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Live Reviews

Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival 2005

By Published: July 8, 2005

And on the final day came the Italian Instabile Orchestra. The last time the group was in town, it was confined to the recesses of a bar. This time the musicians had a large and appreciative audience as they played an afternoon show at the main venue. The orchestra, the brainchild of Pino Minafra, features musicians from all across Italy—quite the cream of the crop, including Carlo Actis Dato, Paolo Damiani, Giancarlo Schiaffini, Eugenio Colombo, Tiziano Tononi, and Albert Mandrini. The one non-Italian, who has been living in the country for twenty years, is Martin Mayes, which he said made him an honorary Italian, at least enough so to be in the band.

The orchestra is a cooperative venture and lives up to its name. Several of the band members write and arrange tunes and come up front to conduct. The music is always lively and full of punch and panache. Even as the musicians go into free territory, they never lose focus, always bringing in a wealth of invention. Point, counterpoint, melody, dissonance, an earthy solo, a rambunctious ensemble... all find a comfortable niche.

The group's repertoire largely consists of original material, but as Mayes said on the day, there are times when evergreens rear their heads. There were two this time around: "Come Sunday and "Lament. The spiritual head of the former invoked Ellington, but then Schiaffini's imagination took over. The orchestra dissected the tune, purveying it into several compelling strands before bringing it all back together in a smooth weave, even after the pianist bent into the body of his instrument to pluck the strings and thwack the wood. This was unequivocally an exhilarating and marvellous performance.

Next year will mark the festival's 20th anniversary. What can we look forward to? Will there be bold strokes of imagination, or will it continue to be mostly daubed in pallid shades?

Visit the Toronto Downtown Jazz Festival on the web.

Photo Credit
Kris King

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