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2013 Montreal Jazz Festival: June 28-July 2, 2013

John Kelman By

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Festival International de Jazz de Montréal
Montréal, Canada
June 28-July 7, 2013
After taking a year off to curate an All About Jazz Presents: Doing It Norway at Norway's 2012 Kongsberg Jazz Festival, it was great to return to the city that hosts what must surely be the largest jazz festival in the world. Where else can an artist like Stevie Wonder open up the festival with an outdoor Grand Spectacle, in front of nearly a quarter of a million people? Or guitarist Pat Metheny finish his world tour in support of Pat Metheny's last record, 2005's The Way Up (Nonesuch) with a powerhouse outdoor show in front of over 125,000? The answer is? Only in Montréal, Canada, the city that, for the duration of its annual jazz festival, closes off six square blocks of the downtown core and turns it into a place where, whether you're there for a day, a weekend or a week, it's like living in a jazz bubble; everything that's needed is right there, within easy walking distance—hotels, restaurants and indoor ticketed venues, while the numerous outdoor stages provide additional world class performances, free of charge. In fact, while plenty of people from around the world make Montréal an annual destination for the breadth of artists who, sometimes, put on events that can only be seen in Montréal in ticketed venues—ranging from the multi-room Place des Arts to more intimate spots like L'Astral, the club situated in the festival's Maison du Festival that opened during the festival's 30th anniversary in 2009, or Gésu, a room that's seen everyone from Norwegian pianist Ketil Bjornstad and guitarist Eivind Aarset (together and individually) to American guitarist Bill Frisell—there are those who come to the festival solely for the outdoor events, and walk away equally happy.

This year's line-up was, as ever, representative of the broadest possible purview that jazz has to offer. Celebrating its own anniversary this year, the By Invitation series opened with a tremendous three-night run by saxophonist Charles Lloyd. Three outstanding shows brought his current quartet, last heard on Athens Concert (ECM, 2011); his more improv-heavy trio with drummer Eric Harland and tabla master Zakir Hussain, responsible for 2006's remarkable Sangam (ECM); and an evening of duos and trios featuring Lloyd Quartet pianist Jason Moran—documented as a duo for the first time this year on Hagar's Song (ECM, 2013) and a first-time encounter with guitarist Bill Frisell, who'd delivered his own solo performance at L'Astral the prior evening.

Pianist Vijay Iyer was the festival's second invitée, but with so many venues, so many choices, it's impossible to cover even a small percentage of the 800 concerts taking over the festival's 10-day run. Guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel's New Quartet performance overlaps with pianist Steve Kuhn's outstanding trio with bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Joey Baron (who gave the 2013 TD Ottawa Jazz Festival one of its best shows of the year just a few days earlier); Lloyd's Sangam show intersected with a spectacular 80th birthday celebration for saxophonist Wayne Shorter, that included, in addition to his now 13 year-old quartet, performances by Dave Douglas and Joe Lovano's Shorter-inspired Sound Prints group (which also gave a knockout performance in Ottawa last year) and Trio ACS, a new constellation with pianist Geri Allen, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Esperanza Spalding will have to decide between one guitarist/vocalist and another, Boz Scaggs, who performed just a few hundred meters away in another of Place des Arts' beautiful theaters.



It's also a treat to see all the construction taking place on Rue Ste-Catherine Ouest, when last visiting FIJM in 2011, largely completed, too. Two years ago, the street was completely torn up, making it difficult to get from one side to the other—not a problem for those who knew that there was an indoor tunnel from the shopping mall abutting the Hyatt Regency Hotel that goes directly into Place des Arts, but still something that disrupted the jazz bubble that year. Now, with work mostly done, the whole outdoor festival area is back to being a beautiful place to hang between shows, where, along with the free shows at the outdoor stages, it's possible to see mimes, brass bands parading down the street, and so much more. The first day of the festival may have been marred by some heavy rain, but the clouds began to lift on the second and, by the third day, the weather had returned to the sunny, warm summer climate that's always made this the perfect time of year for a visit to FIJM.

