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Live Reviews

2010 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival: Days 4-6

By Published: July 9, 2010
The late set brought the the American expatriate Michael Moore to Iron Works. The clarinetist/altoist has resided in Amsterdam for three decades now and his trips to North America are more often than not under the auspices of the ICP Orchestra, so this was an especially rare and welcomed treat to hear him performing his own works with a strong Vancouver-based group tonight (pianist Chris Gestrin, trumpeter Brad Turner, bassist André Lachance and drummer Dylan van der Schyff). Before the set got under way, he promised—for better or worse—that "Whatever happens tonight will not be over-rehearsed!" being that he only met two of the three musicians for the first time earlier that day. Moore's original works seemed demanding for the musicians; however, that said—they sight-read admirably and accomplished an immediate harmonic sense that offered a successful balancing act as they mixed in free wheeling original improvisations within the more rigid framework of the Moore's structured compositions. The reedman played a floating sweet-toned alto with rougher edges around his welcomed clarinet playing and pianist Gestrin had several stickout moments when he played right-hand lines, with his left hand adjusting tones on the inside of the piano and its strings. On the penultimate tune ("Whistle Blower") the pianist performed unaccompanied for the first several minutes before the group joined in, (re)creating a smaller Maria Schneider Orchestra group feel.

A drink at O'Douls (the Vancouver jazz hot spot which has featured jazz for the last 15 years, 7 days a week) once again served as a nice nightcap with many local musicians stepping up to perform until 2am.

Day 5

Of the many VIJF highlights, perhaps the unique "Jazz Workshops" stuck out most. And there was perhaps none better suited as a player and host than drummer/personality Bennink. In the early afternoon, up a few flights of Tom Lee Music (much like NYC's Sam Ash Music), the Dutchman proved why he is such a legend of this music, speaking of his early career association with Eric Dolphy (the first American musician who Bennink performed with to want to play his own music versus standard material) and performing an off the cuff duo with a Quebecois prepared pianist by the name of Charity Chan (evidently she's made the move to New York, living in New Jersey) who had earlier asked if they could perform together. He told the small crowd, "I'm influenced by the world," in response to a question of what and who are his influences. He also spoke of the late Brit drummer John Stevens' usage of the small snare-centric kit as a personal model and in addition offered the advice, "If you can't play on snare drum, you can't play the whole kit." He would go on to not only demonstrate his extraordinary left hand technique and quickness but then spoke about his talent for being able to accomplish on his left what he couldn't with his right—due to an accident when he broke his left arm ("I wouldn't recommend breaking your arm, but...!") It was a well- spent hour not soon to be forgotten. And when asked of his excitement for The Netherlands still being in World Cup contention, without over-committing himself and his country, he said half-seriously, half in jest, "I just don't want the Germans to win!"

To the Aquabus water taxi and the early afternoon concert at Performance Works where Vancouverite tenor/alto saxophonist Coat Cooke's Trio (bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Kenton Loewen) featured special guest Gordon Grdina. Cooke and Reed have been playing together since the '70s, as the saxophonist played weekly at the city's Cellar Jazz Club with special guests most nights. On one of those nights Grdina was invited to join and they have since formed a unique musical bond. The two tend to like working in the upper extremes of their instruments, a fact that allows the guitarist's mid-range playing seem that much warmer. Think of a Jerry Hahn, Larry Coryell-influenced jazz guitarist equally open to rock tendencies and you have a good feeling for Grdina's diversity and approach. The group's set was entirely comprised of three 10+ minute spontaneous collective improvisations, something I took great surprise to find out by set's end: there weren't any titles for the presumed compositions. I couldn't give this ensemble a better compliment. To have achieved such structures and focused improvisations without anything being predetermined or planned is no easy feat. Grdina showcased amazing versatility, interspersing solid bass figures on his instrument one moment, kneeling for some extended techniques and incorporating a foot pedal of effects the next while performing fluid, soothing lines or in the blink of an eye more rhythmically jagged progressions, always aware of his surroundings at every moment, his eyes for the most part were wide open to his bandmates' playing power of suggestion and expression.

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