SCENA Jazz

Friday, July 30, 2010

Trumpet Tempest at the Montreal International Jazz Festival 2010

By Paul Serralheiro


The volatile state of contemporary jazz trumpet was on full display during the 31st edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, as the sound of several accomplished trumpeters rang loud and clear.

Whether it was locals like Ron Di Lauro paying tribute to Miles Davis, Jocelyn Couture tipping his horn to Verdun-born trumpet god Maynard Ferguson, Bill Mahar blowing hot licks with Streetniks, fellow Canadian Ingrid Jensen sitting in with her sister’s big band, the throng of Americans on parade (Dave Douglas, Wallace Roney, Roy Hargrove, and Christian Scott) or the visitors from Europe (Nils Petter Molvaer and Tomasz Stanko), the trumpet sounded eclectic and full of contrasts.

In the concert halls of Montreal from June 25-July 6, 2010, a tribute to tradition, on the one hand, and the pushing of boundaries, on the other, were the two palpable dynamic forces in the vortex of ideas generated by the select musicians expressing themselves through that iconic piece of plumbing


Ron Di Lauro, Porgy and Bess suite (June 30, 8:00 PM, Theatre Jean Duceppe)

Understandably, in a tribute to Miles Davis’ performance of “Porgy and Bess,” we got a huge dollop of tradition. The great orchestral suite, a defining work of modern jazz, is the brain child of Davis and arranger Gil Evans meeting in the world of Gershwin’s imaginative American Opera.

The conductor in for the show from New York, Joe Muccioli, a very large man who introduced the suite as a great “orchestral work’’ that deserved to be recreated, did a great job of marshalling the instrumental palette provided by the score which was brought to life by the cream of Montreal’s session players, some of whom slipped in from an earlier gig with the Christine Jensen orchestra.

The Davis/Evans suite was preceded by an orchestrated take on “So What,” featuring soloists Di Lauro, Jean-Pierre Zanella and Frank Lozano as the stand-ins for Miles, Cannonball and Trane. “Porgy and Bess” itself got off to a shaky start, as the opening high register trumpet statement in the section was squeaked, but as Di Lauro got behind the challenge of filling Davis’ shoes, it was onward and upward with consistent polished playing.

A seasoned session player and professor of jazz studies at McGill and the Université de Montreal, Di Lauro proved himself to be a highly credible interpreter of Miles, referencing his style accurately, while playing his own ideas. When he slipped in a trumpet growl at one point—one of many stylistic choices consistent with jazz trumpet but a device Davis eschewed as he did the plunger mute—Di Lauro briefly stopped blowing in mid-stream to say, “Miles never did that.”

The score of the suite itself, rich in themes and colours, was a stroke of big band arranging genius on Evans’ part, if simply for his use of three French horns and a tuba, and for construing the reed section as clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, piccolo, leaving one alto sax from the traditional set up.

The Canadian-born arranger’s score is indisputably sublime, and it was superbly interpreted by the local musicians. After 30 years performing in the festival, Di Lauro seemed, no doubt, to be living a high point in his musical life, performing this masterwork in the Theatre Jean Duceppe for the appreciative audience who heard top notch playing from Di Lauro, along with skilled conducting and coherent ensemble playing


Terence Blanchard Quintet (July 1, 8:00, Theatre Jean Duceppe)

Innovation is not unsynonymous with mainstream jazz, since music in that vein can also be pretty freewheeling, as trumpeter, composer and educator Terence Blanchard proved. It helps that, like his mentor Art Blakey, Blanchard surrounds himself with creative young musicians, notably drummer Kendrick Scott, who found all kinds of nuances of rhythms and colour on the kit. Strong voices also emanated from his 18-year-old bass player and from Fabian Almazan on piano. Pianist Robert Glasper also popped by, guesting on two tunes.

When, in a very self-assured, polished speaking voice, Blanchard took a long aside between two tunes to expound on the merits of his band members, the New Orleans native spoke as a kind of diplomat for the music and the cause of mainstream jazz, when singing hyperbolic praises of his players.

The quality of music performed, however, spoke for itself: a mix of material from Choices, which featured spoken word from Cornwell West (whom we heard over loud speakers), and performances of tunes by each of the band members. Blanchard’s own playing was lyrical, yet very free; he can play at the top of his limits very convincingly and meaningfully.


Roy Hargrove Big Band (June 28, 9:30 PM, Theatre Maisonneuve)

The somewhat younger Roy Hargrove, a frequent participant at the MIJF, also presented music in the mainstream vein. The evening showed off the Texas Trumpeter’s arranging chops, more than his trumpet, although he played some of his signature soulful lines in most numbers.

His playing was not the most inspired I’d heard from him, and there was some trouble with his sound as it got lost in the band mix, but he led the band in a relaxed and engaging manner with a strong element of Dizzy Gillespie’s spirit animating the concept in many obvious ways, from physical gestures to call and response riffs. The ensemble featured several strong solo voices who took the music interesting places, despite the fact that the arrangements were mainly in the safe crowd-pleasing big band tradition.


