Creative Opportunity Orchestra's (l-r) Dave Bowman, Martin Banks, and Tina Marsh (Photo By Gary Miller)
Austin Jazz & Arts FestivalSymphony Square, October 20
Rain was the only thing that could've brought the 14th Annual DiverseArts Jazz & Arts Festival to a halt, and thanks to Alex Coke and the Creative Opportunity Orchestra, it did. Not that umbrellas were necessary for CO2's performance of Coke's "Rain." Phrases moved rapidly from one section to the next, until all that remained was the sound of Oliver Rajamani's tablas and the click-clack of young Zeke Zimmerman's tap-dancing shenanigans. In terms of sheer creativity, consider the opportunity seized. Coke's piece was light and crisp despite the density of the 12 musicians packed onto the back porch of the Austin Symphony Orchestra building overlooking Waller Creek, where families and fans took in the vibrant sounds wafting across the water at this cozy little nook at 11th and Red River. CO2, the closing act of the afternoon, ranged from a whisper to a scream, or a siren-like wail in the case of Tina Marsh, whose wordless tongues punctuated the set's thick, full climax. Marsh's ensemble lived up to the lofty task of following Coke's Spiritual Unity Quartet, featuring drummer Alvin Fielder and trumpet player Dennis Gonzalez -- veterans whose résumés include stints with Max Roach, Cecil Taylor, and Sun Ra -- and stellar Houston trombonist David Dove. This Epistrophy Arts-presented combo took the stage after woman in jazz Pamela Hart's tasty set, and churned out a stimulating brew that was in no way abrasive, providing both food for intense listening and a pleasant afternoon backdrop. Fielder's patient, nonlinear rhythms allowed for the delicate timbre of Coke's flute and Gonzalez's trumpet, both of which accented Dove's busy trombone squalls. At their most frenetic, the four players found themselves belting out different languages, yet speaking in one common tongue. DiverseArts couldn't have asked for a better summation of this diverse festival.