OTTAWA INTERNATIONAL JAZZ FESTIVAL 2010
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
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.
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.
It's not folk, it's not jazz, it's not chamber music, it's an experiment which falls between all these stools.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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.
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.
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.