TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival 2009
Al Di Meola showcased his World Sinfonia after previous appearances in the Trio formation. Enthusiastic fans were on hand to absorb every note from the international musicians representing Italy, Cuba, and Hungary. Arranged in a tight formation on stage, Di Meola sat right next to guitarist Peo Alfonsi. Fausto Beccalossi drew a lot of attention on the accordion and vocals, playing at different tempos and at times going head to head with Di Meola while complementing the same fast notes. The rhythm section included Victor Miranda on electric bass as well as the youngest member of the formation, Peter Kaszas on drums and longtime associate "Gumbi" Ortiz on percussion. The band showed much cohesion with perfect timing and musical balance when shifting between urgent lines and more relaxed rhythms. No evening would be complete without reference to a great inspiration in Di Meola's musical career, Astor Piazzolla, the Argentinian tango and bandoneon master. "Double Concerto" was the chosen piece on this night with the spirit of Piazzolla echoing throughout and ending on a spirited finish. Ortiz and Di Meola showed their personal connection during a fun trade in the middle of "Bugliero." The international appeal of the World Sinfonia could be found in "Siberiana," a piece inspired while touring around Siberia. Latin rhythms, jazz, and rock elements are all fused together. The double encore closed the show with the anticipated classic "Land of the Midnight Sun."
July 3: Dave Holland Quintet and the Branford Marsalis Quartet
Jazz fans were in for an exciting double-bill on Friday night for the Mainstage concert. Chris Potter who enjoyed two sold-out performances earlier in the week flew back to Toronto in order to join the Dave Holland Quintet together with Robin Eubanks on trombone, Nate Smith on drums, and Steve Nelson on vibes and marimba. These musicians have played together for such a long time that Dave Holland didn't need to direct anyone and therefore he could focus on his musical contribution. He presented a combination of past and current tunes. "Step To It" was a new piece and really captures the style of this band today. Following the melody, Potter's energetic development on his solo seemed effortless even with a couple of feverish arpeggios. Holland followed with the perfect counterpoint with a careful hint of Miles Davis during the bassist's tenure with the legend. On "Last Minute Man," Steve Nelson started off with careful marimba notes before switching to the vibes for the better part of the piece. Eubanks' solo included what sounds like an added voice to the natural trombone sound. The quintet played two tracks from the Critical Mass CD (Sunny Side, 2006)"Lucky Seven" and "Full Circle"with Potter outdoing himself.
The Marsalis name conjures up immediately a contemporary jazz brand. What is remarkable is how each musician of the well known family has developed into a musician in his own right. Luckily for us, Branford Marsalis, who at one point in his career was the leader of the first Tonight Show band when Jay Leno took over, came back to jazz.
The BMQ has just celebrated its 10 years as a solid unit and came to Toronto with Joey Calderazzo on piano and Eric Revis on bass. The only missing member of the band was Jeff "Tain" Watts, who was currently working on other projects. Justin Faulkner took his spot and made quite a splash. "The Return of the Jitney Man" kicked things off with Marsalis leading the tune off the downbeat and later featuring a feverish buildup between Calderazzo and Faulkner. This was just one of the tracks played from the group's recent CD, Metamorphosen (Marsalis Music, 2009). The bluesy "Teo" by Thelonious Monk kept the pianist involved with his melodic lyricism while the band leader observed with great satisfaction. Branford Marsalis revealed his quieter side while playing soprano on "The Blossom of Parting." Another soft tune, this time on the tenor, was the standard "You Don't Know What Love Is." At the end of the lovely evening, Chris Potter and Robin Eubanks surprised everyone when they returned to the stage to join Marsalis with the Basie anthem "Jumpin' At The Woodside" as the encore. That's what a festival should be: beyond the scripted programming.
July 4: Kenny Werner Quintet and Eliane Elias