Wallace Roney Quintet (June 28, 10:30 PM Gesu)

Billed as a quintet, this was actually a sextet. The young drummer, Kush Abadey, was one of the stars of the show, as his rhythms kept things happening, and in tandem with bass player Rashaan Carter’s very funky approach, a deep pocket groove supplied the trampoline for Roney’s inspired, filigreed lines.

There were some technical problems at first, as Roney tried to play some keyboard but no sound came out, which seemed to throw him off a little. But once in stride, his playing was solid, with smooth, long 16th note lines that exhibited great technical command. These lines became a kind of predictable mannerism, especially when the same concept was taken up by his horn mates (a young alto/soprano player, and Antoine Roney on tenor and soprano) who at times imitated their leader’s phrasing in launching explorations of their own.

Touted as a protégé of Miles Davis, Roney’s own sound is more burly than his mentor’s, but highlights of his performance included some very subtle Davis-like ballad playing and Roney’s endurance was impressive, as he played nearly a two hour set, followed by a long encore.


Christian Scott Quintet (June 5, 10:30 PM Gesu)

This young trumpeter from New Orleans is a quickly maturing voice who, not yet 30, has already released three CDs and is being consistently lauded by critics and appreciated by audiences as an authentic new presence in jazz.

A novel band sound and concept was facilitated by the unexpected chords and textures of guitarist Matthew Stevens, whom Scott introduced as a key member of the group and as one of the “best guitarists in America” (he hails from Toronto). “I’ve played with some of the best and he’s better that Metheny and Scofield,” Scott contended.

All quintet members proved to be solid and creative players with a sound of their own: pianist Milton Fletcher, Scott’s old friend from Berklee; drummer Jamire Williams, who met Scott when the two were in Jazz camp as youngsters; and bassist Kris Funn, the newest addition to the band.

The tunes, mostly from Scott’s latest release (see below) are informed by contemporary urban music but also echo jazz tradition, as Scott’s own playing, in particular, seems to resonate with the sounds of several forerunners, including people like Louis Armstrong, Clifford Brown and Wynton Marsalis.

A tad affected at times in his introductions to his tunes and the presentation of himself and his art, Scott is, however, self-assured and able to deliver the goods. He has a strong, centered, soulful, beautiful sound and he makes masterful use of space and plays very expressive muted horn, which he knows how to use in contrast to a fuller open sound.


Ingrid Jensen, Christine Jensen Orchestra (June 30, 6 PM, L’Astral)

Although it took her a tune or two to warm up, the British Columbia native Ingrid Jensen played in her usual strong and confident manner, mostly on tunes penned by her sister Christine for “Treelines,” her latest release (see below).

The band, which included some of the best musicians in town, like trumpeters Bill Mahar and Aaron Doyle, provided an inspiring backdrop for Jensen’s soloing, which made use of pedals and other effects and was generally very energetic, in a swirl of imaginative blowing reminiscent of Kenny Wheeler.


Dave Douglas with Keystone (June 30, 10:30 PM, Gesu)

Although he’s American, Douglas is a kind of honorary Canadian who appreciates this country’s politics and who saw some of his first sides as leader released on Vancouver’s Songlines. The New Yorker is also a regular artistic director in Banff’s music programs.

With his adventurous approach and his fertile imagination, Douglas is an interesting bridge between the practices of North American jazz and the European sound.

In the company of a solid band which played with respectful complicity, Douglas delivered a virtuosic, inspired performance. What fuels Douglas as a trumpet player is obviously the composer in him and his ability to think of the music in his own terms (although there was some uncharacteristic quoting, of Monk tunes primarily). Equally attractive is Douglas’ sense of humour, which was especially evident that night, with the plentiful playful banter. Douglas played full tilt, especially toward the end, and he sounded fresh throughout.

In presenting music from the score for the film “Sparks of Being,” a contemporary retelling of the Frankenstein story, the sputter and spark where typical Douglas, always playing at the edge of his limits and sailing along freely and playfully in a good 90 minutes of impressive music.

Paolo Fresu and Ralph Towner (June 26, 6 PM, Gesu)

One of the concerts in Italian trumpeter Paolo Fresu’s invitation series paired him with a particularly compatible partner in guitarist Ralph Towner, a musician who shares Fresu’s understated tone and lyrical approach. The pair performed pieces from their duo release, “Chiaroscuro,” as well as three standards: “Blue in Green,” “Beautiful Love” and “I Fall in Love Too Easily.”

There was an easy, relaxed interplay between Towner’s whimsical guitar and Fresu’s breezy trumpet as the two flirted and frolicked. Fresu played equal amounts of Flugelhorn, open and muted trumpet, and made it abundantly clear that he is a master of the lyrical in the Chet Baker school but has ideas of his own that are impressive in their ease of execution and flowing natural sound.


