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Live Reviews

2010 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival: Days 1-3

2010 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival: Days 1-3
By Published: July 5, 2010
Days 1-3 | Days 4-6 | Days 7-10
TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
June 25th—July 4th 2010

Remnants of this year's Winter Olympics from February have seemingly been cleared right out of the city of Vancouver. For the first week of this year's 25th anniversary of the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival (VIJF), you'd never know trekking to and from any one of the 40 stages and venues- -stretching from Kitsalano through Granville Island and up into the Gastown area—that this beautiful northwest coastal city was recently bustling as the focal point of the entire world.





In the place of the since closeted Olympic banners, festival signage (admittedly of a conservative, corporate forest green: TD being one of Canada's big banks) were strategically strewn throughout the city. And from June 25th, the first day of the VIJF (which culminates on July 4th), that focus was firmly re-planted back on to the Canadian city with an emphasis, for starters, on the inclusion of the word "International" in the festival name itself. Unique global bookings range from Germany's Globe Unity Orchestra to Holland's Eric Boeren with Han Bennink
Han Bennink
Han Bennink
b.1942
drums
, Finland's Mikko Innanen
Mikko Innanen
Mikko Innanen
b.1978
saxophone
, Norway's Nils Petter Molvaer
Nils Petter Molvaer
Nils Petter Molvaer
b.1960
trumpet
, England's Evan Parker
Evan Parker
Evan Parker
b.1944
sax, tenor
, Switzerland's Lucas Niggli and Fredy Studer, Denmark's Ibrahim Electric, Poland's Tomasz Stanko
Tomasz Stanko
Tomasz Stanko
b.1942
trumpet
and Americans ranging from Chick Corea
Chick Corea
Chick Corea
b.1941
piano
to Nicole Mitchell
Nicole Mitchell
Nicole Mitchell
b.1967
flute
. In addition, Vancouver also knows how to flaunt their own talent, and a surplus their schedule of events reveals (unfortunately many who rarely make it to NYC, hence a trip to VIJF being in order) including clarinetist Francois Houle, saxophonist Coat Cooke, cellist Peggy Lee, guitarist Tony Wilson, pianists Paul Plimley and Chris Gestrin and drummers Terry Clarke and Dylan van der Schyff. A big hats off to Artistic Director Ken Pickering and his staff for continuing to present such a unique and daring festival year in and year out.



Day 1



The blatant theme for the first days of the festival was the showcasing of various offshoots of the 11-member Globe Unity Orchestra (GUO) in various contexts, featuring fellow GUO bandmates with Vancouverite musicians in many cases, leading up to the grand event itself on Sunday night (GUO at The Roundhouse).





Such a microcosm at an early afternoon Granville Island Performance Works concert featured GUO trombonists Johannes Bauer and Christof Thewes, saxophonist Henrik Walsdorff, trumpeter Jean-Luc Cappozzo and drummer Paul Lytton. The ensemble camaraderie was obviously accentuated in this smaller context, and often they resembled a New Orleans- style small group at their core with collective improvising rampant. On many occasions of course this subgroup further subdivided into even smaller configurations that displayed the empathy and dynamic possibilities amongst the individuals such as when Bauer and Cappozzo tiptoed a duo with short paced steps before Thewes and Lytton joined in, creating a delightful drunken, even briefly violent, stupor. Bauer of course is a master of sound effects on his instrument (as can be heard on any number of his solo trombone records), extended techniques that go well beyond mere note playing. His extensive bouncing lip solo brought forth blurred motor-like sounds that vividly captured one of the seaplanes coming in for a landing in Northern Vancouver's Coal Harbour just under Stanley Park—kind of Vancouver's equivalent to Central Park. Cappozzo frequently waved his finger as if swimming through time signatures like a kid gliding his arm outside the car window like a dolphin leaping in and out of water. The quintet's final piece was a 2-minute miniature featuring both trombonists to the fore, one of several memorable moments capturing the two, revealing well-spent time together on the bandstand with the GUO and foreshadowing what was to come with them in the band's brass section.



