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Live Reviews

Jazz In Marciac Festival: Days 10 and 11

By Published: August 17, 2005
An early-era funk/fusion set just before noon, featuring modal trumpet work by Renaud Jeansane plus a trio of saxophonists mixing free playing up both collectively and during solos, was one of the overall highlights. Saxophonist Vincent Thekal, 23, a former student in Marciac who was part of the 12-member group from east France, said his motivation to play at the festival came after attending it several times.

"I came two or three years ago just to see the music," he said. "I see the guys and say "Whoa, if they're playing when they're 15, 16 years old then I can play."

Jeansane, 23, said he leads a few bands, including a big band and a vocal cabaret, but probably won't be able to pursue music as a career in his hometown.

"Where I live there are not too many places to play - one club once a week, but sometimes I go to Paris," he said. As for the future, "first I think I have to stay in Paris and then why not New York? Here it is very, very hard."

There were others worth mentioning - they just happened to be some of the notables I was able to talk to in either limited English or with the help of a translator.

The mix of styles continued at a higher level during the afternoon shows. Some of the first real electric old-school fusion of the festival's regional acts came from the Alain Brunet Quintet, with Jean Louis D'O backing up the group on a laptop computer, synths and electronic drums. Calling such music Miles-like is an obvious cliche, but since they were performing long-form pieces such as the legend's "Jean-Pierre" it's the only fitting description. Trumpeter Alain Brunet did a nice emulation of Davis' sparse-note approach and D'O's rolling mix of chorused ethnic/wood vibes simulations added interesting - and not overdone - textures. Jean Jacques Taib was more active on reeds, although some middling-quality sax work was surpassed by more adventurous reaching on bass clarinet - maybe simply due to its different acoustical nature.

Dixie resurfaced after a few days' absence with the Gilbert Leroux Quintet, an above- average performance for this festival due largely to Leroux's scat vocals, and a lively variety of quirky drum and percussion accents underscoring everything with a modern-day energy and 80-year-old timbres. They ventured into the swing era a bit, but the sonics of their instruments pretty much ensured a New Orleans flavor seeped into the entire concert.

Getting a chance to hear the Tonton Salut Freedom Jazz Band again during an afternoon land subsequent early evening concert also proved rewarding, with Fredee A coming close to matching the passion and variety of Grimal's Jazz Quatre group. In fact, they had their own up-tempo Latin take on a classic ballad, injecting that dace-oriented spirit into Bill Evans' "Suicide Is Painless" (also known as the theme from "M*A*S*H). As long as one didn't reflect on the title it was actually effective.

Early to rise meant early to bed, in part because I was down with some kind of low-grade bug, maybe due to the soaking I endured the previous day just getting to my car. So I subcontracted the evening assessments out to Law Hamilton one final time, since she's been taking and supplying pictures for several of the concerts. She's also got a good ear and attended the Marciac festival previously, giving her some perspective I lack.

The opening show by the Count Basie Orchestra was among the relative few landing in unremarkable territory so far.

"It was fun, but it didn't knock my socks off," Hamilton said. "Usually, even in those tribute-type jazz things it's good to hear the standards, but there wasn't a bounce in their step. I felt like they were just going through the motions."

"The highlight of it to me was the drummer - they really let him go a couple of times. It's not that I was disappointed. It didn't blow me like some others did."

More successful was Monty Alexander's "Spirit Of Jamaica" concert, featuring his trio backed by a five-member Jamaican band. Although next day's festival newsletter featured a front-page picture of the pianist and the headline Monty reggaele Marciac, Hamilton said that really wasn't the essence of the show.

"I'm not the reggae girl; it's just not my thing," she said. "But I have to say it blew me away because it wasn't reggae. Yeah, there was that feeling and some of that backbeat to it, but it wasn't reggae - definitely jazz with Caribbean influences."

Guitarist Ernest Ranglin was a standout, Hamilton said, with Alexander responding to him in kind. She also singled out drummers Herlin Riley and Rolando Wilson, playing in turns so as to maintain an overall trio feeling.

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