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Live Reviews

2010 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival: Days 1-3

By Published: July 5, 2010
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.

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