TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival 2009
Two distinct styles were on full display this Saturday evening at the jazz fest. Over at Harbourfront, Kenny Werner brought with him major players to represent his quintet. Accompanying him on piano were his "band of brothers, none other than Randy Brecker on trumpet, David Sanchez on tenor sax, Antonio Sanchez on drums, and Scott Colley on bass. The quintet played mainly pieces from the CD released two years ago called Lawn Chair Society (Blue Note, 2007), which included Dave Douglas, Chris Potter, and Brian Blade. Blending straight-ahead jazz, R&B and funk under an accessible avant-gardist cloak, each musician showing his chops without the need to go over the top. For example, during the opening track, the tempo picked up during Werner's solo with Colley supplying a heavy bass hand with one brief insert of rumbling sounds before returning to the melody. "Uncovered Heart" is a tune that originally appeared on an album by the same title (Sunnyside, 1990) with Randy Brecker playing on that recording. Starting off with a melancholic piano solo, David Sanchez and Randy Brecker using a mute, join in this quiet musical interlude before being joined by Colley.
An amusing highlight was the satirical "Inaugural Balls," written following the 2004 U.S. presidential election. Werner quipped about being inspired to "do something" and write a piece that would be played at the inaugural ball with all the tuxedos present. Harry Potter's fans will instantly recognize the main "Hedwig's Theme," performed here in a jazz setting with David Sanchez playing deep tones in his solo and later Antonio Sanchez showcasing his tenacious drum play.
"From the groovin' to the groovacious," as Werner put it, the welcomed encore was a lovely reworked "Work Song" by Nat Adderley that had the same swing as the piece made popular by Cannonball Adderley but with a couple of flattened notes in the melody.
A bit of Brazil landed in the Mainstage concert following the swinging Curtis Stigers. Just as a few days previous, Dave Brubeck had noted the 50-year-anniversary of the classic Time Out release, Eliane Elias was on hand to commemorate the new wave, the Bossa Nova, with "Chega De Saudade." Written Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius De Moraes, this tune originally released in 1958 put the Brazilian style on the map and would inspire a great many artists such as Stan Getz, who put out classic recordings such as Getz/Gilberto (Verve/MGM Records, 1964). A very talented pianist who was greatly inspired by Bill Evans, Sao Paolo-born Eliane Elias brought a genuine and sophisticated voice to the lyrics heard this night. She would do the same on "The Way You Look Tonight" by Cole Porter, a songwriter who influenced the new wave. Besides her long time bassist (and spouse) Marc Johnson, Rubens de la Corte played guitar with Rafael Barate on drums. Elias later introduced us to Joao Donato from the pre-Bossa phase and described his piano style in which his left hand would play Latin/Caribbean styles while his right hand would handle the samba style. Donato co-wrote "A Ra (The Frog)" with Caetano Veloso, who wrote the lyrics. Following a lovely ballad under the blue lights, Elias continued with other selections, such as "So Danao Samba" and "False Baiana." The concert drew to a close with the Jobim classics "Desafinado" and "The Girl From Ipanema." One of her recent albums Bossa Nova Stories (Blue Note, 2009) is a rich homage to the genre with a fuller orchestra. Jazz fans should not miss her other successful album Something for You: Eliane Elias Sings & Plays Bill Evans (Blue Note, 2008).
July 5: Alain Caron Band, Kenny Garrett Quartet, and Sadao Watanabe
On this final day of the festival, the Mainstage concerts shifted towards fusion sounds with a smaller crowd that made the end almost anti-climatic despite the inviting sounds. Alain Caron and Le Band returned to Toronto to kick off the triple-bill. He opened up with "P.A.C. Man" and the jazzier "Pole Position" from Play (Norac Records, 1997). John Roney, who moved to Montreal from Toronto was on the piano together with David Bellemare on tenor and soprano saxophones. Philippe Melanson, a very young drummer who would probably be asked for an ID everywhere in Toronto, played with youthful enthusiasm. Eddie Harris' funky "Freedom Jazz Dance" let Caron really get heavy on the slap bass.