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Live Reviews

Guelph Jazz Festival & Colloquium 2009

By Published: October 6, 2009
Where Léandre's presence is too enormous to miss, Crispell's unassuming approach to the piano makes her easy to take for granted; she's a wonderful player with a talent for complementing whoever she plays with. In Ottawa-based bassist John Geggie
John Geggie
John Geggie
b.1960
bass
's trio, she held to a firmer, more structured rigidity than with the Stones, fitting the leader's frameworks. It was, oddly enough, in an arrangement of a Gregorian chant that the trio seemed most open and relaxed.

And with her playing getting, occasionally, heavier again, and saxophonist Fred Anderson

Fred Anderson
Fred Anderson
1929 - 2010
saxophone
's playing, sometimes, getting a little softer and sweeter, it was anybody's guess where their trio with Hamid Drake
Hamid Drake
Hamid Drake
b.1955
percussion
might go. They went from the sacred to the profound with a sometimes knotty beauty, making for one of the week's most memorable sets. Anderson positioned himself next to the piano, confident, it seemed, that his drummer would be there for him. Drake listened for long stretches and set light cymbal rings over what felt like mesas made of water. Crispell was particularly remarkable, on a placidly-even keel yet finding ways to use repetition, dynamic, space and time, stillness and motion which worked beautifully for Anderson. Meanwhile, Anderson was forever looking for phrases, running through notes until he found a run that worked, repeated it once, maybe twice, and started looking for another one. Slowed down, his searching became tactile.

David Murray
David Murray
David Murray
b.1955
sax, tenor
also worked double duty in two of the headlining shows, an expanded World Saxophone Quartet
World Saxophone Quartet
World Saxophone Quartet

band/orchestra
playing Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix
1942 - 1970
guitar, electric
and a duo with Milford Graves
Milford Graves
Milford Graves
b.1940
drums
.

There are a couple of givens in considering the World Saxophone Quartet: a rhythm section has never improved them and they've been unstable for a long time anyway. So while the WSQ brand is theirs to sell as they choose, they probably set the bar too high on themselves by continuing to employ it. The same music under a new name would likely meet with less resistance. Oliver Lake
Oliver Lake
Oliver Lake
b.1942
saxophone
not being able to make it to Guelph hurt them, and the rhythm section was different from that on the CD Experience (Justin Time Records, 2008).

With James Carter

James Carter
James Carter
b.1969
sax, tenor
and Tony Kofi on horns, Jamaaladeen Tacuma
Jamaaladeen Tacuma
Jamaaladeen Tacuma
b.1956
bass
on electric bass and Lee Pearson behind the drums, it was a hugely different group than the original quartet, even—notably—quite different from their 1988 disc Rhythm & Blues (Nonesuch). At the same time, they were a strong band in a new kind of jazz/R&B fold, and they probably pleased the crowd by not trying too hard to.

While the record includes such well-known Hendrix hits as "If 6 Was 9," "Foxey Lady" and "The Wind Cries Mary," they stuck to more obscure arrangements of lesser known (or at least less recognizable) songs, playing long versions of "Hey Joe" and "Machine Gun" and encoring with "Little Wing," a beautiful, complex song given a wonderful lead by Bluiett on B-flat clarinet.

With the exception of a closing party, Murray and Graves played the closing set in what was a small triumph for Artistic Director Ajay Heble. The two have only played together once since their 1992 duo record, in a brief quartet set at a memorial for Don Pullen

Don Pullen
Don Pullen
1941 - 1995
piano
. And their record was called The Real Deal (DIW, 1991) for a reason. Few sax/drum duos manage the combination of energy and melody that they do. Murray has a way of finding brief melodies in the midst of hard note clusters, but here, especially on bass clarinet (which he didn't break out for the WSQ), he stretched out, creating long cadenzas within the spontaneity.

The two didn't rehearse before the show, but they didn't play pure improv either. They picked up themes from their record of 17 years ago and played a surprising Albert Ayler

Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
1936 - 1970
sax, tenor
deconstruction in staggered phrases and tight intervals. It was a remarkable set, ramping up to the end, which only means they have to do it again.

And if music can, perhaps, bring social change, it might represent electoral politics as well: Murray met with enthusiastic applause introducing his "Yes We Can," dedicated to President Barack Obama.

Photo Credit

Hal Schuler



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