2004 Ottawa International Jazz Festival - The Best Year Yet
Diminutive and humble she may be, but Hiromi Uehara is possessed of a prodigious talent, a technical ability and almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the traditions that came before. With a virtuosity that includes elements of classical and jazz backgrounds, she and her trio delivered a performance that had the audience on the edge of its seat. With engaging songs that verged on, but never quite crossed the line into, smooth jazz territory, as well as energetic funk and an almost fusion sensibility, Hiromi and her trio of Berklee-trained musicians were never less than committed.
When Grey's bass amplifier experienced technical problems, Hiromi played a solo that demonstrated that her roots reach far back in the tradition, to artists including Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson.
Still, with all the technical ability on display the performance sometimes ran the risk of losing focus, becoming simply a vehicle for staggering ability. Perhaps indicative of the boldness of her youth, Hiromi was sometimes guilty of overplaying. Still, she is clearly an artist with promise, but needs more time to develop and mature. Undoubtedly she and her group of fine players will be heard from in the future.
She may have taken her time getting to the piano, but 86-year old Marian McPartland proved she could still play with the elegance, dignity and grace that have characterized her long career. Not content to fall into predictable patterns, she was still able to surprise with her more modern approach to harmony, and a choice of material that, while mostly straight-ahead standards, managed to surprise with the inclusion of Ornette Coleman's "Ramblin.'"
Thompson and Elmes were the perfect rhythm section for her; sensitive and capable, playful without ever getting in the way.
McPartland, from years of experience on the radio with her series, "Piano Jazz," was clearly comfortable talking to the few thousand people who came to hear her. Engaging, witty and charming, her introductions to the songs were almost as entertaining as her playing.
There are many piano trios interpreting the Great American Songbook, but when you hear McPartland play you know you're hearing a legend, someone who not only adheres to the tradition, but helped to define it.
Dapp Theory: NAC Studio, July 3, 2004 10:30PM
Andy Milne (piano, keyboards, vocals), Loren Stillman (alto and soprano saxophones), John Moon (vocals), Anthony Tidd (bass), Sean Rickman (drums, vocals)
Keyboardist Milne originally played with Steve Coleman, and the M-Base influence can still be felt in his music, which combines the complex funk and elliptical motifs of that style with a more song-structured hip hop influence. Drummer Rickman is another find of the festival, with a clear footing in the Dennis Chambers school in terms of dexterity, but with a powerful yet finessed ability to displace the rhythm while maintaining a firm pulse that is all his own.
The arrangements were complex with a unique harmonic language, yet the whole performance was easy to listen to, with tunes that covered the spectrum from light to dark, yet always maintained the groove. All about counterpoint, each instrument created its own rhythmic space that, on its own, defined only one piece of the puzzle, but together created a compelling polyrhythmic blend.
Moon's raps were nicely integrated. Less hip hop-meets-jazz, his work represented yet another rhythmic part of the polyrhythmic whole. Even when playing in straight time, the variety of conflicting rhythms seemed to work in an odd yet attractive way.