Performers at the Medicine Hat Jazz Festival
I rarely include artists offering videos since quality tends to be lousy and they're useless on most audio players, but with SWARM it make little sense to feature anything else. This percussion troupe is about showmanship as much as anything, expanding their large collection of unusual-looking drums with whatever they can find or think of, including stringed satellite dishes and accordions made from gas masks. The dozen videos at their web site (in both Quicktime and Windows Media Format) are from a variety of shows and television appearances and, while smallish and typically mediocre in quality, are more than adequate for capturing their constant improvisation that is about movement as much as music. They can be saved to the viewer's hard drive using the right-click "save link as" option (otherwise they'd be ineligible for inclusion here), making for an interesting concert-length show if run in succession.
Sophie Milman, a 21 year-old Russian-born singer who grew up in Israel before moving to Canada, stole much of the opening night thunder from Sokyrka's headline show, despite performing after her in a much smaller theater. The four songs from her self-titled debut album reveal her to be a solid ballad singer with a good range somewhat on the lower-pitch side. The mixture is good, for ballads: "Agua De Beber" is lively, scatish Latin; "Lonely In New York" is suitably teasing; and "La Vie En Rose" may be the most vocally impressive, even if one needs the lyrics translated. The weak link is "Back Home To Me," which sounds like something Norah Jones would do, but that probably isn't a bad thing for many listeners. I also must admit the songs didn't live up to my expectations after hearing the raves about her performance (which I missed, arriving late into town that day); something tells me she's one of those who takes it to the next level on stage.
The Medicine Hat Jazz Festival