Tomasz Stanko (July 3, 10:30 PM, Gesu)

Looking like a little Charlie Chaplin man or one of the characters from Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot” in his black bowler hat, the veteran Polish trumpeter seemed to deliver his music right from the heart.

Playing in a centered, assured manner, Stanko spun some highly imaginative music. With a sound that can be very breathy at times, clear and ringing at others, dirty, clean and everything in between, Stanko played very meaningful music, with floating melodies that often started from a grainy low register, then soared in fanciful flights.

His band was not always up to his level of eloquence, aside from drummer Olavi Louhivouri, whose playing was alert and spry. Anders Christensen’s electric bass vamps on one note became a kind of annoying static device. Jakob Bro’s solid body electric guitar was tasteful, but not always creative or engaging. Pianist Alexi Tuomarila, although obviously a proficient player, didn’t grab this listener with his rather tepid romantic noodlings.

When the rhythm section tried to cook, either it was not convincing in its cohesion, especially as the bass and piano tried to lock into one another, leaving out the drummer at times. Nonetheless, the concert had an organic flow and it was over before we knew it, even as 80 minutes of music elapsed before the encore. Tunes tended to be monothematic, and concise, but with some substantial solos from all involved, often containing moments where everyone dropped out to create an interesting contrast in textures, which is an engaging aspect of the Stanko style.


Nils Peter Molvaer (June 26, 10:30 PM, Gesu)

It’s hard to categorize the playing of this Norwegian who hypnotized his audience with his trio and lots of effects, both sonic and visual.

While Molvaer’s bag of tricks is rather limited, what he has goes a long way. The most memorable is the haunting scale that he started and ended the evening with…something very ancient sounding and soulful.

Contributing to the aural ambience were drummer Audun Kleive and bassist Audun Erlien. Both bass and trumpet were highly processed through electronics while the drummer provided a cushion of beats for the sonic overlay. The effect amounted to something like the musical equivalent of paint dripping, a kind of moody abstract expressionism which was paralleled by visual projections on a screen, which consisted primarily of running drips, textures, and thermal projections.

The concert amounted to one long piece, although there was a burst of applause at one point when there was a mere rift in the playing, as if the audience wanted to be a part of the event, not just witness to the slowly evolving ambience, mood, shades and textures.


Recommended Listening

Several of the trumpeters mentioned above can be heard on the following recordings:

Christian Scott: Yesterday you said Tomorrow (Concord CJA-31412-02)
Nils Petter Molvaer: Hamada (Sula 602527020419)
Wallace Roney: If Only for one Night (Highnote HCD7202)
Tomasz Stanko Quintet: Dark Eyes ( ECM 2115 B0013957-02)
Christine Jensen: Treelines (Justin Time)
Dave Douglas and Keystone: Spark of Being (Greenleaf )

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

TD Toronto Jazz Festival 2010

Alain Londes

The TD Toronto Jazz Festival enjoyed its 24th edition this year with a city dominated by the focus on the G8 and G20 Summit meetings for the first few days. Despite very minor delays for a couple of shows and some instances of nearby protester clashes with law enforcement, the festival successfully managed to “go on with the show” without a hitch in the true spirit of jazz. It was also a fresh start for the new Artistic Director, Josh Grossman, who assumed his responsibilities in January of this year.

The festival continued its tradition of presenting a balanced program of major headliners such as Harry Connick Jr, Herbie Hancock, Taj Mahal, and Stanley Clarke, as well as other key performers of different styles.

June 25: Maceo Parker

On opening night, the youthful divas delivered great shows before their respective crowds: Nikki Yanofsky performed over at Koerner Hall and Martha Wainwright with her rendition of Edith Piaf's classics sang at the Great Hall.

For James Brown style funk, the Mainstage Concert was the place to be. When Maceo Parker comes to town, his band brings the spirit, the professionalism, and the music to get people movin’. Rodney ‘Skeet’ Curtis was on bass, Bruno Speight on guitar, and Jamal Thomas on drums. The front horns accompanying Maceo were the fabulous Ron Tooley on trumpet and Dennis Rollins on trombone. Diehard jazz enthusiasts will have remembered Rollins perform at the now defunct IAJE jazz convention as he attracted a lot of attention with his versatility on the instrument with additional sound effects.

Will Boulware added a rich musical touch to the keyboards that is not usually the case with other bands. Corey Parker, Maceo’s son, and Neta Hall provided the central vocal component to the show. The Maceo Parker band went right into the spirit of things with “Off The Hook.”

Music selections came from older recordings such as “Make It Funky,” "What You Know about Funk?," and “Shake Everything You’ve Got” from Life on Planet Groove (Polygram Records , 1992). The classic “Uptown Up” from Funk Overload (What Are Records, 1998) always gets people energized thanks to the wonderful sound of the horns playing in unison with some cool accentuation from the trombonist. Later on in the show, Maceo stood alone on stage and paid homage to Ray Charles with his rendition of “You Don’t Know Me.”

