I was late arriving to LPR last night for the first night of the 2011 Winter Jazzfest, but made it in time to catch legendary drummer Chico Hamilton and Euphoria. Chico, who turns 90 this year, has been a band leader since 1955, having worked with everyone from Duke Ellington, to Count Basie, to Lena Horne, with whom he played for six years. Chico has let himself go a bit since the last time I saw him in 2007 - his hair is long and gray, and he walks with a cane - but he is as sharp as ever. He cracked jokes, showed off his delicate brush technique, and occasionally chided his younger players for coming in early or late. What is it about these jazz drummers - Chico, Roy Haynes, Paul Motian - that keeps them young well into their 80's?
After, most of us wandered en masse across the street to Kenny's Castaways, filling the former 19th century saloon well beyond capacity. I pushed my way through the crowd and managed to watch free jazz saxophonist Charles Gayle and his trio from the wrap-around gallery above the stage. Gayle, 71, lived on the streets of NYC for over 20 years, with his career only taking off in his mid-50's. He played tenor like a man possessed, driven by the same spiritual fervor as Coltrane and Cecil Taylor.
By the time I got to Zinc Bar up on 3rd St., there was a line of wristband holders around the block - and a gaggle of pushy old jazz heads trying to weasel their way in - so I hightailed it back to Brooklyn. But, I'll be back later tonight, as the Winter Jazzfest expands to five venues. The music kicks off at 6pm and goes 'til the wee hours. Details and tickets on the festival website.
More pics from last night on Flickr.