh voice on the R&B and jazz scene, Ledisi Anibade Young, (known simply as “Ledisi”), whose music is also greatly influenced by down-home blues and gospel power. Ledisi swept onto the Quad Stage and took the audience by storm with her commanding voice– warm, lustrous and expressive – in intrepid exploration of the songbook of one of her heroes, the legendary Nina Simone. Accompanied by her sterling and nimble band, Ledisi launched into Simone’s “Do I Move You?” with deliberate stride, her silvery fluid voice capturing the power and sensual glow of this song’s slow-burning zeal.

If you are a vinyl fan, find at your local record store an original pressing, (or refer to the online catalogue of Analogue Productions (] for their excellent re-master) of the seminal blues recording, Nina Simone Sings The Blues [RCA LSP-3789]. On this brilliant recording, Simone entwines “Do I Move You?” with singular vocal power. This entire album is a treat (one of my favorite blues albums) and when it is heard on a reference high quality audio system, (in my room, FM Acoustics 123 phono preamplifier; Holborne turntable with Fuuga cartridge feeding Goldmund Telos 590 Next Gen. II Integrated Amplifier and Seidenton loudspeakers – see “Nelson’s System” for full details and reviews), Simone appears at her dynamic piano with reach-out and-touch tactile presence and natural imaging, as only vinyl can deliver. Her song, “My Man’s Gone Now” is a luminescent stunner and her “Backlash Blues” a searing indictment of institutional racism.

Back at Newport Jazz, Ledisi’s interpretation of Simone’s funky “Be My Husband” was all sass and inventive vocal flourishes. Another highlight from her concert was the band’s combination of Randy Newman’s powerful anthem “Baltimore” (sung by Simone on her 1978 album of the same name) transformed here into a bold statement. This powerful tune segued into Ledisi’s original song, “Shot Down”, a scathing portrayal of recent police murders led by thunderous big bass, drum thrusts and Ledisi’s glowing charge to the top of her expansive register. (Some of these passionate high flourishes, unfortunately, were marred by the shrill high volume of the sound mix at the Quad Stage for this performance).

Ledisi has just released her Ledisi Sings Nina [BMG Label;] and this should be a treat to hear judging from her inventive and powerful interpretations of these songs at Newport Jazz. I have also enjoyed exploring Ledisi’s 2020 CD release, The Wild Card [BMG Label] a superb collection of both her originals and covers that teems with her adventurous spirit.

Highlights include the opening ”Anything For You”, (with Ledisi’s voice frolicking high and lithe); the uplifting “Stone” (gospel strong and regal), the swaying bluesy pulse of “Next Time” and the brimming sass of the swinging “What Kind of Love Is That”. Ledisi’s commanding voice flows warmly, earthy and creatively forceful on all of her great R & B and soul-infused adventures.

That same warm R&B flow -that feel for the sinuous groove or funky powerful blast – shares kindred space with the music of two other gifted artists who also appeared at the Saturday edition of Newport Jazz 2021: keyboardist and intrepid composer Robert Glasper (whose colorful “Now or Never” is covered in fine grooving form by Ledisi on her Wild Card) and bold trumpeter and composer, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah.

One of the many formations that the inventive Glasper has lassoed over the years is his “R+R=N” (“Reflect + Respond = Now”) group, consisting (at its core) of Glasper on keyboards, Derrick Hodge on bass, Terrace Martin and Taylor Mcferrin on synthesizers and vocoder and Justin Tyson on drums. R+R=N’s 2018 recording, Collagically Speaking [Blue Note;], is an excellent introduction to this alighting music with its shifting rhythms, layered drum and bass textures and inventive spoken-word directness to the power of love and resilience. Listen to the ever-adventurous Derrick Hodge on his sinuous bass (for example, his warm plucky solo introducing the powerful tune, “Her=Now”) or get dancing to R+R=N’s grooving “Resting Warrior”, riding on Adjuah’s streaking trumpet and Martin and McFerrin’s keyboard and synthesizer windswept grooves.

Robert Glasper “Dinner Party” with Kamasi Washington at Newport Jazz – photo by Jim Brock

At their Saturday performance, this core group (aided by talented guests saxophonist Kamasi Washington and vocalist Phoelix), plied their adoring audience with their funky “jazztronica” brew- diverse in its sounds, colors and dance. The group’s performance of “Freeze Tag” added ripples of spoken-word and poetry to their creative mix with Martin’s sax hitting hard in the warm groove propelled by Glasper’s repeating patterns on his lithe keyboard.

Christian Scott atunde Adjuah at Newport Jazz – photo by Jim Brock

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, making a guest appearance with Glasper on Saturday, also appeared with his own spirited band at the Lawn Stage at Newport Jazz, exploring his “Stretch Music”- spanning the globe with influences from bebop to lithe African rhythms. The band’s questing spirit at their Newport Jazz performance included the welcomed addition of flautist Elena Pinderhughes, who plied her sprite instrument with bluesy trills and high, dancing flourishes. Her sparkling flute, combined with Adjuah’s dynamic trumpet, made for a radiant partnership. Her articulate flute dipped and danced with Adjuah’s trumpet- from his highest rapid-fire piercing runs to his tranquil moments (squeezing short breathy bleats from his horn)- all in the service of questing passion and expression. Keyboardist Lawrence Fields, always an intrepid force, added his own twinkling voice to the band’s charisma and invention. His twinkling piano solo on the ballad, “Guinevere” (a David Crosby nugget) glowed with lithe charm. His careening solo on the band’s rollicking version of Herbie Hancock’s “Eye Of The Hurricane” (ranging to every octave of his piano) propelled Hancock’s feast delivered in bold colors and intensity by this consummate, gregarious band.