June 28: Charles Lloyd Quartet / Ravi Coltrane Quartet

Two very different saxophone-led quartets opened the 2013 festival's series of shows at Place des Arts' Théâtre Jean-Duceppe. First, at 19:00, Charles Lloyd delivered the opening show of his three-night By Invitation series run with his quartet of the past seven years, first heard on 2007's Rabo de Nube (ECM, 2007), followed by Ravi Coltrane at 21:30, bringing a completely different group than that heard on his most recent recording, Spirit Fiction (Blue Note, 2012).



Lloyd's career, since first recording hooking up with ECM Records on 1990's Fish Out of Water—his first five quartet dates, all with Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson, recently documented on his Old & New Masters Editions box, Quartets (2013)—seems to have been on a relentlessly upward trajectory with no end in sight. From special projects, like his home-recorded duo set with Billy Higgins, Which Way is East (2004) (recorded just a few short months before the drummer/multi-instrumentalist passed away), to collaborations with everyone from guitarist John Abercrombie and bassist Dave Holland to pianist Brad Mehldau and Greek singer Maria Farantouri, Lloyd's output for the label has been exceptional in both its consistency and its ongoing series of surprises. When the saxophonist put together his current quartet, with pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland, who knew that it would ultimately become his most impressive quartet ever—and that's no mean feat, given his superlative quartets with Stenson and, of course, the group that started it all, his 1960s quartet with pianist Keith Jarrett and drummer Jack DeJohnette that made Lloyd the closest thing jazz had to a true pop star at the time, with Atlantic Records releases like 1966's Dream Weaver and 1967's Forest Flower (both on Atlantic).

That Lloyd's current quartet has evolved into his strongest yet was supported by its stellar Montréal Jazz Festival performance. This was a group so completely in-tune with each other that its members effortlessly moved around within the broader skeletal context of the compositions, reinventing them each and every night. With a group of relatively young players (Rogers and Moran the elders at 38; Harland the youngster at 36), Lloyd has a quartet that, nevertheless, has such broad experience and encyclopedic knowledge of the tradition—and that includes Lloyd's own contributions to that tradition—that it can effortlessly move from free-flowing rubato tone poems to fervently swinging blues—sometimes in the same song.

Lloyd opened the set with his taragato—the nasally, single-reeded Hungarian wind instrument—but also devoted plenty of time to his main axe, the tenor saxophone, even pulling out his flute for one piece. Many of the songs in Lloyd's 90-minute set began with Lloyd alone, motivically driven to find a way into the music for the rest of his group, but always focused on the music and not his inimitable virtuosity. On tenor, his control over multiphonics—occasionally injecting the slightest harmonic overtone—was in some ways more remarkable than those who are more extreme in their use of such extended techniques—again, always in service of the music.

That's not to say that he didn't impress with the kind of cascading flurries that were something of a signature, or the seeming non sequiturs that were just like Lloyd when he's speaking, an artist with such a rich legacy that he can instantly shuffle from high school with Booker Little to playing with Bobo Stenson. In performance, Lloyd may move from one musical thought to another in the space of a nanosecond, but it would suddenly become crystal clear that, as distanced as they might have seemed on the surface, the connection between them was ultimately revealed ...just not so overtly as to be immediately obvious.



Moran has evolved into the perfect foil for Lloyd; ever-thoughtful, he could oftentimes be seen hovering over the keys, waiting for the right moment to inject just the right chord to either support where the group was going or suggest a new destination. Sometimes it was a single chord, held onto almost interminably until—as Rogers and Harland simultaneously (and magically) picked up on the same signal—the three players would break the tension by resolving into a visceral groove or dissolving into rubato free play.

Rogers—heard recently in Hamburg, Germany, where he appeared with saxophonist Joshua Redman's quartet (also playing Montréal, but here with a string ensemble to perform music from the saxophonist's latest Nonesuch recording, 2013's Walking Shadows) at the 2013 ELBJazz Festival—contributed singing solos and, in contrast, more rhythm-focused features that, when combined with the loose, free-flowing Harland, was what made Lloyd's quartet as much about implication as it was explicit delivery. Time ebbed and flowed and melodies appeared out of nowhere, as in the beautiful medley that somehow resolved into a most tender reading of "Somewhere," from the 1957 Broadway play West Side Story.



