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2004 Ottawa International Jazz Festival

John Kelman By

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Thom Gossage/Other Voices: NAC Studio, June 26, 2004 10:30PM
R#233'i Bolduc (alto saxophone), Frank Lozano (tenor and soprano saxophones, bass clarinet), Miles Perkin (bass), Gary Schwartz (guitar), Thom Gossage (drums, percussion, autoharp)

With the first stop on their Canadian tour, Gossage and his ensemble played material primarily from a newly recorded album that has yet to be released. Combining a variety of musical elements, including free music, M-Base, minimalism and more, one of the signatures of the group was a snaking counterpoint between the saxophone players and guitar. Unfortunately, the group's approach was perhaps a bit too cerebral; guitarist Schwartz, in particular, had an overly considered style that was certainly unique, but not particularly compelling.

Gossage has also been involved in new music works, and there was a clear chamber-like approach to some of the compositions, which would shift from one duet to another—bass clarinet/guitar to bass clarinet/kalimba, for example, and then to a trio with guitar, arco bass and percussion. But as academically interesting as some of Gossage's compositions were, they never quite connected with the audience.

Bill Mays Trio: Library and Archives Canada, June 27, 2004 4:00PM
Bill Mays (piano), Neal Swainson (bass), Terry Clarke (drums)

Another day, another show with the ubiquitous Terry Clarke, this time in the more straight- ahead and straightforward context that he is best known for. Mays is a solid performer in the Bill Evans tradition, and his set, as traditional as it was, demonstrated the same kind of group interplay that Evans helped to move forward.

Seeing Clarke in such a different context simply highlighted how broad his reach is. Less about fire and passion this time, and more about grace and elegance, he connected well with Mays, the two of them often seeming to share a wry musical joke. Swainson was as dependable as always, maintaining an even sense of swing and contributing lyrical solos with a warm and robust tone. And Mays's arrangements, mixing standards and originals, seemed to shimmer. While he is not as overtly adventurous as Hersch, there are clearly some shared roots.

Effendi Jazz Lab: Confederation Park, June 27, 2004 6:30PM
Alain Bedard (bass), Steve Amirault (piano), Martin Auguste (drums), Christine Jensen (alto and soprano saxophone), Alexandre Coté (tenor and soprano saxophone), Aaron Doyle (trumpet), Kelsey Grant (trombone), Francois Theberge (baritone saxophone)

The Effendi Jazz Lab is a bit of a supergroup, collecting a group of leaders who record for the Montreal-based Effendi label. Together they create an engaging blend of post bop material—great charts that may not rattle any cages but give each player the opportunity to demonstrate their considerable abilities. Jensen and Coté stood out, in particular, with Jensen delivering inspired solos throughout.

Latin Jazz All-Stars: Confederation Park, June 27, 2004 8:30PM
Steve Turr&233; (trombone), Ray Vega (trumpet), Hilton Ruiz (piano), Steve Berrios (drums), Yunior Caberra (bass), Ritchie Flores (percussion)

While the Cuban influence in the music was clear, the Latin Jazz All-Stars played more closely to the jazz side of things, which was a little surprising for an audience expecting more of a party atmosphere, but the performance was nothing less than riveting. Turré, looking the same as he has for the past twenty years, demonstrated that he is clearly one of the young masters of the trombone, and will be one of the artists to carry the tradition forward when older artists like Roswell Rudd are no longer around. Vega's technique was impeccable, thankfully favouring a warmer mid-register sound than the piercing tone so many Latin players aim for. Ruiz was as fluent as always, with strong roots in McCoy Tyner; his "The New Arrival" combined a modal solo section with a traditional clavé ostinato for the percussion solo.

The band's choice of material was perfect, even covering Wayne Shorter's "El Gaucho" in a way that showed exactly how genre boundaries can be blurred while remaining completely faithful to all sources.

Jean Beaudet Trio: NAC Studio, June 27, 2004 10:30PM
Jean Beaudet (piano), Alain Bastien (drums), Marc Lalonde (bass)

Sometimes, in fact most times, less is more, a lesson that Montreal pianist Jean Beaudet would be well-advised to consider. While clearly in possession of formidable technique, he literally tired out the audience with an unrelenting barrage of intensity. Informed by Paul Bley and Bill Evans, Beaudet is a more rhythmic player than both, and while he was able to construct solos with good form, they would have ultimately been more successful had he just let the notes breathe a bit.

Bastien and Lalonde were a sympathetic rhythm section, albeit a little "inside the box." But what started out as an impressive concept ultimately became less satisfying as everything, even a tender ballad, was overshadowed with flurries of notes; it almost seemed that Beaudet was possessed with simply too many ideas and felt compelled to get them all out. And this is unfortunate, as he clearly possess a great deal of talent and a personal concept.

Wayne Eagles Quartet: World Exchange Plaza, June 28, 2004 12:00PM
Wayne Eagles (guitar), Brian Sims (guitar, vocal), Peter Newsom (bass), Bruce Wittet (drums)

The concept was "Hendrix goes jazz," with Eagles and his quartet navigating their way through a variety of stylistic approaches, from the hip-hop-informed version of "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" to the more free-style of "1983." With Sims turning in an inspired vocal performance, the group demonstrated that a loose and relaxed approach to the music paid strong dividends. Eagles' tone was rooted more in fusion and less directly in Hendrix, but his understanding of the material was clear.