Near the end of the show, everyone was on their feet (mostly dancing) without needing any prodding from the band and they yelled out “Maceo! Maceo!” for an encore with the classic James Brown favorite, “Pass the Peas.”

The band members were clearly enjoying themselves. The syncopation and the timing were right on the mark. Each musician had an opportunity to shine. Before you knew it, the concert was over in the late hours of kickoff night!


Maceo Parker. Photo: Marek Lazarski.

June 27: David Sanborn with Joey DeFrancesco

The highly anticipated performance by David Sanborn finally made it to the TD Toronto Jazz Festival at the beautiful Koerner Hall together with Joey DeFrancesco whom Sanborn calls the monarch of the B3 and Gene Lake. How fitting to have these musicians playing selections from both the Only Everything (Decca, 2010) and Here And Gone (Decca, 2008) which are tributes to Ray Charles. It was after hearing the latter that Sanborn decided to pick up the saxophone. Charles happened to also have been a great alto player in addition to being a master of the B3 Hammond. This was essentially a true Chicago trio on display with blues being the name of the game.

After kicking things off with the fast “Coming Home Early“ featuring the signature sound of the alto saxophone, the trio brought things down a bit with “Brother Ray.” Sanborn then jokingly asked the audience: “How's the weekend going?”

To Sanborn, the saxophone is very close to the human voice and the alto saxophonist credits both Hank Crawford and David “Fathead” Newman as major influences. In recognition, we got to hear “The Peeper” which is a Crawford arrangement that always stuck with Sanborn. The fun blues included energetic vibrato snippets that welcome song references nicely. The trio continued with the popular “Let The Good Times Roll” with DeFrancesco providing the vocal touch and inviting the crowd to clap with the beat. Meanwhile Gene Lake set up the musical sandbox making Dave and Joey sound their best.

Only Everything” had the feel of a timeless soul ballad written for his granddaughter Genevieve. DeFrancesco emphasized the organ's warm and earthy sounds that had a hint of strings. At one point he picked up a muted trumpet on his right hand for a solo in the Miles Davis style while playing chords with his left hand on the organ.

For the encore, Sanborn talked about someone he knows who always makes bad choices when it came to relationships. He looked towards Joey but eventually claimed that he didn't mean to refer to anyone in the band to the organist's relief. “I got news for you” was that final song with Joey providing again his vocal talents even after missing the first queue.

June 29: Grace Kelly Quintet

On Tuesday evening, festival visitors had an eclectic choice of musical possibilities. At Koerner Hall, Dave Brubeck returned for his current touch on some of his all-time classics. American hip hop band and the house band for the Jim Fallon Show, The Roots, presented an energetic show on the Mainstage. Over at The Trane Studio, Grace Kelly took the spotlight and amazed those who saw her perform for the first time. She already played last year at The Rex as well as the Orangeville Blues and Jazz Festival, north of Toronto. Labeled a child prodigy by jazz greats, this alto saxophonist, singer, composer, and arranger still maintains her youthful zest at 18. Having picked up the sax at 10, she has already mastered techniques that can take years to do.

On the opening “Ain't No Sunshine” by Bill Withers, Kelly brought a certain gentleness to her sound and phrasing in what she called a slightly twisted version of the well known song. Her vocal abilities were also on full display with “Straighten Up and Fly Right” by Nat King Cole. During that song she managed to weave in truly improvised lyrics by, for example, talking about which city she was in and where she was going next. “Happy Theme Song” is an original composition that is a true representation of Grace Kelly and some of her musical influences. It's bubbly and bright with a distinct Charlie Parker sound. The piece also featured trumpeter Jason Palmeri who came on stage to complete the quintet. The set ended with an extended rendition of “Caravan” combining tempo changes, top of the horn harmonics, and culminating with an imaginative solo by Palmeri that included a brief “Raiders of the Lost Ark” reference.

Grace Kelly is comfortable both onstage as well as with the audience. She, after all, has had the opportunity to play in the company of major musicians and bands like the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. Her traveling band as a whole is very organic. Kelly is more than happy to share the stage with them and to let them shine.

June 30: Keith Jarrett Trio

Tuesday before a long weekend for some had a whole variety of performances for your enjoyment. Mavis Staples and the Allen Toussaint Band occupied the Toronto Star stage while Charlie Hunter played just a few blocks away at the Hard Rock Café. Vocal fans could choose either the Russ Little Quintet & Heather Bambrick featuring Carol Welsman, or the Roberta Gambarini Quartet. James Farm featuring Joshua Redman and others performed at the Enwave Theatre at Harbourfront.