Another highly anticipated GUO-affiliated group came with the rare opportunity to hear an inventive first- time quartet led by one of GUO's longtime saxophonists (and co-founder) Gerd Dudek, at Studio 700 with some of Vancouver's finest: Chris Gestrin (piano), Tommy Babin (bass) and Dylan van der Schyff (drums). Dudek, a German free jazz legend, quickly revealed that he is not only a European free jazz pioneer but that he is also an expert balladeer who can cover his instrument's full range of emotions (in addition, he's an expert soprano player, though left his second axe home). Opening the proceedings with the respectful accompaniment of gently plucked bass, lightly pressed keys and van der Schyff's colorful layering cymbal splashes and drum rolls that at times unfortunately swallowed up Gestrin's contributions throughout the set, the first time grouping quickly transformed into more a horn-led piano-less trio than quartet. (This said, the drawback was more due to the poor house mix—a too soft sounding piano volume— than as a result of the musicians' sensitivity and capability) It was not until van der Schyff laid out altogether that Gestrin could step up and be properly heard; and perhaps there was something to be said for him exercising the patience until those times when such situations presented themselves (e.g. Miles didn't play when Monk did, given for very different reasons). Regardless of the circumstances, Babin consistently demonstrated a workshop on the art of plucking, from note placement and accents to dynamics, as many listeners noticeably sat forward to take in his impassioned playing, whether he was soloing or not.



One of the most ambitious projects of the festival was an evening concert collaboration entitled "Fixed, Fragmented & Fluid" featuring English bassist Barry Guy (who has for some time resided in Switzerland) and Quebecois animator Michel Gagné at The Roundhouse performance space. Basically improvised animation with music in real time with an all-star ensemble on hand: Evan Parker (tenor sax), Peter Evans (trumpet), Maya Homburger (violin), Peggy Lee (cello), Paul Plimley (piano) and Lucas Niggli (drums). The animated portion followed a first set mix and match of instrumentation, from two 15-minute performances, the first a string trio piece (Lee, Homburger, Guy), the second a riveting multi-movement spontaneously improvised piano trio performance (Plimley, Guy, Niggli). The horns of Parker and Evans joined Guy for the third and final first set group improvisation, highlighting in particular Guy's very physical approach to his instrument.

The near hour-long second set (almost to the second!) brought Gagne and his laptops and electronics to center stage, set just below the big screen behind him. The opening of escalating images of exploding rocks was awkwardly counterbalanced by Homburger's unaccompanied legato violin with not much if anything in common between visual and audio (perhaps something a bit more on the violent, staccato side may have seemed more appropriate if not obvious). However, once the violin introductory portion came to a conclusion and piano and bass entered, everything suddenly was in sync with both senses realigned: this time exploding circles and zig zag lines matched staccato punctuations. By the time Parker entered on soprano, many images were by then making a reentrance, creating some momentum-killing formulaic visuals on more than several occasions. This element presented an awkward dichotomy with the music pushing forward while the visual component at times became stagnant, one sense falling behind the other.

When everything was in sync, which was a frequent enough occurrence, this unique project proved extraordinary. Swimming dolphin-like lines at one point traveled from left to right complementing string legato exchanges. The images were secondary to the music, however, with most musicians not paying much to any notice of the instantly created video, while this listener (and viewer) focused his energies more on sound than sight. Incidentally, there was at least one subtly placed pre-recorded section by the musicians, which revealed the true potential of this collaborative effort, as black and white figures shaped themselves to each and every sound as well as tone. Here's hoping Gagné's given more time to catch up to the fantastic, detailed layers of such master musicians in this project's follow-up— and not necessarily in real time during the performance.

