TD Toronto Jazz Festival, Days 4-10: June 27-July 3, 2011
Keyboardist Chick Corea turned 70 about two weeks before this performance, and clearly is showing no signs of slowing down. Guitarist Frank Gambale was not at all a newbie, working in the keyboardist's 1980s Elektric Band. During his solo, Gambale's demonstrated his innovative sweep picking technique, where he swept the strings resulting in a precise sequence of desired notes.
Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty also collaborated with Corea, back in the '70s. With RTF, he provided a key ingredient that gave this edition a distinct characteristic. He seemed to complement, Corea while Gambale's guitar worked with bassist Stanley Clarke. The versatile and intense Lenny White was as strong as ever on the drums. Corea said, during the show, that White changed jazz drumming in the '70s. He, too, was a veteran to the electric period of Miles Davis, which could definitely be felt. During the show, he walked up to the microphone and explained how RTF was a "man's band," in comparison to other bands that lack the true musical abilities and depth that this group has always possessed. Everyone was clearly enjoying themselves, from start to finish, and at one point were high-fiving each other like guys in a sports team.
The members of RTF IV toyed with the audience by saying that they were not going to introduce any of the selections, yet longtime fans were able to pick out well-known classics from the band's history, such as "After the Cosmic Rain, and "Hymn of the 7th Galaxy."
A tune such as "Señor Mouse" represented the best at what these musicians as a group could do, considering the high level of intensity, technical wizardry, and perfect timing under the jazz-rock umbrella. Corea, Gambale, Ponty and Clarke all shone with their distinctive solos; careful listeners might have identified a very subtle touch of French folk melody on Ponty's part.
Clarke led the way with a strong dose of funk on "Sorceress." With his intense bass playing, he was waving his hands at the end, like a student who had just written a three-hour exam nonstop. Of course Clarke is no student ,and never ceased to impress at his mastery of the bass. He switched to upright bass for the rest of the show when Ponty introduced his own "Renaissance." At one point during Clarke's solo, the bassist turned to Ponty inviting him to join in, while pushing him musically in the process.
Ponty opened Rodrigo's classic "Concierto De Aranjuez," before being joined by Corea, as the band settled into "Spain," the audience singing along with every bar he played on the piano. With fans yelling out requests for an encore, RTF closed this great show with another favorite, Clarke's "School Days."
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Philadelphia-born Kenny Barron has a rich history, spanning over 50 years to showcase his influences, exceptional musical understanding and technical ability for the close to 90-minute solo performance that he presented for the Grandmasters Series concert at the Glenn Gould Studio. Barron has played and recorded with the who's who of the jazz icons.
He opened the solo set this evening with Gershwin's "Love Walked In," before bringing on selections by Thelonious Monk, Billy Strayhorn and Eubie Blake. His move to New York in 1961 brought him to Brooklyn where his first gigs at a West Indian night club led him to compose "Calypso," which has the same feel as Sonny Rollins' "St Thomas." Barron's very melodic style of playing added a wonderful touch to Freddie Hubbard's waltz "Up Jumped Spring." For fast hands from start to finish, Barron switched to Monk's "Well, You Needn't," before slowing it down considerably with his original, "Song for Abdullah," dedicated to Abdullah Ibrahimwho used to play at New York's well-known Sweet Basil club. Barron described the music "like being in a cathedral," coming back at the end of the show with "Body And Soul" as a well-deserved encore.