Guelph Jazz Festival, September 8-12, 2010
For reasons of national funding and hometown pride (or just plain proximity), Canadian festivals offer a great opportunity to hear Canadian artists often underrated outside their country. Toronto pianist Lerner brought a powerful piano trio with a New York rhythm section. Lerner was a marvel to watch, her left hand capable of dropping like a sack of bullets on a single key in the midst of her flights of fancy, alongside an extremely musical rhythm section. Filiano and Grassi met her working from a shared perspective that meter is made from tiny melodies.
But even in the heart of Ontario, the Montréalaise made a strong showing, with more than 50 appearing during the week. That was, in no small part, due to the wonderful marching band, Fanfare Pourpour, which played an absolutely infectious take On Quebecois folk fronted by a banjo, two guitars and two accordions, with brass and reeds (including Jean Derome) and percussion (not the least of which being Pierre Tanguay), ending in a parade which dropped its followers off at the Abrams/Mitchell/Lewis and Lloyd/Hussain/Harland double bill.
Another big band crossed the Ontario/Quebec divide. The 27-piece Ratchet Orchestra included Ambiances Magnetiques members Derome and Lori Freedman, along with Ontario players Scott Thomson, Ian Epps, and a tubist who went by the admirable moniker, Noah Countability. They played Latin-leaning tunes and easy grooves, with nicely balanced arrangements for a group sporting four percussionists, six strings plus electric guitar, piano, eight reeds, and a coterie of brassa stretch of pleasantries topped off with some marvelous cacophony.
Like festivals in Vancouver to its left and Victoriaville to its right, the Guelph Jazz Festival & Colloquium is an international event, but a big part of the attraction for the culture tourist is the chance to hear the nationalists. Why Canadian jazz remains such a secret is in itself a mystery.