For a night-cap, and certainly a change of pace from the more esoteric music heard this first day of the VIJF, my ears were grateful to hear a late set by Portland, Oregon-based vocalist Nancy King accompanied by pianist Steve Christofferson at one of Vancouver's finest jazz clubs, The Cellar. Their version of "All Too Soon" incorporated the harmonica-sounding melodica in addition to piano accompaniment (Christofferson ambidextrously playing both simultaneously). King proved why she is one of today's greatest (and arguably most unheralded) female vocalists. The recent septuagenarian makes every syllable not just every word count, as heard on her rendition of the not oft heard Slim Gaillard tune "Flat Foot Floogie" (with Tom Wakeling guesting on bass). Masterful subtlety and instrumental-like prowess in all her vocal performances marks this veteran vocalist as not only one our lifetime's greatest but in the history of this music as well. The paintings of Sarah Vaughan, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday that decorated the club's walls only added to the magical and timeless atmosphere that King created within a set's worth of selections, including "Easy Street," Dave Frishberg's "Zanzibar" (which she recorded with Christofferson and the Metropole Orchestra in the mid '90s), "Heartbreak Hotel" (in which she creatively incorporated Monk's "Misterioso") and "It's You Or No One" (an ideal scatting vehicle).

The nightly jam session at O'Doul's (literally adjacent to this correspondent's hotel conveniently enough), which features jazz seven nights a week throughout the year, serves as a good final stopping point and watering hole for their special late night jam sessions throughout the VIJF until 2am.

Day 2

Other than being able to hear GUO musicians in various contexts, the other first-week highlight proved, as expected, to hear bassist Barry Guy on numerous occasions and in different projects. The early afternoon performance of Guy in duo with Maya Homburger (violin) at Performance Works contained a mix of solos and duos. "Vini Creator Spiritus" (an 8th Century hymn which Homburger began playing in the crowd before working her way to the stage) was connected with an interlude by Guy to "Carrying of the Cross, Sonata no.9" (from H.I. Biber's Mystery Sonatas; Biber's "The Agony in the Garden, Sonata no.6" was performed later in the set, too). The bassist's composition "Lysandra" was a feature for solo violin, while "Annalisa" was the bassist's turn for playing unaccompanied. While having heavily improvised parts, there also seemed to be definite form and structure. The duo created an interesting crossroads for the worlds of classical and improvisation, not necessarily to collide but certainly to interact and coexist naturally.



A 10- minute segment of the set was dedicated to Guy's "Fizzles," an excellent introduction for the uninitiated to hear the bassist's arsenal of (extended) techniques. Five minutes through a young child was heard sighing, "Wow. Ahhhhh!" and Guy immediately reacted, dedicating the following few minutes worth of his arsenal (foot pedal effects included) to magically developing themes around the child's expression. Then, the same kid whispered "Yay!" Now, whether Guy heard this or not, it marked another defined movement in his improvisation, perhaps coincidentally, as he attacked his strings with a ferocity that soon led him to the conclusion of the awe- inspiring improvisation.

The duo's set-closing "Tales of Enchantment" presented lots of overlapping arco statements before the bassist inserted a long stick under one of his strings and atop the rest, occasionally plucking and seesawing left and right to create an eerie underlining foundation for his partner's long bowed violin notes. (At one juncture he even placed two sticks under his strings, bouncing them while bowing and also tapping the sticks in different places with two smaller rounded stick objects, creating a world of sounds—and emotions). Guy helps to give meaning, perhaps even new meaning with every performance, to the concept and definition of "extended technique." This recital proved no exception.

The next set's duo paired Guy with GUO pianist/leader/founder and living legend Alexander von Schlippenbach. Their opening 35+ minute improvisation featured 10 minutes of back and forth exchanges that became much more subtle as the set progressed, the pianist reaching inside his instrument to play the piano's strings to better match the tone and effect of his partner's playing. Both tapped their respective instrument's strings creating a dynamic fuzzy overtone bringing their set's primary piece to a whirlwind conclusion. (They followed with a quick yet extremely focused one- minute encore in response to the grand applause demanding for more)

Another GUO small group collaboration featured GUO bandmates Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet) and Axel Dorner (slide trumpet) with Vancouver residents Torsten Muller (bass) and Dylan van der Schyff (drums) at Studio 700. Sporting his typical wardrobe of a pinkish purple shade collared long sleeve shirt and blue pants and suit jacket with dusty black dress shoes, Mahall remains one of his instrument's greatest specialists on the considered unwieldy horn. With amazing projection, range, power, dedication (it's not only his primary instrument but the only instrument he plays) and overall mastery (he tells me "He knows something," which separates himself from anyone else who picks up the customary second, perhaps third instrument for many multi-reedmen), why he isn't seen at the top of the polls for "Best Miscellaneous Instrument" for the past few years is beyond me.