The Keith Jarrett Trio returned to the festival 3 years after inaugurating the Grandmasters Series at the Four Seasons Centre. The location was ideal for a group of this caliber free from distractions of an open-air context. The packed auditorium was ready to enjoy two sets of pure music. In a past interview, Jarrett admitted that a jazz musician should perform as if it might be the last time. You should not play as if you have all the time in the world. You should be faster than your insecurity when facing audience expectations as an “audience may have the wrong impression of what you are about to play.” This philosophy was very evident from the evening’s performance and demonstrated the joys of a musical relationship that is fresher as ever. A Keith Jarrett Trio performance is always a special event especially if it's in a pin-drop sensitive hall with the audience hanging on every note.

The whole trio plays softly in a tight unit that you would expect after playing together for over 25 years. Gary Peacock showcased varied bass riffs appropriately with Jack DeJohnette using just the right touch to balance his drums and cymbals as well as just the right delicate touch with the brushes. Both provided the ideal counterpoint to Jarrett’s harmonic permutations and phrasings. The sound is well balanced whether the trio plays an easy-tempo rendition of “Yesterdays” by Jerome Kern to a light swinging blues. The trio's interpretation of Ornette Coleman's “When Will The Blues Leave?” is just such an example from the blues side.

At times hunching over the piano keys or standing, Keith Jarrett takes great care at playing and savoring every note to perfection. Right before intermission, he was short of satisfied with the sound of a particular note and even asked the audience: “Does this sound okay?” Predictably the crowd said yes. Nevertheless, Jarrett switched gears to play the sentimental "Blame It On My Youth," a jazz standard written by Oscar Levant and Edward Heyman. During the intermission, a second piano was hauled in discreetly. Nothing affected the positive mood of the musical evening. The meticulous notes during quieter moments felt like delicate leaves or light raindrops reaching the ground with the audience quietly savoring every one. Jarrett nodded after each tune in appreciation to the receptive audience members and in the acknowledgment that the trio was in top form. The smiles among the musicians showed how much they enjoyed their improvisational journey over melodies that they know very well. The audience gave them a well-deserved standing ovation and were rewarded with 3 encores starting off with “God Bless The Child,” “Answer Me My Love,” popularized by Nat King Cole in the 50s, and ending with “Bye Bye Blackbird.” A truly special evening.

July 1: Roy Hargrove Big Band

It is not always easy to get a big band together yet alone to go on a tour with it. True to the jazz idiom, Roy Hargrove embarked on a straight ahead project entitled Emergence (Emarcy / Pgd , 2009) and the band has the opportunity to tour which is a challenge in the best of times. Toronto jazz fans have had the chance to see him over the years in different contexts ranging from the Crisol band to his RH Factor to a member of the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star band. In fact it's almost as if Hargrove is continuing the Gillespie band tradition. You get that sense also from his on stage persona. For example, during the song “September In The Rain,” he showcased his own vocal talents as well as drawing on the familiar call and response routine with the band repeating his scats. You also get a dose of Gerald Wilson who also commands major bands with a full sound. It was nice to see this 19-piece band following these traditions at Koerner Hall including Roberta Gambarini who also sang on the album. She had performed earlier in the week in Hugh's Room. Gerald Clayton who was on the original recording was replaced by the very talented Jonathan Baptiste. The show tonight lasted 2 full hours without an intermission as the band had to hit the road early.

Roy Hargrove came on stage sporting a white shirt, pants, hat, with a red tie and cool shades as the energy kicked off with “Tschpiso” followed quickly by “Depth” and “After The Morning” by John Hicks, one of Hargrove's mentors. Our band leader was very generous with the stage and most musicians were featured during their respective solos. Bruce Williams on alto and Vincent Chandler on trombone both had very expressive solos on the feature "Requiem." Roberta Gambarini provided a vocal change of pace with such songs as “La Puerta,” “Everytime We Say Goodbye” and “Something Happens” with her voice her supportive voice between choruses at times muffled by the sheer power of the band. What better choice to end the show than with the catchy “Mambo For Roy,” a dedication from the Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés, showcasing various Latin twists and powerful horn runs. The show's encore ended with “Brian's Bounce” accompanied by Gambarini. All in all the audience came away with a good dose of big band swing, Latin expressiveness, energy, as well as romantic tranquility during key ballads.

July 2: John Scofield and The Piety Street Band

On a beautiful day in July, festival visitors were enjoying the final stretch for this year's edition. During lunchtime at Nathan Phillips Square, the Monterey Jazz Festival showcased its Next Generation Orchestra with wonderful young talents while the afternoon drew to a close with Yvette Tollar and her quintet.

