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Live Reviews

Toronto Jazz Festival 2006

By Published: July 27, 2006
For what appeared to be a night targeting esoteric tastes, audience members standing in an open area in front of the main stage welcomed the Charlie Hunter Trio with Hunter leading the way with his custom-made guitar and without any dry intro that would have broken the momentum of the music. Using a combination of jazz, rock, and fusion, the trio including Eric Deutsch on keyboards and Simon Lott on drums played an intense set featuring different motifs. One of those was a fiery blues that also had an updated and modern rhythmic feel of Avery Parrish's "After Hours on the classic recording Sonny Side Up (Verve, 1957) featuring Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, and Sonny Stitt. Further down the segment, a funky piece emerges with the signature beginning of the often-played "Money Money Money Money by the O'Jays. As was often the case, the band would play to a loud crescendo before easing off a bit into the next motif. By the end, one could clearly sense a type of 60s groove.

DJ Logic controlled the turntables before the highly anticipated Christian McBride Band took to the stage just before 11pm. McBride has grown a lot as a musician since his debut CD "Getting' To It in '94. At that point he had already achieved a considerable level and played often with some of the top names in the business. The Jazz Journalists Association just recently named him "Best Electric Bassist for 2006. His devotion to jazz and its future is unquestioned. Joining McBride this evening were Ron Blake on saxophones, Geoff Keezer on piano, and Terreon Gully on drums. The lineup came from the Vertical Vision cd (Warner Brothers, 2003). It would have been wonderful to hear additional material from the recent release such as "Out Jam/Give It Up Or Turnit Loose by James Brown or even Miles Davis' classic "Bitches Brew. The first musical act, preceding Charlie Hunter, could have played perhaps at another venue. The high-powered jazz-rock tune "Technicolor Nightmare kicked things off with the distinct voice of Ron Blake on tenor sax leading the way. Keezer followed with his solo that at one point referenced Miles Davis' "So What. McBride provided a solo entrance into the next tune, "Sonic Boom. Blake, born in the Virgin Islands, wrote this piece that could be described as soul-jazz with an island feel to it. The fusion ballad "Tahitian Pearl, written by Keezer, eased things off a bit. The band added some modern bopish element with "The Wizard of Montara before ending things off with Joe Zawinul's "Boogie Woogie Waltz. McBride quipped at one point that both he and Blake were married to Canadian women. Let's hope that this brings them back here more often so that more people can hear these cats.

At the Gladstone Hotel, the Eurojazz series featured European artists such as Igor Butman, Joost Buis, Wibutee, and the Jeanette Lindstrom Quintet. The Young Centre for the Performing Arts featured a cabaret series for the first time with mainly local artists.

Key highlights from the club scene must include Cedar Walton performing with Dave Young as well as George Coleman. They all appeared at the now closed Montreal Bistro.

The Dave Brubeck Quartet ended the official musical celebration in style at Massey Hall. At 85, his piano voice is still his real communication instrument capable of enveloping classical finesse with the jazz idiom at a formidable level. After kicking things off with "Gone With the Wind, and progressing with such tunes as "London Flat, London Sharp, Brubeck still commands that youthful exuberance that we should all strive for when experiencing the joy of life and all it has to offer. Even at the very end of the two hour set, he toyed with the audience with a solo rendition of the bedtime song "Lullaby leading an audience member to shout out: "It's not gonna work! We are certainly fortunate to enjoy the music of icons who continue to record new music.

The harbor front area at one time used to be an area favored by the JVC Jazz Festival. With Lake Ontario touching the downtown core, it would be wonderful if city planners could designate and remodel an area that could host a number of locations supporting the Toronto Jazz festival. Music by the water is a much better environment than being surrounded by concrete in front of city hall. Alas, festival organizers have kept their tested formula and will continue to attract key artists while sponsors keep the show alive.

Photo Credit
Dougal Bichan
Dave Brubeck by George Lobb
Richard Galliano by Barry Thomson

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