As a one-off group, things quickly coalesced thanks in part to van der Schyff's sensitive, unobtrusive drumming that served more aesthetic than intrusive. Muller had many nice moments as well—he and Mahall aligned on several instances, connecting their instruments' shared range, each capable of stretching any preconceived notions and expectations of what sonic details could be created from bass and bass clarinet. And Dorner's solo of fuzzed tone replicated that static space between radio stations in circular breath with fluctuation created by extending his trumpet's slide, his solo as much about breath and effect than notes. Doubtful, but a recording document would be welcomed.



The evening time brought the Brooklyn-based MOPDK (Mostly Other People Do The Killing) to The Roundhouse: Peter Evans (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto sax), Moppa Elliott (bass), Kevin Shea (drums and an electronic theremin-like drum beat instrument/effects sound box played only on occasion to add levity, almost comic relief to the proceedings.) The opening medley of sorts—"Little Hope" and "Pen Argyl," with a bit of back and forth between the two compositions (each found on their recent Forty Fort)— quickly offered a foundation to the music not so prevalent in the various aforementioned and covered GUO- affiliated bands, that being a consistent rhythmic underpinning provided by the common and quintessential anchors of repetitive bass and drum lines and themes that horns complemented rather than played against or in spite of. A 15+ minute "Two Boot Jacks" (from the group's This Is Our Moosic, with its cover image and album title takeoff on Ornette Coleman's This Is Our Music— essentially MOPDK's even mix of freedom to structure, not to mention group instrumentation, has its roots if not parallels to the classic Coleman quartet) crisscrossed seamlessly between the extremes of tonality and atonality, the former side offering a sort of "life vest" for curious though perhaps not- so adventurous listeners. With hints of Dave Douglas one moment, Axel Dorner the next, Evans has started to develop his own distinctive voice on trumpet, particularly in the last few years. The group's circus-like, almost Dutch, vibe with quick tempo changes and major melodic shifts keeps listeners on their toes and at continual attention. Expect further great things from these guys!

The Michigan-based NOMO played the Commodore Ballroom (as part of the venue's "Urban Groove Series"). Tenor sax, electric kalimba, electronic keyboards, trumpet, EWI (electronic wind instrument), two drum kits, electric guitar and electric bass were played by all of five musicians who together created a groove-based musical gumbo reminiscent of Sun Ra, Fela Kuti, Parliament/Funkadelic and something very much their own. Bandleader and primary composer Elliot Bergman (tenor/keyboards/kalimba) at the helm directed the band through some of NOMO's "songbook" (though all instrumental, the dancing quality of their music certainly qualifies their compositions as "songs"), performing five of the nine originals that comprise their 2008 Ubiquity Records release, including the title track from what might be considered the band's breakthrough— Ghost Rock. The two non-covers were Moondog's "Bumbo" and Sun Ra's "Rocket #9" with an audience participation call and response as the dance floor quickly filled with bobbing heads digging every moment, in addition to a cabaret —style sit down crowd that politely flanked each side, soaking in the music, given in a different way. The only complaint about this edition of NOMO was the lack of an actual horn section (customarily this correspondent has heard them in New York with at least one other horn, as there was definitely a baritone sax carrying the weight at the bottom of each tune's groove and giving the band a fuller sound), so vamps at the Commodore show that were solely carried by trumpet (Justin Walter) and/or tenor (Bergman) seemed a wee bit on the thin side.

