Just now I watched an hour of the 2005 Newport Jazz Festival on PBS HD, and I think it probably said something about the state of jazz. The order of the comments does not correspond to the concert’s running order. Wynton Marsalis (hmm, there seem to be two official competing sites, so we’ll go with Wikipedia) erected a perfectly-polished entirely-motionless 100% risk-free monument to some idealized notion of the Golden Age of Jazz; his ensemble all wore really great neckties. The Joshua Redman Elastic Band opened with some interesting heavily-processed solo sax, then played conventional quite-OK jazz flawed only by Joshua Redman, whose breaks were kind of boring. Martin Medeski and Wood, whom I’d heard of but never heard, played fast complicated synth-funk, which is generally a disposable kind of thing, but it was actually a fairly funky flavor of synth-funk, so that’s a redeeming feature. The Dave Holland Big Band was refreshing, straight un-pimped-up jazz, but high-speed, high-energy, the players were sweating and some of the breaks veered into dangerous territory. Mmmm, tasty. Saving the best for the last: The Patricia Barber Quartet played Norwegian Wood. No, that’s not what they did... actually they fucking blew the stage to smithereens, caressing the song, then easing into the instrumental space, then offering apocalyptic piano and bass breaks, then dropping into a fast ensemble groove, pure rhythm for the sake of rhythm, why couldn’t it have gone on for an hour; a penultimate dip into that tart Lennon/McCartney sweetness and then it ended with a big loud bang. I’ve been listening to a lot of jazz for a lot of years; for my money, the Barber quartet is by a wide margin the world’s premier currently-active jazz ensemble. Maybe the premier currently-active ensemble in any genre of music.