Lloyd played the melody with such vulnerability that the poignant hope expressed in the song's lyrics weren't necessary to feel them; it's that very ability to get to the absolute core of a song—whether it's a standard, a pop tune or a Lloyd original—that's made the saxophonist's current quartet so definitive. Whether it was the result of Lloyd winning the festival's annual Miles Davis Award immediately prior to the start of the show, the phase of the moon or some other random occurrence, Lloyd's freedom to explore three very different contexts over three nights commenced with an opening performance that will easily rank as one of this year's best—and act as an early bar-raiser for the saxophonist's entire By Invitation series; it would also make a terrific live album, if only it were being recorded.

A little less than two hours later, saxophonist Ravi Coltrane took to the same stage with a quartet that signalled a significant shift for this progeny of two jazz giants: saxophonist John Coltrane and pianist/harpist Alice Coltrane. That he's managed to come out from under the shadow of such legends has been an accomplishment in and of itself, but with a slowly growing discography, including last year's superb Spirit Fiction, he's also made clear that whatever direction he's taken is unequivocally his own.

Coltrane's last three recordings, beginning with 2005's In Flux (Savoy Jazz, 2005), have largely been based around a core quartet featuring pianist Luis Perdomo and bassist Drew Gress; for his Montréal performance, Coltrane eschewed his traditional piano-led trio completely, recruiting guitarist Adam Rogers, bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Johnathan Blake—heard just a week ago in Ottawa with trumpeter Tom Harrell—for a set that mixed his own originals with compositions by Rogers and occasional collaborator, trumpeter Ralph Alessi.

Rogers' "Phrygia," dating back to the guitarist's Allegory (Criss Cross, 2003), opened the set in modal territory. Rogers—who, after emerging with other now-notables including saxophonist David Binney and guitarist David Gilmore in Lost Tribe in the '90s (with a reunion currently rumored), continued to shape his own career as well as working with saxophonist Chris Potter's Underground (heard last on the 2009 Artistshare release Ultrahang) and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington's collective with saxophonist Greg Osby and bassist Jimmy Haslip, which released Structure (ACT) in 2005—is a player who's always been deserving of broader recognition. Beyond being the harmonic driver for this quartet, his warm-toned, unmistakable voicings created a constant source of push and pull for the rest of the group and, if his instrument didn't quite have the intrinsic range of a piano, it also allowed for an openness that, as intense as the set became at times, still managed to allow it more opportunity to breathe.



Douglas is a relative newcomer, but has already established himself as both a rock-solid anchor and an impressive soloist on albums by trombonist Steve Davis and pianist Cyrus Chestnut. A muscular bassist, he helped drive the more propulsive tunes while being equally capable in Coltrane's more impressionistic reading of the late Paul Motian's "Fantasm," first heard on the drummer's 1982 ECM quintet recording, Psalm—and, like Lloyd, recently collected in an Old & New Masters Edition box called, in his case, simply, Paul Motian (2013).

While "Fantasm" appears on Coltrane's Spirit Fiction, it was the only tune the saxophonist performed from that record. Instead, Coltrane drew from broader sources including his collaboration with Dave Liebman and Joe Lovano on Saxophone Summit's Seraphic Light (Telarc, 2008) ("The Thirteenth Floor"), as well as "One-Wheeler Will," written by Alessi for Coltrane's son on Cognitive Dissonance (Cam Jazz, 2010), on which the saxophonist doesn't perform but does contribute photography.

Coltrane also performed a new untitled original and a thoroughly updated look at Charlie Parker's "Segment," on which Blake took an incendiary solo, in sharp contrast to his more subdued work with Harrell just a week earlier. Focusing largely on tenor, Coltrane did turn to both soprano and what looked like a sopranino; on all three his tone was warm and, in particular on soprano, not anything like the nasally tone his father adopted as he was trying to imbue his music with the spirit of India. Coltrane may not be the legend his parents became, but he's gradually, methodically built his own career, and if this switch to a guitar-based quartet is any indication, he's about to make a significant shift in direction that will hopefully continue.



June 29: Charles Lloyd Sangam / Wayne Shorter 80th Birthday Celebration

It was a night to celebrate, in more ways than one. When saxophonist/flautist Charles Lloyd released Sangam (ECM, 2006)—a loose, improv-heavy live set in the unorthodox combination with master tablaist/percussionist Zakir Hussain and his regular quartet drummer Eric Harland, it was met with immediate critical acclaim. And why should it not? This was Lloyd, the spiritual seeker, paired with two others of a similar disposition, in a freewheeling context that could—and often did—go just about anywhere.