The late night show at The Ironworks featured one of Vancouver's true treasures in pianist Paul Plimley, one of the highlights in this case of the entire Festival for this correspondent since he so rarely if ever makes it out East. And his trio with Barry Guy and drummer Lucas Niggli treated listeners to by-the-seat-of- your- pants improvisation of the highest order. Plimley and Niggi resemble hyperactive kids at play on their instruments at times—they're just having SO much fun co- creating. And Guy was more often than not serving as the anchor (the surrogate parent if you will) through this kids-at-play session, which created two of the festival's most memorable sets. "I know that the three of us live very far from another but I can't help thinking I want to play with them more!" said Plimley between improvisations. The pianist is as animated a performer as they come, at times recalling Jaki Byard's eccentricities (both on and off stage), and Guy and Niggli are never too far behind. Most of their collective improvisations each set landed either around the 10- minute or pushed the 20- minute mark, allowing for the music to freely develop from a thunderous rolling snowball effect that mounded the empathetic threesome's momentum into one unrelenting instrument and wall of sound, to dispersing into thirds— Plimley commonly encouraging Niggli's playful cat-like pouncing on his kit, as if his favorite play toy was covered in cat nip!



Day 3

Back to Performance Works for their free early afternoon "Galaxie Series," today features another GUO offspring of sorts: Evan Parker (tenor sax) and Paul Lovens (drums) with non- GUO but indeed German, bassist Torsten Müller (who moved to Vancouver where he's been based since 2001). A little onstage audience and musician banter preceded the music regarding the FIFA World Cup soccer matches (today's results found Germany big winners over England, with Argentina, also winners, to face Germany in the next round). This created an interesting though good-humored bandstand friction, or at least perhaps that was Parker's intent (being a Brit) when he mentioned he'd be putting money on Argentina to win!

Müller, playing acoustically, had a much smaller sound in comparison to his partners and seemed comfortable enough, barely audible and performing in such a way on his instrument that his focus relied on the altissimo register of bowing his bass fiddle (at times resembling in tone a country fiddle, though a hoedown gone awry with the extremes of his bowing technique being literally perpendicular to the ground— that is, parallel to, not across, his strings). Lovens, seated low to the ground as his preference, set up simply with his customary two ride cymbals, a hi-hat (intriguingly played more closed than open), bass kick drum and snare—nothing fancy as, again, is his way. Warranting the title "percussionist" (over simply "drummer"), Lovens is acute to the sonic intricacies of not only his kit but also his musical surroundings. With his right hand, Lovens hit down on one ride while muffling it with the other, creating a gong- like effect that nicely added a bottom end echo to Parker's playing, almost unperceived but certainly intended. The saxophonist's deep bellowed runs predominated any circular breathed upper register forays he has become well known for, helping to create a perhaps unexpected element of warmth and fullness to this trio (possibly also due to the fact that the bassist's soft high register playing was frequently lost in the mix as mentioned). Müller's small sound certainly contrasts his large body frame.

Like with the surf, the trio's singular first set extended improvisation came in waves, from collective playing to duos (Müller to the forefront in a duo with Lovens) and solos. One of the more memorable "tides" as it were was Lovens playing unaccompanied. Very much in time, in the tradition of Max Roach, the drummer achieved a lengthy extended rat-tat-tat improvisation from one cymbal to the next, mesmerizing the crowd who continued to rave about this solo well after concert's end.

Late the same afternoon, bassist Guy and violinist Homburger met with Vancouver-based clarinetist extraordinaire Francois Houle at Studio 700. Their pre- concert clarinet trio tuning was like a mini orchestra warming up before a large symphonic work (always a pre-orchestral event highlight at least for this listener). And with their collective fluency and extended techniques, it was expected that this trio would have orchestral possibilities at their collective fingertips, particularly since each is proficient and well versed in both the worlds of classical and improvised music.

