TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival 2009
While BeauSoleil and Buckwheat Zydeco brought a bit of Louisiana up to a brisk Summer evening, Maria Schneider and her 18-piece orchestra enveloped the lucky audience to true musical poetry on Sunday night at the Fleck Dance Theatre, Harbourfront. In the Grammy award-winning opening number, "Concert in The Garden," you get the full flavor of the orchestra with a cinematic crescendo build followed by a relaxing guitar solo. The piece features a musical conversation between the piano and the accordion before the rest of the group slowly eases in. Some parts of the piece are reminiscent of Wayne Shorter's approach to some of his compositions and orchestrations. The versatile Scott Robinson moved to a beautiful soft solo on "Evanescence." Many if not most of Schneider's compositions are very personal. Prior to performing "The Pretty Road," she described the inspiration for the tune as driving to a spot overlooking Windom, Minnesota, where she was born and where, when she reaches this observation post, she's able to recreate memory glimpses. The images included church hymns, Chopin, and her parents' favorite song, "As Time Goes By." Canadian born Ingrid Jensen highlighted the dream sequences by combining the trumpet, fluegelhorn, and a few discreet electronic sound effects such as birds and echoes. Tenor saxophonist Richard Perry soared in "Rich's Piece," on which he played with plenty of space for an unconstrained yet balanced sound. Final selections included "Journey Home," "Coming About," and "Sky Blue," with Steve Wilson's soprano sax featured for the welcomed encore. The band is like a family off-stag, and that cohesion was in full display, adding to the sincerity behind the sound.
June 29: Gary Burton Quartet Revisited
The Botos brothers kicked off the opening of Monday night's Grandmasters evening before a packed and enthusiastic house. Louie Botos came all the way from Hungary to play bass with Frank Botos sitting on drums. Robi Botos was clearly thrilled to be part of the evening and called it "a special night, a special place, and a special audience" before selecting a few melodic pieces, including Gershwin's "Someone To Watch Over Me." Later Attila came on stage on electric guitar, and the audience had a chance to hear Botos singing "Reveries of Love," even though he apparently speaks little to no English.
The main part of the highly anticipated evening was devoted to the recreation of Gary Burton's Quartet, a band he formed in the 60s. Pat Metheny joined that group in the 70s, when, as Burton pointed out, Antonio Sanchez was born. The first part of the program featured selections written by other composers. Chick Corea's "Sea Journey" was the perfect lyrical and flowing tune that showed the whole band as a unit. Burton led the way with his famous four mallets playing the vibes with deliberate precision and purpose. Steve Swallow provided the solid ground throughout the show while standing and facing mainly Metheny and Sanchez. The drummer, who is also a member of the Pat Metheny Group, showed some of his dexterity during a solo without the need to go over the top. Following Carla Bley's "Olhos de Gato," Swallow kicked off quickly into soloing at the beginning of his own composition, a jazz standard originally conceived as a tribute to Bill Evans, "Falling Grace," before being joined by Burton and the rest of the band in the groove. The performance took on a second level of energy as soon as the group dove into Metheny's "Question and Answer" with the growing intensity amplified by the latter's electric guitar. Such a rush naturally led to a rousing standing ovation by some fired up audience members.
Metheny used his custom-made 42-string Pikasso guitar (created by Torontonian Linda Manzer) on "The Sound of Water," starting unaccompanied as the mystical notes enveloped the hall with Burton eventually completing the duo. We would also be treated to "Summertime" and the Brazilian tune "O Grande Amor" before the band would come out for two encores. The overall sound of the evening was fresh and contemporary. Toronto was the final stop of the "Quartet Live" tour with many selections of she show available on the recent CD by that name (Concord Jazz, 2009). The Pat Metheny Group will hopefully be recording during the second part of next year.
June 30: Chris Potter Underground