While there's not been a follow-up recording—something that, hopefully, Lloyd will remedy sometime soon, as there's been significant evolution in the ensuing years—the trio, now also named Sangam, continues to perform occasional shows most years and, as part of the saxophonist's By Invitation series at the Montréal Jazz Festival, it seemed like a logical choice. But the near-capacity crowd at Place des Arts' Théâtre Jean-Duceppe couldn't have predicted just how far-reaching this trio could be—and, ultimately, was, in its near 90-minute set.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of how Sangam functions is that, with the exception of Hussain, who remained seated, cross-legged, on the riser that contained a wide variety of tablas and additional hand percussion, both Lloyd and, even more surprisingly, Harland were completely unencumbered by their traditional roles. As the set began, Lloyd started at the piano, playing an indigo melody on his own. Hussain gradually entered, first with a single chime that he struck and, moving from one microphone to the next, created a delicate stereo panning effect out in the house. Harland remained almost completely still, seeming to absorb the music around him until, a few minutes in, he picked up a small cymbal and walked over to the piano, to Lloyd's left, placing the cymbal on the strings and beginning to add a second set of hands to the 88 keys.

Lloyd slowly stood and, as he moved away from the piano, Harland took his seat and, with both hands now on the keyboard, began moving the music to an even darker place, even as Hussain, by now on tabla, turned increasingly busy as Lloyd moved to the drum kit to begin adding his own series of punctuations and spare grooves to those from Hussain. Drone-based, Hussain also began to sing a gentle, plaintive melody as Lloyd left the drums—but not before, standing in front of them, he added a few extra splashes on the cymbals—picking up his flute and beginning to engage with Hussain on a thematic level, contributing simple, flowing lines which the percussionist would, at times, mirror in unison, other times in consonant harmony. With Harland moving back to his kit—the changes in instrumentation almost like sleight-of-hand, since attention was drawn continually to the different musicians, only to find the last one to which attention had been paid had now moved to another instrument—perhaps the most surprising aspect to the piece was how the three suddenly came to a complete and definitive close. This may be music made in-the-moment, but clearly by three players with eyes and ears wide open.



It was that kind of open-mindedness that made the first hour of the set—sadly, having to leave to dash to Théâtre Maisonneuve, just around the corner (and still in Place des Arts) for the three-group Wayne Shorter 80th Birthday Celebration—so eminently compelling. It didn't really matter what instrument each of the musicians was playing, the collective whole became continuously greater than the sum of its parts. There were times when the music became more percussion-focused, with Harland responding to Hussain's tabla (the Indian percussionist's fingers moving, at times, so fast as to be a blur as he layered complex rhythmic lines that Harland turned polyrhythmic with his own injections) in consonance, other times in call-and-response, all the while Lloyd delivering strong, occasionally deeply blues-drenched lines on either tenor saxophone or taragato, with Hussain, once again occasionally adding his own vocal harmonies.

It's hard to imagine that one melodic instrument (for the most part, the only exception being when Harland was on piano and Lloyd on one of his horns or flutes) and two percussion instruments could create such appealing and accessible music that flowed from points of barely perceptible delicacy to greater demonstrations of firepower. Hussain, in one particular spot during the set, demonstrated just how melodic his tablas were, while Harland did the same with his kit. They may not be instruments considered melodic on the surface, but between Llloyd, Hussain and Harland, there was plenty of melody to go around, in another set from Lloyd that will be remembered by Montréal fans for a long time to come.



Meanwhile, moving to Théâtre Maisonneuve, it was one of the many opportunities to experience why the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal isn't just the world's biggest jazz festival, it's also one that provides rare opportunities to experience things few other festivals offer. Wayne Shorter is on tour this summer with his now-longstanding quartet, in support of his first record in eight years, Without a Net (Blue Note, 2013), but fans in just five cities (four in the United States and just this one in Canada) were given the chance to experience this triple bill celebration of the renowned saxophonist's 80th birthday.

