There are few surer bets in the concert industry than an anniversary celebration.
Seen across the musical spectrum, including recent tours commemorating Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue" as well as this year's star-studded televised salute to the Beatles, such tributes reliably serve two constituencies in showing young listeners the value of history while allowing longtime fans to savor a bit of nostalgia.
At a crowded Walt Disney Concert Hall on Saturday night, the Los Angeles Philharmonic offered a doubleheader of such tributes with "60+60," a concert featuring two ensembles that honored the 60th anniversaries of the Newport Jazz Festival and the landmark live recording "Jazz at Massey Hall." Although, like most tributes, the results couldn't deliver the same fireworks as the originals, the show still added up to a fine evening of music.
Because if an alien visitor were to clatter onto Grand Avenue and ask stunned passersby to describe jazz, they could have pointed to the hall for a satisfactory answer. Released in 1953 (officially marking 2014 as the record's 61st anniversary), "Jazz at Massey Hall" featured an almost mythic assembly of jazz legends in Bud Powell, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Dizzy Gillespie and saxophone titan Charlie Parker.
Though even that record at times struggles to live up to expectations -- how could it, really? -- you have to feel for almost any band stepping into those shoes. Still, pianist Bill Charlap's trio was up to the task with the help of trumpeter Jon Faddis.
The lineup didn't pack the star power of a 50th anniversary show held in Toronto in 2003 (led by Dave Holland, Roy Haynes and the L.A. Phil's creative chair for jazz, Herbie Hancock), but Faddis in particular was a natural choice. Formerly director of Dizzy's United Nations Orchestra, among other projects, Faddis led the band's run through the album with arcing, high-pitched runs.
The boisterous "Salt Peanuts," featuring Faddis' delivering Gillespie's familiar chattery vocal, was marked by a surging drive from drummer Kenny Washington and bassist Peter Washington, and "All the Things You Are" featured nimble runs from altoist Jesse Davis. "Wee" and "Hot House" heated up nicely atop Charlap's buoyant piano lead, and "A Night in Tunisia" built to a stormy finish. As a whole, there weren't many surprises, but plenty of swing.
Functioning as essentially a promotional arm of the venerable Rhode Island festival, the Newport Jazz Festival: Now 60 tour ensemble perhaps had the more difficult task in attempting to encompass a diverse, weekend festival in a set of about 45 minutes. Embarking on a 17-city tour, the Newport band includes some strong bandleaders in bassist Ben Allison, multi-reedist Anat Cohen and trumpeter Randy Brecker.
One of the most forward-looking bandleaders -- both in his barbed 2013 album, "The Stars Look Very Different Today," and his vigorous exploration of the grim economic realities of streaming music -- Allison anchored the band's nimble rhythmic charge, including a lovely duet with vocalist Karrin Allyson on "'Round Midnight." Cohen quickly established herself as a crowd favorite with a twisting, joyful clarinet solo on Louis Armstrong's "La Vie en Rose," and Brecker offered a propulsive lead through his own composition, "Freefall."
A few reminders of the festival's dates (Aug. 1 to 3) looked toward the transcontinental jazz tourists in the crowd, but here's hoping those fans will look ahead for sounds closer to home as well.