Jazz In Marciac Festival: Day 2
Another step forward in generations could be heard a block away as a sextet of local students in their early and late teens comprising La Bande A Petri played mostly fusion standards for a mixed crowd of admirers and come-and-go curiosity seekers. Their set in a courtyard near a theater showing a variety of jazz movies daily was among the day's most lively and, while some playing was expectedly simple, there were also plenty of inspired moments elevating it above the level of a typical student-level performance. Of particular note was Francois-Xavier (I was only able to get first names), who playing mostly tenor saxophone demonstrated exceptional speed and the ability to mix evolving phrases with longer tension-and-release notes on numerous pieces. Others made a number of playful contributions, including Antoine on alto sax doing a collaborative jam with Carla, who joined in spontaneously on soprano sax for a couple of songs (each had good ideas; their shortcoming was playing them off each other). Felix, apparently the youngest of the sax players, got attention for interjecting the melody of "Impressions" into the group's funk rendition of "So What."
Scheduled performances took a 90-minute mid-afternoon siesta and early evening sets often featured additional appearances from those on stage earlier, but diversions ranging from artists working on paintings of featured performers to the films at the movie house (think rustic villa, not the Mann Theater). Mixed in with well-known titles like Ray and Stormy Weather were local documentaries like Un Village Qui Fait Jazzer Marciac (night shows stuck to scheduled general titles such as Batman Begins and Mr. And Mrs. Smith.
Fliers for evening performances away from the main stage were tucked into car wipers and sprinkled liberally on various tables, but the best bet was wandering an area extending about two blocks out from the main square and simply taking in whatever might be playing at the moment. Certain locations might offer specific types of music, but there were few rules on the overall range of experience of artists.
Among the veteran groups was the Jazz Devils, playing classic Dixie standards such as "All Of Me" and "Indiana" at the Notre Cave Bar (plat de dour consisting of jarret de pars and petit pois for 9 Euros). The quintet mostly played things straight without getting too edgy - there was a dinner crowd on hand - but with a high level of comfort and informal interaction. Bassist Gilbert Prevosz said they have made the two-hour trip from Toulouse for years, usually playing a large part of the festival.
"Every year we play four, five, 10 days, depending on the needs of the restaurant," he said.
New to the festival was Newtone, a Paris-based quartet of younger players possessing a subtle intensity reminscent of Nordic jazz and players like Don Byron (an easy assessment to make, since I snuck a look at two of their lead sheets and both appeared to be his compositions). Stephane Gasquet, playing Rhodes, said they ended up with the gig at the Le Petit Gascon (tapas Gascons, 5 Euros) after being referred there by another band that opted not to play this year.
Their sound has an undeniable group hook and cohesion, with perhaps the only shortcoming being a lack of individual sit-up-and-take-notice moments. It, like the Jazz Devils, was something that could slip by almost unnoticed by those concentrating more on tapas than tunes, but moments like Gasquet's use of off-color notes during an extended progression on (I believe) "Byron Valise" where drummer Gregoire Herman gradually worked his way into the thick of things were worthy of attention.
Coming up on day three: Main stage performances by the Soul Bop Band 2005 featuring Randy Brecker and saxophonist Bill Evans, plus Marcus Miller.