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Live Reviews

2010 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival: Days 7-10

By Published: July 16, 2010
The early evening set at Iron Works comprised a half-Dutch/half-Vancouver ensemble: trumpeter Eric Boeren (trumpet) and countryman Wilbert De Joode (bass) with Canadians Tony Wilson (guitar) and Dylan van der Schyff (drums). Their near hour-long first set featured two large-scale pieces, the first 20 minutes in length, the second over a half-hour. From introductory scratched string instruments and muted trumpet, the quartet allowed plenty of headroom for thematic or at least momentum-driven development on the opener. Wilson's biting lines were intentionally choppy and rough-edged, his hands placed adjacently along his instrument's neck ambidextrously working in conjunction with one another, not confined to necessarily pluck and strum; like a crab with both his arms bent outwards, he rubbed out amplified lines of sonic textures with fingers as well wrists. Colorful peaks and valleys were plentiful throughout this turbulent but ever-musical ride, much in the tradition of Ornette Coleman's classic quartet (guitar obviously subbing for alto) where the "soloist" was actually the only musician not soloing at times. The other three simultaneously offered counterpoint and solos around the one holding down the anchor, which in many cases was the smooth-toned trumpet playing of Boeren. Wilson contributed subtle but effective feedback and high- pitched but not high in volume single notes, while the extended techniques of De Joode's frequent bass-tapping on the body of his instrument and strings and van der Schyff's intended arrhythmic percussive contributions created a sound landscape for the simply-stated, calming brass tones. The musical, many a times atonal, subtleties that ran rampant throughout this first engaging piece continued into the second spontaneously improvised composition, Boeren's upper register horn-playing interchanging seamlessly in tone with De Joode's bowing, van der Schyff's moistened finger rubs along his drum heads and Wilson's upper-frequency explorations. A mesmerizing set of music, utilizing space as much as sound, slowly but naturally came to closure, fading off into the musical horizon and then absolute silence before a unanimous and decisive applause from the pleasantly filled room (most who additionally stayed for the shorter 45-minute second set that featured three, equally rewarding, 10+ minute selections).

The late sets at Iron Works brought back altoist/clarinetist Michael Moore, this time with cellist Peggy Lee and a holdout from the previous set, van der Schyff on drums. Of the drummer's greater assets is his unobtrusiveness, consistently complementing his surroundings without dominating unless given the room to (eg. the occasional drum solo). This element came to play throughout this trio's set, which contrasted to the heavily composed set of Moore's three nights earlier in the same venue. Much to the musical delight of the cellist and drummer, the reedman welcomed less structure, and freer improvising in this surrounding. Moore's clarinet playing resembled Pharoah Sanders, even early Gato Barbieri, had either saxophonist ever picked up a clarinet in their respective careers. As if planned, Lee momentarily lost her bow due to her unrestrained arco playing, then quickly focused on an extraordinary pizzicato passage before retrieving her bow (thanks to Moore's pick- up and hand-off) and re-transitioned back to bowing without any noticeable loss of momentum. A significant portion of the first set was dedicated to a spellbinding duo featuring Moore blowing to the side of his mouthpiece-less clarinet as if it were a flute, while Lee bowed passages as if leading the way, digging out tunnels and caves for Moore to shed light on and explore in further exotic detail.

Day 8

Perhaps the most beautiful, and certainly the sunniest, day yet in Vancouver since VIJF started, this Southern California-like afternoon served ideal for the noontime outdoor performance by locals ShhEnsemble (pronounced "Sean Ensemble," conveniently after nominal leader and bassist Sean Cronin). At the end of the pier-like walkway of Canada Place—the makeshift cruise ship structure (which is permanently "docked" into the ground and houses a hotel, shops and function rooms)—a stage was set up for daily early afternoon VIJF jazz concerts. Cronin, tenor saxophonists Evan Arntzen and Kiyoshi Elkuf (sitting in for the group's other regular saxophonist Steve Kaldestad) along with drummer Jod Poole covered a wide swath of familiar standard material in addition to a few originals.

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