The final Mainstage concert placed the focus on gospel, blues, jazz and r&b. Toronto-based singer Shakura S'Aida opened up the evening with a charismatic performance that warmed up the audience. A frequent visitor to the festival over the years, jazz guitarist John Scofield returned for the main event of the double-bill with his most recent project, Piety Street (Emarcy / Pgd, 2009), connoting the gospel nature and context of this band. Pianist Jon Cleary and bassist George Porter Jr. both live in New Orleans. Drummer Terrence Higgins, allows for the personality of the other musicians to shine. When originally coming out with the idea for this album, Scofield started off wanting to do a blues album but opted to have some fun with a few old gospel tunes with his own spin. Many would see this as a natural progression for him. Opening the show with “That's Enough,” all the elements were in place. Cleary provided the main vocal portion of the songs yet the main focus would always be the music. With this tune, Scofield at various times played fast blues riffs while standing to the right and facing the rest of the band. Some pieces such as “Let The Good Times Roll” were easily recognizable. “Walk With Me” was a slower gospel piece that, though old, made its way to other songs, according to Scofield, as they were written with the associated chord progressions. Scofield started improvising discreetly around the melody alone on the stage before being joined by the rest of the crew. George Porter Jr. showcased some head boppin' deep grooves as he opened “Never Turn Back.

The climactic piece was the upbeat 12-bar blues gospel song “It's a Big Army” with Cleary playing the organ with his right hand while saving his left for the piano. Despite the engaging rhythm no dancing took place that would have been reminiscent of the character played by James Brown in the classic movie The Blues Brothers (Universal Pictures, 1980) but the drummer got the audience to participate in clapping. Terrence Higgins continued by shifting towards a tambourine/bass drum solo dominated by African beats that were quintessentially New Orleans in style. The band managed a subtle “When the Saints Go Marchin' In” nod in the final chorus. The encore was no less eventful with “I Don't Need No Doctor” with Scofield and Cleary (who had switched to guitar for this one) at one point playing off and challenging each other musically. John Scofield displayed different elements from gospel, blues, funk, jazz, and r&b in a show that demonstrated the importance of experiencing such performances live.


July 3: Doran – Stucky – Studer & Tacuma Play Music of Jimi Hendrix

On the festival's final day, jazz enthusiasts still had a few shows to choose from in and around town. A large gathering formed early on Dundas Square to see Chaka Khan and Macy Gray. Just around the corner, Christian Scott was the star at the Hard Rock Café. Andy Milne & Dapp Theory had two sets at the Trane Studio.

Over at the Music Gallery in the quaint St. George The Martyr Church, the Next Wave Series concluded its short ecclectic week of avant-garde artists. It was an opportunity to get a different taste of the festival away from the masses standing at Dundas Square for the headlining pop show. Intensity and loudness would be two key words setting off the opening salvos for Doran – Stucky – Studer & Tacuma. The group revisited the art of the legendary Jimi Hendrix after the NKLS Quartet opened up the show for the evening. Improvisation and lyrics are part of the Hendrix universe that these musicians showcased without trying to mimic him. Ericka Stucky interpreted some of his songs while setting the mood as the de facto leader in front of the band. She made use of simple sound making objects ranging from garden tools to voice altering gadgets to handheld audio recordings. Christy Doran focused only on his guitar playing including intense guitar wizardry with the aid of echoing sound effects. Such was a glimpse into the frame of mind existing in the 60s. Miles Davis was actually fascinated by Jimi Hendrix after witnessing one of his performances (as documented in the Ken Burns PBS series on Jazz) and the audience response. When Davis shifted towards his “electric” phase many critics raised their eyebrows. The classic Bitches Brew (Sony, 1969),” produced during that period, remains a popular album with a reissue coming out in two months. Music fans lend an ear to avant-garde styles and will hopefully connect with a particular style or interpretation of a musical piece. People naturally form their own mental musical structures. Stucky urged the audience to just open up to the music and “just let go,” even warning them that since the music is loud, the ears might be ringing. Thank goodness for earplugs.

On “Isabella,” Doran admits that he and others discovered interesting polyrhythmic structures leading to the thought of playing three grooves on top of each other. Audience members were literally calling out requests for the encores. Stucky first led a duet with Doran alone and the whole band came together for their rendition of “Castles Made Of Sand.” After just a short hour set, there was still more time to hear some other music around town.


Geoff Keezer played on two separate evenings at the Rex, a key Toronto jazz hangout, once with a trio and the final night with the Toronto Jazz Orchestra led by the festival's Artistic Director himself.

Next year will be the festival's 25th edition. With the anticipated renovation work planned for Nathan Philipps Square, festival organizers will be evaluating various location options following the post-mortem on this year's event. Milestone years always bring a certain level of anticipation and buzz and 2011 should not be the exception.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

OTTAWA INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL 2010

RON SWEETMAN


THURSDAY JUNE 24

Michelle Gregoire Quintet

Could be the Canadian team for a Jazz World Cup, with Kevin Turcotte [trumpet], Kirk MacDonald [tenor sax], Michelle Gregoire [piano], Jim Vivian [bass] and Ted Warren [drums]. They specialised in playing leader Michelle Gregoire's compositions, with some inspired soloing
from Kevin, Kirk and Michelle.