One facet I continue to marvel at regarding Guy's playing is his common though hardly noticeable use of the foot pedal, never bordering on abusive, as can be a common distraction amongst many other acoustic bassists utilizing the same or similar technology. Houle always has a few tricks up his sleeve as well—from playing his two clarinets simultaneously to removing the mouthpiece and blowing through it, replicating the sound of a bamboo flute or even a hunting horn. He blew harsh tones onto sheet music, the paper percussively rattling, and in doing so creating in essence a quartet member (Houle is yet another musician featured in this year's VIJF who should be making appearances on year-end "Best Of" polls but has been for the most part inexcusably ignored). Homburger might bounce notes from her violin with her bow one moment then play slow crawling legato phrases in a heartbeat without losing an ounce of momentum; her string harmonies with Guy were breathtaking, given they've had many years together to reach and share such zeniths. Original compositions included "Magical Mobiles" (written for bass clarinet but here performed by violin and clarinet), which physically has various mobiles attached to both sides of the sheet music representing choices each musician could make with their improvisations within the composition. The very complex near 10-minute duo was joined by Guy, who seamlessly entered, maintaining the composition's intent through to its end. The trio's immediate rapport and execution of some new and old material came across beautifully.



Off to Gastown in the northeast section of Vancouver, where several outdoor stages had been set up for concerts throughout the afternoons. Today was the music of Jimi Hendrix curiously, but ultimately successfully, performed by Swiss- American vocalist Erika Stucky, Irish-Swiss guitarist Christy Doran, Swiss drummer Fredy Studer and American electric bassist/one-time Ornette Coleman Prime Timer Jamaaladeen Tacuma. The streets quickly filled up with avid listeners and dancers once the music wafted unique renditions and commendable makeovers down and through Gastown, covering a good chunk of Hendrix repertoire— from "Voodoo Chile" and "Purple Haze" to "Machine Gun" and "The Wind Cries Mary." Creating something else out of something already classic and arguably already overdone represents quite an achievement.

Some of Stucky's vocal acrobatic styling was admittedly a bit over the top and quickly became old hat (e.g. her frequent caw- cawing crow sounds grew thin on these ears), but she without a doubt made many of these songs her own by the liberties she and her band took throughout their set. And what a stellar "backup" band she compiled, too. Tacuma more than merely held down the bottom bass line, as could be heard on the excellent instrumental showcase, "Machine Gun." "Castles Made of Sand" may have been the most true to the original rendition of the entire set, even though it featured Stucky and band accomplishing a fascinating rewinding effect of the tune performed backwards as if the cassette was being played in reverse live in performance. For Doran to accomplish his own individuality on such iconic rock standards is the utmost of compliments in itself. He paid a fine tribute to one of the greats with but a rare moment of perceived mimicry. A(nother) true original.



And for the moment we'd all been waiting for.... The Globe Unity Orchestra! It seems the first three days were all leading up to this very event, as surely was intended by VIJF's first week programming. The Roundhouse was bustling with excitement and, well, anticipation. The only GUO member that couldn't make the trip was co-founder trumpeter Manfred Schoof, but otherwise everyone else seemed to be present and accounted for (and all of which had been featured earlier in the week and mentioned in the above coverage for at least one small VIJF project). On hand for this one: Schlippenbach, Parker, Dudek, Walsdorff, Mahall, Dorner, Cappozzo, Thewes, (Connie) Bauer, Lovens and Lytton. With the two drummers set up on the same stage, Lytton unfortunately was placed behind the wall of reedmen, nearly out of sight and arguably sound too; Lovens was more prominently situated to one side of the stage, in front of the brassmen, so enjoyed being omnipresent whenever he touched his kit, however light or heavy.

