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Live Reviews

2004 Ottawa International Jazz Festival - The Best Year Yet

By Published: July 13, 2004
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Larry Coryell Trio: Library and Archives Canada, June 26, 2004 4:00PM
Larry Coryell (guitar), Mark Egan (fretless electric bass), Terry Clarke (drums)

Unlike some of his contemporaries, Larry Coryell has operated just below the radar in a forty-year career that has seen some clear highlights. Like many of his peers, his career has been characterized by a restlessness that has translated into projects in many contexts. In recent years he has been working in a trio setting, and the surprise of this show was that Paul Wertico, his normal drummer, was not on the bill, replaced instead by veteran Canadian drummer Terry Clarke.

Any cause for concern, given Clarke's reputation as a more subtle and understated player, was blown away by the time the first tune was over. While Clarke has always been a fine player and long time first call drummer for Jim Hall, the fire and energy that he demonstrated playing behind Coryell was completely unexpected. Coryell kept looking over, part in bemusement, part in complete surprise, as Clarke raised the temperature several degrees in a programme that combined Coryell originals with a couple of standards.

Coryell himself was also a revelation. As well as he does on recording, the audience was completely unprepared for the level of technical excellence and sheer musicality that he demonstrated throughout the short one-hour set. From dazzling chord passages to frightening harmonic runs, Coryell is a player who clearly warrants a wider audience, and hopefully performances like this one will help raise his visibility to a more deserved place.

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Thom Gossage/Other Voices: NAC Studio, June 26, 2004 10:30PM
R#233'i Bolduc (alto saxophone), Frank Lozano (tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet), Miles Perkin (bass), Gary Schwartz (guitar), Thom Gossage (drums, percussion, autoharp)

With the first stop on their Canadian tour, Gossage and his ensemble played material primarily from a newly recorded album that has yet to be released. Combining a variety of musical elements, including free music, M-Base, minimalism and more, one of the signatures of the group was a snaking counterpoint between the saxophone players and guitar. Unfortunately, the group's approach was perhaps a bit too cerebral; guitarist Schwartz, in particular, had an overly considered style that was certainly unique, but not particularly compelling.

Gossage has also been involved in new music works, and there was a clear chamber-like approach to some of the compositions, which would shift from one duet to another—bass clarinet/guitar to bass clarinet/kalimba, for example, and then to a trio with guitar, arco bass and percussion. But as academically interesting as some of Gossage's compositions were, they never quite connected with the audience.

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Bill Mays Trio: Library and Archives Canada, June 27, 2004 4:00PM
Bill Mays (piano), Neal Swainson (bass), Terry Clarke (drums)

Another day, another show with the ubiquitous Terry Clarke, this time in the more straight-ahead and straightforward context that he is best known for. Mays is a solid performer in the Bill Evans tradition, and his set, as traditional as it was, demonstrated the same kind of group interplay that Evans helped to move forward.

Seeing Clarke in such a different context simply highlighted how broad his reach is. Less about fire and passion this time, and more about grace and elegance, he connected well with Mays, the two of them often seeming to share a wry musical joke. Swainson was as dependable as always, maintaining an even sense of swing and contributing lyrical solos with a warm and robust tone. And Mays's arrangements, mixing standards and originals, seemed to shimmer. While he is not as overtly adventurous as Hersch, there are clearly some shared roots.

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Effendi Jazz Lab: Confederation Park, June 27, 2004 6:30PM
Alain Bedard (bass), Steve Amirault (piano), Martin Auguste (drums), Christine Jensen (alto and soprano saxophone), Alexandre Coté (tenor and soprano saxophone), Aaron Doyle (trumpet), Kelsey Grant (trombone), Francois Theberge (baritone saxophone)

The Effendi Jazz Lab is a bit of a supergroup, collecting a group of leaders who record for the Montreal-based Effendi label. Together they create an engaging blend of post bop material—great charts that may not rattle any cages but give each player the opportunity to demonstrate their considerable abilities. Jensen and Coté stood out, in particular, with Jensen delivering inspired solos throughout.

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