2010 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival: Days 4-6
With not much time to lose, a drive was absolutely essential to travel from one venue locale extreme at the southwest end of Vancouver to the Iron Works' northeast location, and barely make the highly anticipated reunion of pianist Paul Plimley with drummer Han Bennink. With bassist Wilbert de Joode, the trio's second set started roughly on time (speaking ofanother compliment to pass along to the VIJF and its staff is their overall punctuality of performances, making it extremely realistic to plan an evening such as this, runningand/or drivingfrom one venue to another, squeezing in as many shows as possible into a given timeframe!) Evidently the previous set was similarly packed to the hilt, perhaps more so than any other Iron Works show, and for good reason. It turned into a personality and musical clash, as both represent the extreme of each, on and off stagetwo showmen but only one with a mic as it turned out, which fortunately was left to between performance banter and jesting, if not good-humored verbal jousting.
Plimley threw in random Monk quotes as well as an "It Ain't Necessarily So," and displayed not only an appreciation but mastery for Phineas Newborn-like two-fisted playing. His out of the blue reference to Jimi Hendrix' "Third Stone From The Sun" made several reappearances, extending through a good chunk of the set's second of three collective improvisations while the pianist tried his best to match and not to be overpowered by Bennink's forceful drumming. The drummer seemed to have his mind and sticks set to dominating mode, throwing caution to the wind regarding any potential subtler group dynamics; of the hundred or so times I've heard him live, I can't say I've ever heard him more unrelenting, not allowing a single space or rest squeak by. It was a mind-blowing listening experience to also visually witness such a non-stop performance of swinging ferociousness. The pianist between the second and final group improvisations even commented at his first-time appreciation of the drummer's expertise on brushes, not so subtly hinting perhaps that Bennink could tone it down (the Dutchman obliged for all of one minute of the final group improv, then returned to his former self). Each improvisation culminated with a telepathic coda and finale, ending on a dime, ever more surprising and rewarding given the seemingly competitive circumstances. With this solid level of intensity, the set flew by rather quickly (though perhaps not quick enough for de Joode, stuck in between the two, inaudible for the most part), clocking in at just over a half hour. After the musicians left the stage, Bennink quickly disappearing, Plimley remained in an aisle and played cheerleader for the masses to demand more music. Bennink, convinced, came back for an encorea less than two-minute free for all, which in essence condensed the previous half hour into 120 seconds! Still a(nother) festival highlight. A "you had to be there" show that would never come across quite the same on recording.
The final three days-worth of VIJF reviews for this correspondent soon on the way.... Stay tuned.
All photos by Chris Cameron except Michael Moore, Coat Cooke and Nicole Mitchell by Laurence Donohue-Greene