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Live Reviews

2010 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival: Days 7-10

By Published: July 16, 2010
Already in process, the BC (guitarist Bill Coon's) Double Quartet set featuring trumpeter/flugelhornist Brad Turner was literally out the door and down a hallway to the open-aired back of the expansive Festival Hall. Coon composed for guitar, Turner, a string quartet (two violins, viola and cello), bass and drums. The lush low- key affair was making my last day in Vancouver, a Saturday, feel more like a Sunday, with rare exception. Interestingly enough, the set closer was appropriately titled "Sunday Morning," re-enforcing the above comment. Turner shares a somewhat similar approach to trumpet as with flugelhorn, neither on which he reaches overtly brassy heights, both of which he plays with a distinctively warm tone.

And yet to another, albeit more familiar, performance space under the Roundhouse roof (which now began resembling more a labyrinth of stages!)—the venue's Performance Centre, at which there have been many shows covered extensively in this report since the inaugural days of this year's VIJF. The first-time meeting of the leaderless collective featuring reedman Gratkowski with New York-based trumpeter Nate Wooley, bassist Torsten Muller and Canadian now Brooklyn-based drummer Harris Eisenstadt played a near-40 minute group improvisation followed by a four- minute encore.

The memorable set represented a first-time meeting of the horn players (hopefully the first of many more to come given their shared strength of sounds well beyond those associated with their respective instruments); Wooley had performed but once previously with Muller, and the trumpeter is more than familiar with Eisenstadt, both being New Yorkers and frequent enough collaborators. The ensemble's subtle individual movements were their greatest collective strength. The two horn players bounced tones off one another, on occasion harmonically aligning. Wooley (like Gratkowski) displayed his by now well-known extraordinary capacity to acoustically pull off what most any other player would need electronic effects or processing to accomplish. Many listeners may have been looking at his feet just to confirm he wasn't being technologically assisted; the only assistance he utilized —a thin square sheet of aluminum held at the end of his horn's bell, which metallically rattled tones and the trumpeter's breaths to great effect. At the half-way point of the first group improvisation, Gratkowski switched from bass clarinet to alto sax, while Muller and Eisenstadt's immediate connection became ever more apparent. The bassist focused on his arco performance while the drummer stirred up a world of complementary tones from his cymbals. For an extended period of time after the horns joined back in, the connection and association between sound and instrument became blurred entirely. It was almost too much to take for some listeners who tried their best to quietly migrate off to another performance space; but the fact remained—these were otherworldly sounds produced individually and collectively by a mighty foursome, a constellation that hopefully will realign in the not too distant future. Listeners be brave!

Immediately following, in the same performance space, was guitarist Tony Wilson's 5tet with violinist Jesse Zubot, trumpeter JP Carter, bassist Paul Blaney and drummer Skye Brooks. From their opening tune by the late Tom Cora ("Jim") to a Fela Kuti dedication, Wilson's group showed a knack for song development followed by episodes of destruction and redevelopment, though not necessarily in that order. After three minutes of the highly structured "Squirk," the group abruptly went completely atonal, dropping the tune's theme altogether for an experimental bridge sidestep, reconnecting on the other end with the leader stating a 2-note theme off of which Blaney and Carter interspersed bass and trumpet counter statements in response. Similarly with the Fela tribute entitled "For Fela Kuti #2," Wilson's unaccompanied guitar introduction was followed by the tune's theme before a seemingly unrelated free section (Carter's breaths squeaking their way through his mouthpiece, while Zubot's instrument—not strings, mind you—was incessantly bowed and tapped). This was followed again with a return of the theme presented by the leader with Sholbert and Brooks tagging along while the trumpeter and violinist mischievously continued pushing their instruments' limits including—in the case of Carter— electronic manipulations.

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