The typical GUO wall of sound opened the musical proceedings with Parker gracing the audience with the first solo, backed by rhythm trio (as GUO lacks a bassist—that would mean piano and two drums!). As the brassmen leaned forwards and backwards like on a ship at sea, moving to and fro with the ocean of music, soaking up Parker's momentum for their eventual re-entry, the reedmen seemed more reserved in their energies, remaining motionless: an interesting, perhaps only perceived and nothing more, dichotomy. After Parker, the solo checklist began with each member getting his say, one at a time. Mahall hardly even stepped forward, the only one not to play in, let alone near, the centerstage mic—and without the need to, either, given his astonishing projection on the instrument. The two trumpet/two trombone brass section soon joined in like a flock of hungry gulls fighting for a morsel of sardine. A singular group movement section slowly introduced the first brass soloist—Bauer—who performed with piano and drummers. His series of more diminuendo than upward movement gave off an uneasy feeling, a sense of slowly falling down into a bottomless pit. Joined momentarily by altoist Walsdorff for a few bars, Bauer himself then receded back into the mass. Thewes solo encouraged the equivalent of a wild herd of elephants that eventually stampeded over him. As a matter of fact, GUO soloists might be seen as small but quite vocal krill given the chance to sing or scream (whichever the case may be) their hearts out before the big blue GUO whale swallows each back up only to let another say their piece before the vicious cycle continues! The next krill in line before the set's culmination: Dudek, Cappozzo, Dorner.

The very same evening Chick Corea performed a rare solo concert at the BC Honda Dealers Classic Sounds at The Centre Series. Missing opener Terry Clarke (the legendary Canadian drummer whose work with John Handy and Jim Hall amongst others is well documented) and his Trio was the necessary sacrifice that had to be made to witness the supernatural above GUO event just a few blocks away. Even though the listening extremes were severe, the timing (and challenge) to make Corea's set couldn't have worked out better, with enough time to sit down, the lights dim and see Chick walk onto the stage to announce something to the effect, half-jokingly/half- seriously, "I do a solo piano gig every now and then; it gives me a chance to get in some practice time." The sold- out crowd of 1,800 chuckled before he went into a series of bedazzling jazz standard interpretations including "Waltz for Debby" by one of Corea's favorite players (and bandleaders) Bill Evans, as well as an 8- minute rendition of Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady," in which Corea added several personal flares including stride which worked especially well given the composer's fondness of the style. Elsewhere, the pianist incorporated fingered piano strings, which he plucked, struck, dampened, knocked, slapped and strummed.

However, once he broke out the sheet music, the concert took a quick corner as if a second set occurred with a blink of an eye break in between. With reading glasses, he presented a Scriabin piece (he called it "No. 2"), during which he could be seen occasionally doing his best Victor Borge of not so subtly seeming to finger hair off the keys by rubbing his fingers together, thus avoiding the levity and seriousness of a jazz musician playing a serious classical composition. Nonetheless, joking aside, he performed the piece more than admirably. He then went into half a dozen of his "Children's Songs" (sheet music still present), most but a minute or two, rather trite actually and a momentum killer frankly. These, in essence, miniatures, served as nothing more than snapshot themes never given much time for development, though each represented a precious composition to base more in depth improvisation off of. An encore by a Portuguese composer, whose name he preferred not share since he couldn't pronounce his name, left the set's promising beginning a not-so distant memory. His practicing comment at the show's beginning sadly, though, came full circle with the prevalence of sheet music for the entirety of the latter half of the show.

The late night set at Ironworks featured Vancouverite guitarist/oudist Gordon Grdina and his trio featuring Swedish saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist. The group's prominent song forms and structures served to be more than my ears had been accustomed to through the Festival to this point, and with house mix and group dynamic problems: the drums too loud; the bass barely audible; Ljungkvist's tenor playing sounding stronger than on clarinet; plus a partially failed effort at audience clapping participation (always a bad sign)—this correspondent decided to call it a day, or rather a night, with a full week of events to look forward to.

With the first week GUO-centric, the second week presents an equally impressive and as highly anticipated Dutch contingent (both countries at this writing making the round of 16 in the World Cup, too!): drummer Han Bennink, reedman Michael Moore, bassist Wilbert de Joode and trumpeter Eric Boeren. Stay tuned for the next installment...

Photo Credit

Gerd Dudek, Paul Plimley/Barry Guy, Evan Parker by Laurence Donohue- Greene

All others by Chris Cameron


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