Little Red Suitcase

Very original/quirky in compositions and presentation, emphasised by the physical contrast between short dark vocalist Elena Setien from Spain and lanky tawny pianist Johanne Bochert from Germany.

Mikko Innanen & Innkvisitio

Avant-garde fun group led by Finnish alto/baritone saxophonist Mikko Innanen, using rather repetitive approach to a selection of original tunes.

FRIDAY JUNE 25

Etienne Charles

Tightly-knit quintet led by Trinidadian trumpeter who draws upon Trinidad folklore for inspiration. Quintet made up of three Afro-Americans, one Afro-Guadeloupian and one Afro-Trinidadian. Unpretentious presentation style by leader. The concert featured exclusively his compositions. Outstanding drummer.

Christy Doran, Stucky, Studer etc

Christy Doran plays extremely competent guitar but lacks stage presence; this is more than compensated for by Erika Stucky, who effectively fronts the band as singer, compere and centre of visual [but not musical] attraction.

Dupont T

Very skilled French bassist-leader, so lots of long introductions and long solos on a modernistic bass which could have been designed by Henry Moore. Tasty alto player also solos.


SATURDAY JUNE 26

Al Henderson Septet

Canadian bassist, composer, bandleader Al Henderson is one of a generation of well-educated musicians who have chosen the path of using composition as a structure within which individual improvisation can take place, as opposed to a much more freely-improvised approach. This septet illustrated this trend and exemplified the increasing use of cellos in these contemporary ensembles.

Eric Boeren Quartet

Four of the most skillful and inspired musicians in the international free-jazz fraternity. The quartet stays true to its Ornette Coleman Quartet source of inspiration, but has smoothed off some of the rougher and more dissonant aspects of the original.

Bill Frisell

It's not folk, it's not jazz, it's not chamber music, it's an experiment which falls between all these stools.


Bettye LaVette

A legendary soul singer still at the top of her game.

Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra

An eighteen-piece orchestra which is not only large numerically but is bursting with talent. Christine's original compositions and arranging skills are a further strength. You're going to hear a lot more about this orchestra.

SUNDAY JUNE 27

Anat Cohen Quartet

Clarinetist Anat Cohen was supported by a very empathetic trio; strong guitar accompanist and outstanding soloist Gilad Hekselman, solid bassist Joe Martin and Etienne Charles' drummer Obed Calvaire sitting in and demonstrating his stylistic flexibility. The repertoire was redolent of the early days of jazz, for which Anat demonstrated great affinity.

Min Rager Quintet

With this quintet we moved forward in jazz history to the bebop period, with strong solos from trumpeter Kevin Dean and alto saxophonist Donny Kennedy. Ms. Rager has plenty of technique but has yet to establish a personal voice in her soloing.

Robert Glasper Trio

And now we're in the 21st century with the technically superb trio led by pianist Robert Glasper. A very relaxed approach and some humourous musical, physical and verbal interplay between pianist and drummer, but a lack of solid content which meant that I left the concert with an unsatisfied feeling.

John Scofield & Piety

In my wildest dreams I never expected to hear John Scofield present a program of gospel music. His guitar, the organist and drummer were all convincing.

Mostly Other People Do The Killing

Despite their unfortunate name, I have enjoyed each CD by this quartet and was eagerly anticipating their performance. I was not disappointed and nor was the enthusiastic crowd. Their live performance differed from their recordings in two ways; firstly they are extremely loud and secondly they morph from one tune to another leaving one feeling one or two steps behind what's evolving on stage. The instrumentation and the initial inspiration come from the classic Ornette Coleman Quartet, but almost every tune is an original by bassist/leader "Moppa" Elliott. They are all strong soloists, with the technical brilliance of trumpeter Peter Evans particularly outstanding.

MONDAY JUNE 28

Globe Unity Orchestra

I left Europe two years after the Globe Unity Orchestra was founded, so perhaps it is not surprising that this was the first time that I saw and heard this fabled ensemble in the flesh. Four saxes, two trumpets, two trombones, two drummers and one pianist placed in a semi-circle for one 75 minute improvisation; everyone playing continuously, developing patterns, harmonizing with their nearest neighbours, and then stretching out to support whoever had decided that it was their moment to step forward to the microphone to solo. An inspiring living demonstration of global musical unity.


TUESDAY JUNE 29

Cuong Vu, Jim Lewis, John Geggie, Jim Doxas.

It is rare to be able to describe any concert as an absolute delight, but this was one of those rare occasions. Supported by the skillful bass playing of John Geggie and the sensitive drumming of Jim Doxas, trumpeter Cuong Vu and trumpeter/flugelhorn player Jim Lewis played a series of duets. Their styles are different; Jim has a beautiful brassy tone and very fast fingering, Cuong utilises a more vocalized tone. Both played beautifully, in question-and-answer duets and inspired solo outings.


