Day 2 - Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, June 29, 2006
Moving to one of Montreal's more intimate venues (the Contemporary Art Museum's basement performance space), the next performance was by Joost Buis Astronotes. This ten-piece ensemble is made up of some of the fine players that must make Holland a wonderful place to hear music. The leader is a veteran of ensembles like Willem Breuker's and Ab Baars' but on his own, he is a compelling and generous composer. The Astronotes instrumentation - Joost Buis - trombone; Jan Willem van der Ham - altosax, bassoon; Tobias Delius - tenorsax, clarinet; Frans Vermeerssen - baritonesax; Paul Pallesen - guitar; Wilbert de Joode - contrabass; Alan Purves - percussion; Michael Vatcher - percussion; Achim Kaufmann - piano; and a trumpeter who was not a regular in the group - gives Buis a wide palette to use for his writing. What made this performance different than say the ICP was the very deliberate arrangements, which kept any ragged freedom to a minumum. And what kept it interesting were the various sub-groupings that arose throughout the concert, making it obvious that Buis is more interested in texture than bravado (and any chance to see the wonderful Delius should not be missed). One strange thing about the performance was that even though the song titles and the brief explanations that Buis gave for them were not particularly amusing, the audience tittered and roared during the pauses between compositions. One wonders whether other groups from Holland have not made it inevitable that Dutch groups are considered funny entertainment. For most of the performance, the music was not especially quirky or bombastic but there may have been a case of transferance going on in the crowd.
[On a side note: normally the festival is a marvel of organization but the free outdoor performance by the Neville Brothers tested everyone. Moving through the crowd in between sets - as the venues are normally within a few minutes walking distance - was a challenge. A photo is included for reference]
The final performance of the evening for this correspondent was at his favorite venue of years' past - The Gesu Creative Center, a lovely warm venue in the basement of a church, holding no more than a few hundred people. At other editions of the festival, this room has been used for some really inventive performers but this year it is the small ensemble room. The first group to perform there was Ravi Coltrane's Quartet with Luis Perdomo (piano), Drew Gress (bass) and E.J. Strickland (drums), making its festival debut. In brief, this was a fairly pedestrian performance. While it is safe to assume that the younger Coltrane is not trying to gain advantage from his name, listeners might be excused for assigning him greater achievement because of it. There are many other saxophonists of the same age who are of the same talent level or higher and who write more interesting music. Coltrane's tone is a little thin and his soloing can often come across as perfunctory. Such was the case here. It is hard to fault Coltrane but, like New York Yankee fans and Alex Rodriguez, one expects more for some reason and is usually disappointed. Not too say that the performance was unpleasant - the rhythm section was strong and inspired - but perhaps there was little left for Coltrane at 11 pm when Acoustic Masada had ended almost five hours before.
Your correspondent is off to a wedding today back in the States. Coverage will be taken over for Day 3 by local writer Mathieu Belanger.