There was a vaudevillian variety to Satruday night's Wolf Trapp Jazz Festival, with acts as disparate as the 1930s classic tap of hoofer Honi Coles and the contemporary vocals of Gina Eckstein, the gospel fervor of Esther Marrow and the suave baritone crooning of Billy Eckstein, the melodic invention of vibraphonist Takashi Ooi and the stream-of-consciousness piano of avant-gardist Cecil Taylor.
The evening began with a rare stateside appearance by Trummy Young, who now makes his home in Hawaii. Backed by the simmering Medium Rare Big Band of the New England Conservatory, the former side man of the Earl Hines and Jimmie Lunceford orchestras matched his brass trombone on T'aint What You Do" with a vocal that wrote the definition of "hip." Alto saxophonist Ed Jackson's introduction of Young's "Margie" was properly lascivious.
Cecil Taylor's fren2ied 20-minute piece alternated between passages of Buster Keaton half-collapsing chaos and lilting placidity. Double-fisted crashes, flight-from-certain-death dashes up and down the keyboard, rapid two-fingered slashes, avalanche rumblings in the bass were succeeded by tension-releasing interludes of lyricism or honky-tonk blues. Subtle Taylor is not. Technically awesome and emotionally draining he is.
The Basie Band, less its convalescing leader (local Tee Carson ably held down the piano bench) swung with zeal and precision. Strong statements were voiced by soloists Dennis Wilson on trombone, Pete Minger, trumpet Eric Dixon, tenor, bassist Cleveland Eton, and that drumming juggernaut, Duffy Jackson.
The highlight of the four-day fest was the afternoon screening by collector David Chertok of priceless clips of Fats Waller, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, John Coltrain and others. A national treasure, their shameful brevity rebukes the film industry.
The festival covered a lot of bases and scored some hits. But it defaulted in its flagrant omission of traditional jazz and the young avant-garde. Neither came to bat.