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Highly Opinionated

Toronto Jazz '09 Festival Journal: 'Round About Midday to 'Round About Midnight

By Published: August 4, 2009
Some hours must have passed. I now hear a weak voice... It is mine. I am calling out to someone. Suddenly my eyes are open. I see Eliane Elias walking as if on air. Actually she is strutting down the beach with Marc Johnson and...could it be? ...Yes it is Amanda Brecker. Eliane Elias is singing wordlessly, and a piano is going off in mine/her head... I call out her name. She turns around and waves. Then she is gone...seemingly vaporized in the heat coming off the sandy beach.

Some slightly sarcastic questions for Eliane (June 25)

I hear that Eliane Elias is coming to Toronto on the day of her performance. I remind Amber about the interview, but "we still have not heard from her publicist..." I am afraid I may have flubbed my lines when I first approached her for an interview.

Or did she somehow find out about my recurring dream and, somehow, word got out to Marc Johnson who suggested that he also be interviewed or else? At any rate, I had just five questions to ask Eliane Elias:

  1. What next, after this exhaustive, real Brasilian record again? (Whatever the word "real" would come to mean at the time of our interview. Her latest record, Bossa Nova Stories revisited my Latin side... I have never been less excited at the result and now wanted a jazz record again.

  2. Who is your favorite Brasilian composer? (Or which Brasilian composer were you most influenced by?)

  3. Will you be doing a vocal tribute to Elis anytime soon? (Especially after the only awesome vocals, on Bossa Nova, were in Portuguese you know...)

  4. Will you and Amanda ever do a full length album together?

  5. Have you ever considered making a record with Milton Nascimento?

This interview may never materialize, so my questions will probably be left unanswered. As I prefer to hear a live voice or even—preferably—interview eye-to-eye, I may not do the email thing, unless forced to do so. I am going to try and see Elaine Elias in the Green Room before/during/after her set...Oh I don't know... This is all beginning to sound like a case of the Brasilian OCD.

Supping on a Soul Stew... dining out on Newk (June 26)

Man, these guys made me forget all about hunger. There is a certain sense that they are like James Brown with Maceo, Fred and Pee Wee in fine form, but they have a certain je n'ai c'est quoi... And that is a voice that is all their own. Michael Dunstan, the vocalist deserves much more attention by this Canadian audience. Canadians always claim they are bashful about achievements...don't like praising their artistry. But personally I think they care too much about the puck—at least here in this ice hockey loving town, if you know what I mean.

Dunstan and Soul Stew actually conjured up echoes of Sly and the Family Stone as well. Saxophonist John Johnson was raw and gutsy. Pianist and Hammond organist, Matt Horner, and had his chops in order (ghost of Jimmy Smith in attendance...and shades (sometimes) of Dr. Lonnie Liston Smith. Roberto Occhipinti on electric bass? This was my first time and I wonder why I did not get to this groove sooner. Very exciting...

The Sheer Madness of Newk

What is the difference between the Sonny Rollins of The Bridge (RCA, 1962) and almost anything he played and/or recorded years later? Practically none... If anything, Newk became more erudite and had a sharper edge in tone and manner. I last heard him at a full concert, live Bombay, India at a Jazz Yatra in 1982. (I cannot count the gig I attended in Georgetown, outside Washington D.C. in 1985 that I was at with his protege and fellow band mate of Milt Jackson on Reverence and Compassion, Ronald Brown.) Ron introduced us and I was speechless then. And now again today— and that is almost twenty-seven or more years ago—as I catch another full concert.

I stand in awe... Nothing's changed about His Grey Eminence, and I speak not of him with any sense of catholicity, ironic or otherwise.

I remember a twenty-minute solo Newk once played on a live version of "St. Thomas" and now again tonight—this time a little more than fifteen minutes—it was "Sonny Please." So...nothing has changed here too. This is a grandmaster with much to say, and he continues to do so with elegance, grace and impeccable taste. Trombonist and nephew, Clifton Anderson, was superbly votive on "'S'Wonderful" as was the guitarist, Bobby Broom. Anderson returned to solo on "That's All," which, was one of the best-balanced solos Toronto jazz-lovers may have heard on a slide t' bone in a long, long time. The great bassist, Bob Cranshaw, like Newk, is ageless. And I hope not to wait too long to hear him live again.

I cannot shake Boris Vian's opinion of Jimmy Dorsey out of my mind... He once called him "fossilized...insincere," when compared to Wardell Grey. And I don't know where that came from, actually, except that any concert with Newk, and I just cannot help but feel like the best days are past us. Of course, I hope that I am wrong...

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