Toronto Jazz '09 Festival Journal: 'Round About Midday to 'Round About Midnight
A long goodbye, we hope (July 01)
This is it. Rob McConnell says that he and the Boss Brass will play for the last time at the Toronto Jazz Festival. It is sad, because McConnell is a giant and straddled the music world like the true Colossus of Rhodes. If you think that's a bit "over the top," then hear this: the 74-year-old valve trombonist, composer, arranger and bandleader has led one of the most celebrated big bands in jazz historyThe Boss Brass for 40 years and has won 3 Grammys, a clutch of Canadian National Jazz Awards, Junos, an Order of Canada and was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1997.
July 1, 2009 was the last date for the 22-piece Boss Brass. McConnell was at the helm of this legendary large ensemble for 40 years and now he said that he had "done it long enough." "I still love the music," McConnell continued, "and I'll continue to play, but it is too many people to organize and not too many places left to play," which is a pity.
The Boss Brass ended its reign as one of the premier bog bands with a typically exciting set. The warmth, skill and love for the music were almost palpable, and the renditions of "Embraceable You," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "All the Things You Are" and, fittingly, "O Canada" put a tight grip on the emotions of even the sternest of folks in the audience. It is a pathetic testament to Canada and its lack of love for music that this last concert should have been a free one. This will be a "long goodbye," we hope, Mr. McConnell...?
And then there was Brandi Disterheft, a young Canadian bassist, who caught the eyes of both Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown, and justifiably so. She is, like Esperanza Spaulding, a fine composer and bassist and a very accomplished bandleader as well... Of course who could resist visiting the "octojazzinarian," the true grandmaster, Dave Brubeck? Pity I could only catch his tribute to Duke Ellington, but that alone was enough to bring a sudden rush of blood to the head and the heart.
Politics in art will endure... But do not say that to Chucho Valdes, who has never left Cuba... Perhaps he survives on versatility and the spiritual fuel provided by those around him.
Shut up and play your guitar some more (July 02)
Al di Meola can only be at his best as he and his band World Sinfonia '09 proved to be. "Double Concerto" was the sensational centerpiece of the evening, "Bugliero," was fun and technically sublime and the rapport with percussionist "Gumbi" Ortiz was just as exciting as Di Meola has ever had with a member of the stellar musicians that joined him to bring down the house. And yes, you cannot and should not separate politics and art, but Al, that was a tasteless comment you made when you ranted about recent experiences about Return to Forever. No matter what your beef is with Chick Corea... Life's too short and you are a fine guitarist... So you know what to do, Al...
Thanks for the ride, Dave (July 03)
Perhaps it is time to admit (rather sheepishly for some) that the highlight of the festival was a collision of monsters in Dave Holland's Quintet. That's what you get when you put the prodigiously-talented tenor and alto saxophonist, Chris Potter, the smoothie Robin Eubanks on trombone, drummer Nate Smith and vibraharpist and marimba-player, Steve Nelson in a band with the quietly brilliant Dave Holland.
For some reason, no engineer has been able to capture Dave Holland's truly rare and woody sound on record. And I mean nobody... Perhaps this should have been a challenge for Ken Christianson of Chicago and the late Julian Vereker of Salisbury, England, who together revolutionized the sound of the bass with the extraordinary attention they paid to Charlie Haden for Private Collection, Volume 1 (Naim Audio, 1987) and Private Collection, Volume 2 (Naim Audio, 1988). And so I have no hesitation in saying that Holland sounds so much more exquisite live. And of course this was in evidence especially with the renditions of "Step to It" and "Last Minute Man," which highlighted the skills of Steve Nelson on vibes and marimba. Eubanks played majestically with several overtones, as the legendary Albert Mangelsdorf once pioneered when he played concerts produced by Dr. Joachim Berendt. D**n... Missed Branford Marsalis again.
It should have stayed a fairytale (July 04)