Before Shorter took the stage to an instant standing ovation and the crowd singing a song, en Français, to signify their recognition of this legendary jazz figure—pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade picking up on it immediately, while the saxophonist just stood there with a soft smile on his face, as the trio segued into the first piece of the set—two opening acts paid their own tributes: one with imaginative re-imaginings of Shorter compositions; the other performing original material inspired by Shorter's lifetime contribution to jazz.

Trio ACS—a relatively new group that featured pianist Geri Allen, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist Esperanza Spalding—opened its set with an imaginative look at one of Shorter's more memorable compositions for the fusion supergroup Weather Report, that he co-led with keyboardist Joe Zawinul for fifteen years: the title track to 1974's Mysterious Traveler (Columbia). That Weather Report was an unapologetically electric group from the start, while Trio ACS was absolutely acoustic, only meant that its interpretation of the tune would be considerably distanced, even though its signature chordal underpinning and oblique but eminently singable melody remained intact—albeit played by Spalding in unison with Allen, in the absence of any kind of horn.

There's been considerable controversy about Spalding's rapid rise to success. The naysayers look unfavorably at her winning the 2011 Grammy Award, not for best new jazz artist but best new artist, period. "It's only because she's a good-looking woman," some said; others objected to the relative newcomer's rapid rise to fame—despite her gaining considerable cred for work with saxophonist Joe Lovano and his Us Five group on 2009's superb Folk Art (Blue Note, 2009) and, again, on 2011's Bird Songs (Blue Note, 2011), and more recently with everyone ranging from guitarist Lionel Loueke to drummer Jack DeJohnette—suggesting that there were others far more deserving than she.

Be that as it may, and acknowledging that the diminutive figure with the huge head of hair is, indeed, cute as a button, what she demonstrated yet again (having already done so in numerous Montréal Jazz Festival appearances in the past five years) was that she's far from a mediocre bassist getting by on looks; instead, Spalding proved herself a truly impressive player with absolutely nothing for which to apologize, and completely capable of keeping up with the more seasoned players around her. Anchoring the trio, she locked in with Carrington while, at the same time, acting as a melodic foil for Allen, whose playing just keeps on getting better with each passing year and every new project. The three first came together as part of Carrington's The Mosaic Project (Concord, 2011), and perhaps that was the genesis of Trio ACS.

Regardless, what the trio demonstrated, in its near-hour long set, was both respect for and healthy irreverence towards Shorter's music, as it wound its way through a series of inventive arrangements that, as if there were any doubt—the group introducing its members in round-robin fashion, with Carrington introducing Allen, Allen introducing Spalding, and Spalding introducing Carrington—made perfectly clear the trio's love and respect for a musician who has moved the music forward (and continues to do so) relentlessly, in a wide variety of contexts, and with the kind of fearless invention that's needed to keep it from becoming a mere museum piece. Moving from abstract impressionism to more overt expressionism—and with Spalding, in particular, proving her mettle both pizzicato and con arco—Trio ACS may be new and may be, at least at this point, a tribute band, but it's one in the best possible definition, and one for whom a live recording of this music would be most welcome.

When multiple award-winning trumpeter Dave Douglas and saxophonist Joe Lovano performed with their nascent Sound Prints group at the 2012 TD Ottawa Jazz festival—the second of just three North American dates before the group headed for Europe that summer—it was clearly a quintet with plenty of promise, upon which much was already being delivered. With a book of original music inspired by Shorter, this quintet that also featured pianist Lawrence Fields, rising bass star Linda May Han Oh and perennial favorite (and, seemingly, the world's happiest drummer) Joey Baron, it was already a strong and fearless group predicated on knotty writing and unfettered free play. There were some weaknesses, most notably in the young Fields, who appeared competent but not completely up to the strength of those around him.

A year later, with plenty of touring under its belt, much has changed—most notably with Fields, whose performance demonstrated greater strength and confidence, both as an accompanist and a soloist, rendering last year's assessment perhaps premature and unfair. With his 2012 Ottawa show being only the pianist's second gig with the group—and surrounded by such strong players—a year later it's become clear that Douglas and Lovano must have seen something in this young pianist, and that something is now being revealed much more clearly to everyone else.

