2010 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival: Days 4-6
During the first set's second group improvisation, which lasted near 20-minutes, you could hear a pin drop in the club, the three amorphously moving as one, patiently growing in intensity with long legato lines interspersing breaths and rests as momentum markers. Their second set found more staccato-based friction and interaction versus the collective cooperation and fluidity that characterized the earlier set, Mitchell breaking off into separate duosfrom a lengthy one with Lee, then to a remarkable musical conversation with Miller and her prepared piano. The final set's last improvisation had Mitchell for the first time on piccolo flute, on which she eerily whistled at a distance from her instrument, as if creating a soft breeze pushing its way through a front porch door in a deserted town. This haunting and lasting effect found Miller placing a towel over the top of the piano's strings, adding further sound mystery, and Lee, eventually returning, bowing long notes and phrases, completing a performance cycle and leaving listeners by concert's end fondly recalling a listening experience that brought them full circle basically back to where it all started at the beginning of the first set. Another festival highlight, in this case unfortunately missed by many listeners.
After hustling from one venue to the next up to this point, the VIJF scheduling fortunately lightened up a tad on this, the day before "Canada Day" (the equivalent of America's 4th of July celebrations). It was an opportunity to catch our collective breath, refill our listening "tanks" if you will and sink our teeth into the last five days of the festival (for this reporter four, as I will miss out on the final day, July 4th, to catch the fireworks back home!).
The evening brought legendary Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko and his newly formed, international (or at least European) group, reinforcing the festival's mission of programming in musicians from around the globe. The youthful new ensemble of Danes Jakob Bro (guitar) and Anders Christensen (electric bass guitar) and Finns Alexi Tuomarila (piano) and Olavi Louhivuori (drums) offered an at least momentary sigh of relief for those who had grown tired of The Trio group (led by pianist Marcin Wasilewski) that had backed the trumpeter for the better part of the last decade. Even with his omnipresent Miles Davis influence, however, Stanko now seems to take off with far less frequency (regarding improvisational flights that is), staying primarily grounded and at ease, ultimately not much more inspired than when he had The Trio backing him up. Instead he barely hovered around the simmering level of intensity maintained by his new and obviously less acoustic surrounding of electric bass guitar and electric guitar. Christensen's monotonous bass playing and static presence proved to be an acquired taste, his strength focusing too frequently on but one, sometimes two, pulsating note(s) that the group commonly orbited around. Bro's guitar offered some much needed help, creating an off-balance quality to the otherwise atmospheric, straight-forward quality of the ensemble's arguably one-dimensional lack of dynamics, an intriguing juxtaposition particularly during his rare and explorative solo spots. Near half of the selections performed were from the group's most recent ECM CD release (Dark Eyes, 2009) including "Grand Central," "Dark Eyes of Martha Hirsch," "Terminal 7" and "So Nice"; Stanko's mournful, emotional and personal "April 10th" composition, dedicated to the victims of the tragic plane crash that day including the President of Poland and other officials, captured the balladeer at his finest.
A 15-20 minute drive was necessary to make the late set at The Cellar (in the far western reaches of Kitsalano), tonight featuring saxophonist and club proprietor Cory Weeds (who also runs the club's respected jazz label Cellar Live). Backed by Sharon Minemoto (piano), Russ Botten (bass) and Julian McDonough (drums) they dedicated the evening to the music of Rodgers and Hart, from "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" (arranged by Brad Mehldau, and interestingly done in five), and "It's Easy To Remember" to "My Romance" (with a superimposed effective bouncy bass line). On several occasions I felt right back at home, as if magically transported to NYC's Smoke Jazz Club on the Upper West Side, due both to the feeling of the club and the music, Weeds right in the vein of such great Blue Note- affiliated tenormen as Hank Mobley and Tina Brooks.