Marilyn Crispell/John Geggie: Library and Archives Canada June 28, 2004 4:00PM
Marilyn Crispell (piano), John Geggie (double-bass)

Sitting through the sound check shed a whole new light on Crispell who, upon learning that the piano she was playing was Glen Gould's instrument, tore into some high octane Bach. One sometimes forgets, when hearing her pursue her own free style, that she must have spent a lot of time studying to achieve her current level of ability.

Meanwhile, her performance with Geggie, a second visit to Ottawa for Crispell following her duet with Geggie at the National Arts Centre Fourth Stage in late '03, demonstrated the kind of in the moment performance and spontaneous composition that makes such pairings a complete delight. Whether it was surrounding composed material like "Amaryllis," which originally stemmed from a collective improvisation and ultimately became a composed piece, Geggie's own beautiful "Across the Sky," or more freely improvised music, the operative word for this duo was responsiveness. For all the obvious abilities of both players, the music was less about technique and more about a sense of immediacy, with each instrument sometimes leading, other times following. That Crispell and Geggie could shift from completely free work to form with often no more than the slightest nod of the head is a testament to both players' capacity to listen and react.

Crispell has, in recent years, recorded in trios with either Mark Helias or Gary Peacock on bass. Geggie sits somewhere in the middle, with the more adventurous nature of Peacock somewhat tempered by a more inward-looking style. Geggie is a local treasure—a world-class performer who needs to be heard outside his own locale. Perhaps the success of his work with artists as diverse as Crispell, Icelandic ex-pat Sunna Gunnlaugs, Mike Murley and others will encourage him to finally release the album under his own name that has been long overdue.

Mike Murley/David Braid Quartet: Confederation Park, June 28, 2004 6:30PM
Mike Murley (tenor and soprano saxophones), David Braid (piano), Jim Vivian (double-bass), Ian Froman (drums)

Murley and Froman are known to Canadian audiences as one-half of the Juno-award winning fusion group, Metalwood, but this quartet found them in a completely acoustic context and, while Metalwood is a fine group, they both clearly excel in the more natural environment. Froman, in particular, an Ottawa artist who relocated to the US years ago and now makes his home in New York City, plays with complete self-assurance, and a style that combines the fire, elegance and musicality of Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Jack DeJohnette and Jon Christensen. He is unquestionably the finest drummer of his generation to come out of this country, second only to Terry Clarke in his ability to breathe life into a chart.

Musically, some of this contemporary post-bop music occupied the same space as the Jean Beaudet Trio of a couple of nights previous, but this music breathed; the group didn't forget that what wasn't played was just as important as what was. With original material courtesy of Murley and Braid, these were tough charts—navigating multiple time signatures that shifted rhythmic emphasis while always feeling natural and swinging, what was all the more remarkable was that prior to this show they had a single one-hour rehearsal and one night's performance the day before. Without overstating the obvious, the quartet demonstrated a remarkably cohesive sound that will hopefully be recorded and released at some point.

William Parker Quartet: NAC Studio, June 28, 2004 10:30PM
William Parker (double-bass, shakuhachi), Hamid Drake (drums), Rob Brown (alto saxophone), Lewis Barnes (trumpet)

Reconvening the quartet that recorded '00's outstanding O'Neal's Porch , William Parker brought arguably his most accessible and straight-forward group to Ottawa. But while the music was more structured than some of his other work, there was still plenty of room for loose experimentation, with a concept that could only have come from the post-Ornette Coleman school, with basic structures used to define the road ahead, but improvisations that could lead anywhere.

Drake was yet another fine drummer to show up at this year's festival; in fact, while there was not a single one who led the bill, this year's Ottawa International Jazz Festival may well be remembered for the number of exceptional drummers that supported and pushed their groups forward. It's interesting to see how a musician's body language helps define the way they play, and Drake's was loose and relaxed. A long-time collaborator with Parker, the rapport they shared was not just something you heard and saw, but something you felt.

Parker, seated in the back with a Pork Pie hat looking uncannily like a more people-friendly Mingus, anchored the proceedings, but took plenty of solo room himself, including an arco solo with an unusual two-bow contraption that allowed him to bow on both sides of the bridge, creating unusual harmonics. Brown and Barnes were creative soloists, working well off each other to create attractive unison lines, as well as open and closed voicings.

Marilyn Lerner/Sonny Greenwich: Library and Archives Canada, June 30, 2004 4:00PM
Marilyn Lerner (piano), Sonny Greenwich (guitar)

Amongst a collection of "real deal" performances, expectations were high for this duet set. After all, Lerner was an accomplished player who has dabbled in everything from jazz to classical to Jewish music; Greenwich, of course, established his reputation by working with Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter more than thirty years ago.

Sadly, while the audience seemed to enjoy the show, it did not live up to expectation. Lerner was a technically proficient player who, somehow, seemed to miss the truth of the music. She played the notes but they didn't seem to have any meaning. Greenwich hasn't really changed or evolved over the years. His style revolved around relatively simple scales, tremolos, trills and hammer-ons that he resorted to incessantly. The feeling was that once you'd heard one Greenwich solo you'd heard them all.

The duo played music mostly written by Greenwich and, while there was some communication happening between the two, it was of the most obvious kind. Overall the show was lightweight, a demonstration that there is a difference between playing the notes and playing the notes.

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