Festival picks 2008, part 2: also recommended
❶ The soon-to-be-90-year-old pianist Hank Jones has the distinction of probably being the oldest working jazz musician on the planet. Here he will be bringing the wealth of his piano experience to bear in a series of meetings over three nights with the likes of Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden, and Jim Hall.
☛Montréal, June 28, 29, 30, Invitation series FIJM.
❷ The most famous of all disciples of blind pianist Lennie Tristano and last survivor of the legendary Birth of the Cool sessions, Lee Konitz is still going strong at 80 years old, what with his most unique sound and always distinguished improvisational conception.
☛Medicine Hat, June 26; Calgary, June 27.
❶ Tireless saxophonist David Murray has recently made for Justin Time one of his best albums in recent years, "Sacred Ground". With the help of his Black Saint Quartet (with veterans Ray Drummond, double bass, and Andrew Cyrille, drums, joining young pianist Lafayette Gilchrist), Murray comes to Montréal to present compositions from that opus, where the tenor giant seems to go back to his roots.
☛Montréal, June 26
❷ With strange stage costumes and an off-the-wall repertoire mixing avant-garde episodes and old-time swing tunes, the Sun Ra Arkestra has been for more than fifty years one of the most unique acts around. Back to the Sala Rossa for Suoni Per Il Popolo after their triumph there in 2006, the ensemble (under the direction of saxophonist Marshall Allen since the death of its colorful leader in 1993) will undoubtedly have the audience chanting once more: space is the place, space is the place...
☛Montréal (Suoni Per Il Popolo), June 14
❶ On the strengths of his latest ECM record (see review here), saxophonist Charles Lloyd is truly one of the most credible of all Coltrane disciples. Backed by arguably his best rhythm section since his late 60's quartet with the then budding Keith Jarrett, the tenorman will surely conquer his audience with his surefire flights of fancy.
☛Toronto, June 25
❷ A sure bet if ever there was one, Dave Brubeck will however present one of the lesser known facets of his oeuvre, the rarely performed music of his early 1950's octet. Influenced at the time by his studies with French composer Darius Milhaud, the pianist chartered a course that would only cristallize later in that decade under the heading of "Third Stream Jazz". And given his advancing age (like his beloved keyboard, 88 this coming December!), chances to catch him live will be at a premium with each new year.
☛Montréal, July 4 (Brubeck will also perform with his quartet on July 5, in Vancouver on June 23 and in Toronto on July 2 with symphony orchestra)
❶ While the husband and wife piano and trumpet team of Sakoto Fuji and Natsuki Tamura have been doing a lot of work in big band formats, they will play together in an intimate duo setting in Montréal on June 29. Four days previous to that, the pianist will also perform in duo in Vancouver, this time with violinist Carla Kihlstedt.
☛Vancouver, June 25; Montréal, June 29.
❷ Inhabitants is a young West Coast foursome that creates a captivating and adventurous contemporary urban soundscape complete with articulate improvisation and imaginative compositional ideas. The group is made up of JP Carter, trumpet, Dave Sikula, guitar, Pete Schmitt, bass and Skye Brooks, drums.
☛Vancouver, June 25.
❶ Matana Roberts is a name you'll undoubtedly hear often in the coming years. The dynamic Chicago-born saxophonist is part of the Windy City's newest generation of musicians, faithful to the original AACM motto: "great black music, ancient to the future". With a six-piece ensemble (including local trumpeter Gordon Allen), she will be in Montréal to present the second part (baptised "Mississippi Moonchile") of an ambitious work she describes as a "patch work sound quilt", based on the lives and legends of her ancestors.
☛Montréal (Suoni Per Il Popolo), June 17.
❷ Also from Chicago, flutist Nicole Mitchell is another musician to watch. Her 2005 recording with Harrison Bankhead and Hamid Drake, which brought her to the attention of many listeners, was made at the Suoni Per Il Popolo in Montréal. This year, she will perform with a veteran of the Canadian scene, pianist Paul Plimley, at the Vancouver Jazz Festival.
☛Vancouver, June 28.
❶ If ever the words "cutting edge" suited a jazz musician, Tim Berne would surely have to be a leading candidate for that title. This much heralded alto saxophonist from the Downtown N.Y. scene will be heard in three different festivals, with no less than three appearances in Vancouver and one each in Ottawa and Montréal.
☛Montréal (Suoni Per Il Popolo): Hard Cell, with Tom Rainey (drums) and Craig Taborn (keyboard), June 3.
☛Ottawa: Trio with Chris Speed (tenor sax) and Lotte Anker (soprano, tenor saxes), June 25.
☛Vancouver: Bloodcount (reunion concert), June 29; duo with Michael Formanek, June 28; workshop, June 28.
❷ Take an organ, electric bass and drums trio à la Medeski, Martin and Wood, have it play sophisticated compositions akin to contemporary music but with all the intensity of a Heavy Metal band and what do you get?... Steamboat Switzerland! This oddly named band under the leadership of drummer Lucas Niggli is a bracing proposition for sure, but this is one ship to shape you out.
☛Vancouver, June 25; Montréal, June 28.
❶ Montréal-based tenor and soprano saxophonist Joel Miller and his band Mandela will be heading to the Nation's Capital this summer. Mixing several idioms is the leader's own musical forte, and he creates vehicles that are at once pleasantly melodic and accessible at all times, but still open enough for off-the-beaten-track improvisations.
☛Ottawa, June 28.
❷ A Toronto native, but Montrealer for the last three and a half years, trumpeter Gordon Allen is not only a musical explorer with a keen ear but one capable of making the horn sound suave and rich at one moment, then dark and purely abstract the next. He will team up here with percussionist Michel F. Côté and bassist Alexandre Saint-Onge for an evening of highly imaginative small-group improvisation.
☛Montréal (Suoni Per Il Popolo), June 14.
❶ This year will have been a busy one for saxophonist/composer Jean Derome: two concerts with a twelve-piece ensemble (at the Sala Rossa in december and at Victoriaville in may), a new album with his quintet Les Dangereux Zhoms ("To Continue"), and a world premiere in Cologne of one of his compositions for the Bozzini String Quartet (see above). He will be in the spotlight again, with the usual DAME suspects, for an evening of improvisation at Montréal's Off Festival de Jazz. Prepare yourselves for an ambience that can only be... magnetic!
☛Montréal (Off Festival de Jazz), June 18.
❷ One of the mainstays of Montréal's jazz scene for countless years, double bassist Michel Donato will be touring this summer's jazz festival circuit with a trio featuring accordionist Marin Nasturica and guitarist Jon Gearey. Donato will also be the guest of honor for an evening at the FIJM, a concert baptised "fifty years of double bass", where he will perform duets with a number of his old accomplices, including James Gelfand, Karen Young, Yannick Rieu and François Bourassa. A well-deserved tribute evening.
☛Ottawa, June 26; Montréal, July 4 & 5.
❶ Peripatetic guitarist Joel Haynes is on a Canada-wide tour this summer in a trio plus star tenorman Seamus Blake, a native Vancouverite who has found international fame after settling Stateside back in the 90's. A good solid jazz act made in Canada that will surely be an outdoor crowd pleaser this summer.
☛Vancouver, June 22; Toronto, June 25; Ottawa, June 26; Montréal, June 28.
❷ After a successful cross-Canada quintet tour last summer, up and comer pianist Marianne Trudel premieres a new project: a seven-piece ensemble with three brass (trumpet, french horn and trombone), rhythm section and voice. An interesting combination to say the least.
☛Montréal (Off Festival de Jazz), June 21.