Another source of open-eared music at Newport Jazz at this Saturday session – one that combined a mercurial jazz band, impassioned vocals, (spoken-word and poetry) with snippets of pre-recorded speeches and nimble DJ action- was the striking music performed by drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and her Social Science, with pianist Aaron Parks, guitarist Matthew Stevens, saxophonist and bassist Morgan Guenin, vocalist Debo Ray and MC, DJ Kassa Overall. Social Science explored original material from their bold 2020 album, Waiting Game [Motema Music;], a quality recording that captures the tactile heat and synergy of these convivial musicians thriving on their songs of deep groove and spoken-word power.

John Watson photo

Every tune on the album is driven by the singular Carrington on her stalwart drum kit. She reliably drives the music’s foundation with inventive, fluid propulsion that sparkles and shines or startles – with her dynamic deep eruptions hitting with audacious power – as the music requires.

At Social Science’s Newport Jazz performance, their”If Not Now” was a funky, grooving power glide with the band laying down mercurial, potent colors. The song ended with the crowd singing along with vocalist Debo Ray on the tune’s swaying and dancing “By-yah, By–yah” choruses. Ray also sang with operatic power (in to her highest silvery register) on the band’s powerful “Anthem”, a song that salutes the resiliency and power of women everywhere. On the band’s shimmering version of Joni Mitchell’s “Love,” Ray’s voice nestled tender in Steven’s guitar washes and Guenin’s spinning warm bass slides. Kassa Overall’s limber percussive effects and snippets of recordings (from women held as political prisoners in recent history) generated the power of “No Justice For Political Prisoners”, a magnetic piece that blazed on Guenin’s muscular sax solo, Steven’s layered guitar hurls and seismic hits from Carrington’s drums. All of this swirling energy empowered the recorded statements by these political prisoners calling for an end to racism and injustices suffered in their own legal cases (and for the advancement of prisoner’s rights everywhere). This was a moving, boundless performance by Social Science, highlighting the transformative power of music in the service of political and personal change.

Kenny Garrett at Newport Jazz – photo by Jim Brock

The feast of exuberant music at Newport Jazz at this Saturday edition concluded with two performances teeming with joyful soar and upbeat possibilities. First up was an explosive performance by venturing saxophonist Kenny Garrett, soaring on his instrument with irresistible groove and power. Garrett delivered geysers of sounds and colors from his gleaming sax – lean and nimble in their quick bursts – throwing back his head to ignite his rapid-fired high calls. His music was a global feast, roughhousing from blues to Cuban rumba with a joyful sense of discovery. Garrett’s trusted bandmates added carousing piano colors, lithe bass lines and big swathes of drum and conga heat to Garrett’s full-bore attack. The apex of this knockout performance occurred when Garrett took off on an extended solo flight on his sax that teemed with breathless runs, blazing trills, deep bleats and swaggering R & B swing ending with a journey into the stratosphere of his register, urged on by a raucous audience riveted to his every blistering run. Garrett’s new album, Sounds From the Ancestors [Mack Avenue Records,], is due out soon and should be a thrill to explore, given his shining, global-inspired performance at Newport Jazz.

Trombone Shorty and Pete Murano at Newport Jazz- photo by Jim Brock

Saturday’s Newport Jazz edition concluded monumentally with a joyful, rollicking performance by Troy Andrews (aka. Trombone Shorty; “Shorty”) and his big band, Orleans Avenue, barnstorming Newport’s Lawn Stage with their kinetic grooves. The energy of this show was irresistible – from the first blares of punctual brass to the appearance of Shorty and his gleaming trombone (lifted to the sky) to deliver his instrument’s breathy, powerful pulses of dance.

The tight-knit Orleans Avenue concentrated on a number of cuts from their terrific 2017 Blue Note label recording, Parking Lot Symphony, a recording that captures this frolicking band in all its tactile, layered heat within the airy confines of the legendary Esplanade Studio in New Orleans, the same studio where Newvelle Records recently recorded their fabulous New Orleans Collection of artists on their impeccable LPs (see my earlier review and for all information).

The high-wattage fun at Shorty and Orleans Avenue‘s Newport Jazz performance had the capacity crowd dancing from start to finish. The dashing instrumental, “Tripped Out Slim” sent the dancing ablaze with its pumping foundation by baritone saxman BK Jackson and the rest of the band’s tight grooves. “Dirty Water” pranced on the slink of Pete Murano’s electric guitar and on “It Ain’t No Use”, Shorty’s molasses-smooth vocals sashayed alongside the shimmy of brass choruses. On the irresistible anthem, “Where It At?”, Shorty’s gushing and vital trombone led the “Second Line” carouse with its deep pulses and flair while the crowd danced and sung along to the rousing chorus: “I just want my heart back – Where it At?” Here was Newport Jazz at its most funky and playful – a carefree abandon in rejoicing music of resiliency.

*Many thanks to my friend and colleague, Jim Brock [], for his superb photos from all the great action at Newport Jazz this year!

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