Joe Lovano

The big man of the saxophone had a kick-ass quartet accompanying him. He played with great strength and vigour; I doubt that anyone in the audience left this concert feeling unsatisfied.

Roy Hargrove Big Band

Is it just me, or does Roy Hargrove's playing, physique, stance and even walk grow closer to Roy Eldridge every day? And what greater mentor could he have chosen? So, I loved his playing, but I found that the arrangements for his big band lacked any originality or excitement.

WEDNESDAY JUNE 30

Radio String Quartet

This string quartet [2 violins, viola and cello] comes to us from Vienna but thankfully didn't play any Strauss. What they did play were their arrangements of John McLaughlin compositions, and they played them brilliantly; their technical command and thorough musicality shining through each piece.

Matt Wilson

The OIJF program did not divulge who Matt Wilson would be bringing with him, so I was surprised and delighted when Denver trumpeter Ron Miles was announced. Playing a trumpet/cornet which suited his preference for the instrument's middle range, he and Matt made a great duo. Matt is known for his immaculate and swinging drumming, and did not disappoint.

FRIDAY JULY 2

Souljazz Orchestra

Ottawa band with unusual lineup of three saxes, gourd, piano and drums and an African orientation. They put on a good show; lots of enthusiasm, well-rehearsed movement, ensemble singing, all combine to welcome the listener into the music. They have enjoyed well-earned success internationally.

Gord Grdina

Guitar and oud player, composer, bandleader Gord Grdina is a musical chameleon. Every CD that I have heard by him has been quite different in inspiration and direction, but similar in high musicality and a determination to push the musical borders. Last night's performance borrowed from rock in terms of breakneck speed, screaming guitar and deafening drums, but it demonstrated a jazz sensibility in the virtuoso performance of clarinetist Francois Houle. Not for the faint-at-heart.

Joshua Redman

It is unfair, but it is hard to resist comparing a child's achievements with his or her famous parent. When one sees/hears Joshua Redman, the memories of his father Dewey come flooding back, but Joshua is determined to play his music in his way, and that's what he did. He uses a light tone on his tenor saxophone, often taking it into the alto range , and tells the story of each piece he plays in a straight-forward uncomplicated manner, which is obviously welcomed by the general audience but leaves the more demanding jazz fan wishing for a more challenging approach.

SATURDAY JULY 3

Fred Hersch

An acoustically perfect air-conditioned concert hall on a hot Saturday afternoon, a sold-out concert with an enthusiastic audience and a very talented and original pianist called Fred Hersch; it doesn't get any better than this!

Wide Alley

An orchestra of five Australian musicians playing Western instruments, four Chinese musicians playing Oriental instruments, plus a Chinese singer, in a wonderful collaborative project between Australia and China. There are some examples of Western music, but most of the time is spent on Chinese and Australian musicians playing Chinese music. Not jazz by any stretch of the imagination, but a unique cultural experience.

Neil Cowley Trio

Neil Cowley is an English pianist with large hands, a percussive style and an engaging streak of Cockney humour. He is aided and abetted by Richard Sadler on bass and Evan Jenkins on drums. They played an energetic set full of high spots and high jinks.


SUNDAY JULY 4

Christian Scott

Trumpeter Christian Scott runs a tight band. His band has all been with him for some years and their empathy shows in every piece they play. Individually, the pianist is a strong soloist, the bassist seems to possess superhuman digital dexterity, the drummer is super-energetic and the guitarist feeds all the right chords to the leader and took a couple of impressive solos. Christian Scott comes on stage bringing with him some of the hype that his agency's publicity campaign has burdened him with, the "hip" clothing, apparent disdain for the audience, the lack of tune announcements. This took about thirty minutes to wear off. When he took off the jacket and scarf, appearing in his shirt-sleeves just like the other musicians, and when he introduced each band member with a humourous anecdote, he became a real live likeable caring person, and his playing took on a more relaxed and personal dimension. Make no doubt about it; he is a talented young trumpeter who will hopefully enjoy a successful career.


Composer's Collective

One of the innovative aspects of the Ottawa Jazz Festival is their concern with encouraging the young talents that the music will need in the future. This was exemplified by Jazz Workshops throughout the week, the Jazz Youth Summit on July 3, and the Composer's Collective on July 4, in which Lina Allemano, Richie Barshay, Andrew Downing and Petr Cancura introduced their compositions, which the quartet then performed. A window into the future.


Tomasz Stanko

Supported musically by a group of young-looking but talented musicians, veteran Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko used a pure tone and strong drive in his solos, which ranged from cerebral to downright funky. I got the feeling that I was listening to a man who had made history but who is very much a part of today's scene.

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Ron Sweetman
Tel: 613-730-2083 | Fax: 613-730-1818
Email: ronsweetman@kalixo.com
http://www.inamellowtone.com

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