2013 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival: Ottawa, Canada, June 21-26, 2013
The trio, situated very close together on the larger OLG stage, was clearly about communication, with both Hekselman and Ballard facing in towards Rosato, standing roughly in the middle. Ballard was as relentlessly inventive as ever, a fountain of ideas as well as a focal point for his trio mates. There was a constant sense of push-and-pull amidst the trio, even when there were delineated solos. It was a powerful but, sadly, brief chance to hear just how far Hekselman has come in four years; hopefully the next time he comes to Ottawa there will be the opportunity to catch a full set.
June 26: Steve Kuhn/Steve Swallow/Joey Baron
With June 26 the last day of coverage for the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, there couldn't have been a better way to say goodbye to the 2013 edition than an intimate evening with pianist Steve Kuhn, electric bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Joey Baron. The trio came together in the fall of 2011 to record Wisteria (ECM, 2012), the pianist's follow-up (with the exception of Baron, featuring a completely different lineup) to his critically acclaimed Mostly Coltrane (ECM, 2009). It was the first time that septuagenarians Kuhn and Swallow had recorded together for ECM since Trance (1975), the pianist's ECM debut, and if, at their Ottawa performance at the National Arts Centre's Studio, they were moving a little more slowly to their positions on the stage, and showing considerably less hair (with, perhaps, the exception of Swallow's impressive eyebrows), a lot more gray and far more wrinkles, the instant they began to play the years melted away.
Joey Baron may be the puppy of the group (this performance falling precisely on his 58th birthday and, with his almost always shaved head, styling perfectly with the rest of the trio), but since first appearing in the late 1970s/early '80s with artists like pianists Enrico Pieranunzi and Fred Herschmost importantly, however, truly emerging as the drummer in Bill Frisell's first touring band, recording 1987's Lookout for Hope (ECM) and remaining with the guitarist for the better part of the next decadehe's gone on to become a first-call drummer in diverse projects ranging from saxophonist John Zorn's flagship Masada quartet and guitarist John Abercrombie's recent ECM quartets, including 2012's Within a Song, to avant-songsmith Laurie Anderson and guitarist Jim Hall, whose Live at Birdland (ArtistShare, 2013) was further evidence that even for octogenarians like Hall, age doesn't matter.
The trio's set ran just over 90 minutes, including a well-deserved encore of "The Zoo," heard recently on Sunnyside Records' The Vanguard Tape (2013) but, in that version, without Kuhn singing, tongue planted firmly in cheek, the words he originally wrote for Sheila Jordan when she first sang it on Playground (ECM, 1980), one of two records they made together for the label, but the only one included in the Life's Backward GlancesSolo and Quartet (ECM, 2009) box set. In Ottawa, when he sang the tune as it drew to a close, he even took advantage of a little Français, singing " pourquoi, rather than "why," much to the delight of the packed house.