2010 TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival: Days 4-6

AAJ Staff By

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Days 1-3 | Days 4-6 | Days 7-10
TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
June 25th—July 4th 2010

Day 4

Here come the Dutch! From South Africa to Vancouver, Holland is at the forefront of everyone's minds—and ears. The customary early afternoon set at Performance Works on Granville Island today featured perhaps the best known and arguably most celebrated Dutch jazzman ever (next to pianist and fellow ICP Orchestra co- founder Misha Mengelberg)—Han Bennink. At 68, the veteran drummer/percussionist/wildman, was scheduled to be heard in various contexts of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival (VIJF) throughout the next few days, proving he indeed is somewhat a celebrity in these parts, too, certainly a Vancouver favorite as he's a frequent visitor to the city and VIJF's past. The Vancouverite-Dutch double date featured Bennink and bassist/countryman Wilbert de Joode, both flanked on either side by Vancouver musicians in clarinetist Francois Houle and guitarist/oudist Gordon Grdina.

It's always musically and otherwise entertaining when Bennink takes to the stage. The drummer broke out his anticipated bag of tricks—rapid rolls on his muffled, toweled snare; drum stick in mouth as if it were a jew's harp; the occasional stick throw and catch without missing a beat; cross-handed syncopation and leg up on drum adding a spur of the moment tighter and higher tuning to his kit, again without losing an ounce of musicality. Around the midway point of the set's third of four group improvisations, there was even a moment when he got up from his kit and slid a randomly placed piano stool from a side of the stage towards his kit, adding a percussive though ear-jarring foundation to Houle's mouthpiece-less clarinet flute- simulating solo. When the Dutchman arrived back at his drum stool, he gazed into the audience and the backs of his fellow musicians with an innocent childish grin, held up a hammer as if to say, "What?! I didn't do anything," and received subsequent hysterical chuckles from the crowd. His bandmates, not quite sure what "hit" them and the reason for the laughs and applause, continued. Grdina in particular, played and interacted with an inspiring abandon throughout the set that went missing the night previous at Iron Works, his strength perhaps lying with the lack of musical road maps.

For the evening set, the Bill Frisell Trio headlined The Centre's well attended concert hall (with violinist Eivand Kang and drummer Rudy Royston) playing primarily typical and original Frisell-ian Americana works such as the suitably titled and dedicated "Winslow Homer," in addition to the mesmerizing Malian-influenced "Baba Drame" and several jazz standards including Lee Konitz' "Subconscious Lee," "Goin' Out of My Head" and a rhythmic showcase for Royston, Benny Goodman's "Benny's Bugle" (the latter two selections both encores). The guitarist was undoubtedly the primary voice of the threesome with some exceptional moments, the other two in consistent support throughout. Even though the set consisted of 10-15 minute performances of each tune, not so common was a violin or drum solo. One of the attractive facets of Frisell's music is its inherent aesthetic and subtlety even when he rocks out, so an unfortunate slight of the soundman's hand mid-set was hard not to notice with regards to the unexpected and sudden boost of volume. Other than this sudden spike to near rock concert levels—the VIJF must be commended on the excellent sound mix of all their spaces for the most part, from the large venues to the smaller ones..

The late set brought the the American expatriate Michael Moore to Iron Works. The clarinetist/altoist has resided in Amsterdam for three decades now and his trips to North America are more often than not under the auspices of the ICP Orchestra, so this was an especially rare and welcomed treat to hear him performing his own works with a strong Vancouver-based group tonight (pianist Chris Gestrin, trumpeter Brad Turner, bassist André Lachance and drummer Dylan van der Schyff). Before the set got under way, he promised—for better or worse—that "Whatever happens tonight will not be over-rehearsed!" being that he only met two of the three musicians for the first time earlier that day. Moore's original works seemed demanding for the musicians; however, that said—they sight-read admirably and accomplished an immediate harmonic sense that offered a successful balancing act as they mixed in free wheeling original improvisations within the more rigid framework of the Moore's structured compositions. The reedman played a floating sweet-toned alto with rougher edges around his welcomed clarinet playing and pianist Gestrin had several stickout moments when he played right-hand lines, with his left hand adjusting tones on the inside of the piano and its strings. On the penultimate tune ("Whistle Blower") the pianist performed unaccompanied for the first several minutes before the group joined in, (re)creating a smaller Maria Schneider Orchestra group feel.

A drink at O'Douls (the Vancouver jazz hot spot which has featured jazz for the last 15 years, 7 days a week) once again served as a nice nightcap with many local musicians stepping up to perform until 2am.

Day 5

Of the many VIJF highlights, perhaps the unique "Jazz Workshops" stuck out most. And there was perhaps none better suited as a player and host than drummer/personality Bennink. In the early afternoon, up a few flights of Tom Lee Music (much like NYC's Sam Ash Music), the Dutchman proved why he is such a legend of this music, speaking of his early career association with Eric Dolphy (the first American musician who Bennink performed with to want to play his own music versus standard material) and performing an off the cuff duo with a Quebecois prepared pianist by the name of Charity Chan (evidently she's made the move to New York, living in New Jersey) who had earlier asked if they could perform together. He told the small crowd, "I'm influenced by the world," in response to a question of what and who are his influences. He also spoke of the late Brit drummer John Stevens' usage of the small snare-centric kit as a personal model and in addition offered the advice, "If you can't play on snare drum, you can't play the whole kit." He would go on to not only demonstrate his extraordinary left hand technique and quickness but then spoke about his talent for being able to accomplish on his left what he couldn't with his right—due to an accident when he broke his left arm ("I wouldn't recommend breaking your arm, but...!") It was a well- spent hour not soon to be forgotten. And when asked of his excitement for The Netherlands still being in World Cup contention, without over-committing himself and his country, he said half-seriously, half in jest, "I just don't want the Germans to win!"


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