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Live Reviews

Guelph Jazz Festival, September 8-12, 2010

By Published: January 17, 2011
All three were amazing in their in-the-moment arrangements, playing together and playing apart. Lewis created some particularly nice moments, setting a decaying loop, picking up his trombone, and playing alongside himself for a few moments. Eventually Mitchell introduced a lament which, remarkably, Lewis seemed to match in a unison statement, while Abrams punctuated it with heavy chords crossing the keyboard. They were gracious, supporting and complementing each other in a group improvisation that was, maybe more than anything else, gentlemanly and focused. The trio called The Trio is just a smart outfit (and that doesn't only refer to Mitchell's haberdashery).

The ECM undercurrent was represented by pianist Marilyn Crispell
Marilyn Crispell
Marilyn Crispell
b.1947
piano
, who played a wide-ranging solo set; a trio of saxophonist Charles Lloyd
Charles Lloyd
Charles Lloyd
b.1938
saxophone
, tablaist Zakir Hussain
Zakir Hussain
Zakir Hussain
b.1951
percussion
and drummer Eric Harland
Eric Harland
Eric Harland
b.1976
drums
; violinist Mark Feldman
Mark Feldman
Mark Feldman

violin
, who appeared with the Toronto world music ensemble, Tasa; and cellist David Darling
David Darling
b.1941
, who was called in to replace Dino Saluzzi
Dino Saluzzi
Dino Saluzzi
b.1935
bandoneon
, after a schedule conflict prevented the Argentinian bandoneonist from attending.

Crispell began her morning set with strong and bold chordings, then worked into a quieter refrain, which is to say she made sure everyone was awake for the lullaby, and built it with remarkable beauty, resolving in a non-repeating song and only the briefest pause, punctuated by the release of a pedal, before spinning little jetties of notes through the air, slowly ramping up again to a near-rag. As she carefully constructed the piece, stepping back to let it breathe and moving in on it again, an energy and a playfulness developed. Nearing the end, she took to the inside of the case with a pair of drumsticks, slowly, gently making her way from the frame to the strings and playing pronounced melody and bass lines, returning to the keyboard for impossibly perfect low-end rolls, gliding effortlessly between heavy chord structures and melodies placed directly in the midst of the progressions, and then turning to a new melody that could have been a Vince Guaraldi
Vince Guaraldi
Vince Guaraldi
1928 - 1976
piano
theme, or a new song for one of the summer holidays. Answering a standing ovation, she began her encore standing with the assembled.

The Lloyd/Hussain/Harland group (Sangam, after the 2005 ECM recording of the same name), one of a number of strong trios (not just The Trio but a Henry Grimes
Henry Grimes
Henry Grimes
b.1935
bass, acoustic
, Jane Bunnett
Jane Bunnett
Jane Bunnett
b.1955
sax, soprano
and Andrew Cyrille
Andrew Cyrille
Andrew Cyrille
b.1939
drums
group; Grimes, again with guitarist Marc Ribot
Marc Ribot
Marc Ribot
b.1954
guitar
and drummer Chad Taylor
Chad Taylor
Chad Taylor

drums
; and pianist Marilyn Lerner with bassist Ken Filiano
Ken Filiano
Ken Filiano
b.1952
bass, acoustic
and drummer Lou Grassi
Lou Grassi
Lou Grassi
b.1947
drums
). They balanced far more than three pieces, with alto saxophone and flute, piano (and four-handed piano and inside piano), vocals, kit drums, mallets tablas and hand bells, and all three members rotating between instruments. Sometimes they were a jazz trio, sometimes a percussion trio, but more often than not it was Hussain who stole the show. Feldman's set with Tasa was equally eclectic, an amalgam of tablas and Eastern vocals, with drum kit, electric guitar and bass, saxophone and trumpet. After the quintet played a couple of melting-pot pieces on their own, they brought out Feldman for an easy groove tripling violin, trumpet and flute lines. It was an unusual setting for Feldman in a sense, but as evidenced by his sessionography, he can do anything, and do so comfortably. And Darling played a powerful solo set, borrowing from Bach and then presenting a piece with eight prerecorded electric cello parts, the instrument on which he made his well-regarded album, 8 String Religion (Hearts of Spaxe, 1993).

The Ribot/Grimes/Taylor trio, which closed out the festival, was something of an offshoot of their excellent Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
Albert Ayler
1936 - 1970
sax, tenor
project, Spiritual Unity, which also included trumpeter Roy Campbell
Roy Campbell
Roy Campbell
1952 - 2014
trumpet
. Without a saxophone (but with a bassist who actually played with Ayler) the band has gone from a quartet homage to one of the greatest voices of the 1960s New Thing to a guitar trio, still faithful to the spirit of those times. And even given the heights they were capable of hitting, there were some remarkable peaks of interplay. It's amazing to see who—like these three, like Crispell—can turn it out, once called upon to be morning people, pros who can deliver before lunchtime.


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