Like Trio ACS, the only thing missing from Sound Prints is a record, although an early morning conversation with Douglas outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel—after a 5:30am fire alarm forced the building to be cleared (thankfully the weather had turned and it was clearer, drier and warmer)—revealed that Lovano and the trumpeter had been hoping Shorter might write something for the group, a dream that came true when, after the previous evening's show, Shorter presented him with a new piece of music. Of course, based on newer material like Shorter's "Pegasus"—the centerpiece of Without a Net that teams his quartet with the Imani Winds—a new piece of music for Sound Prints will most certainly be a challenge. Be careful, they sometimes say, what you wish for, though if anything's a certainty it's that whatever challenge Shorter presents to Sound Prints, it'll manage it while, at the same time, adding its own emergent signature.

As for the quintet's performance at Shorter's birthday celebration? Everyone was on fire. Lovano seemed incapable of standing still, beyond his own solos moving around the stage; the same could be said for Douglas, who was in particularly fine form last night, effortlessly building solos from small building blocks into more serpentine linear form that moved from low register growls to stratospheric screams of outrageous power. Baron—as responsive and imaginative as he was just a few days earlier in Ottawa with Kuhn and Swallow—drove this set of original music split roughly 50/50 between Douglas and Lovano. He also had, in Oh, a partner whose muscular, powerful tone belied her diminutive size. Everyone soloed with ears open, making the end result a collective with the capacity to roar, but equally capable of bringing things down to a whisper at the drop of a hat.



The idea of one group doing its own arrangements of Shorter tunes, the other original material inspired by the saxophonist, worked particularly well as it set the stage for the now-octogenarian's arrival on the Maisonneuve stage. Beyond the standing ovation and audience singing to show its appreciation, what Shorter demonstrated in his set, at just under an hour, is that while some artists rest on their laurels when they enter their senior years, others not only continue to push their music forward, they actually manage to break new ground.

Shorter's Without a Net is not just notable for it being his first album in eight years, but also for his return to Blue Note, the label where he made so many important recordings during the '60s—albums like Juju (1964), Adam's Apple (1966) and Super Nova (1969), and tunes like "Footprints," "Virgo" and "Sweat Pea." Since forming his current quartet, which first toured in 2001 and released its first album, Footprints Live! (Verve) the following year to considerable acclaim, Shorter has been characteristically careful about his releases, eschewing any kind of regular schedule and, instead, putting them out when he's got the material and the inclination to do so, the result being a small but significant string of superlative late period recordings including 2003's Allegria (Verve)—his only studio recording of the new millennium—and Beyond the Sound Barrier (Verve, 2005).



That Shorter has chosen to only record his quartet—pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade—in live contexts is clearly because it's on the concert stage where this exhilarating and endlessly imaginative group belongs, and works best. He's not the only artist to do so—pianist Keith Jarrett hasn't set foot in a recording studio with his 30 year-old Standards Trio in decades—but unlike the veteran pianist, Shorter not only revisits earlier material with arrangements that sometimes render them nearly indecipherable, he also contributes new material, as he has on Without a Net. His live performances are largely continuous affairs, the group segueing from one song to the next with sometimes the slightest of gestures—gestures that can come from anyone in the group, as Shorter lit up with a gentle smile partway through his Montréal set, when Pérez delivered a line that signaled the entire group to shift.

This is not music for the faint-at-heart—a nearby "fan" walked out in something of a huff fifteen minutes into the set, upset that Shorter wasn't celebrating his 80th birthday by looking back and interpreting some of his better known material in the same way he did when he first recorded it. The only thing that's a certainty at a Shorter performance is this: if he does look back, it'll be with the most forward-thinking mindset.

Shorter might seem taciturn—often standing still, waiting for the right moment or, based on his facial expressions, sometimes just flat-out enjoying what his younger group is up to—but when he put a horn to his lips and began to play (during the first half largely on tenor, switching to soprano for the second), it became clear that the same reserve he's demonstrated in his releases applies to his approach to performance, contributing nothing but the right phrases each and every time, never playing too much or too little.

Meanwhile, Pérez, Patitucci and Blade were animated throughout the set. That Pérez's own projects are so radically different only speaks to his innate flexibility; here, he was abstrusely expressionistic, matching Patitucci, who proved as capable of dexterous contributions as he was hanging onto a single note and milking it for all it was worth. Blade was as unfettered as ever, a textural powerhouse who was as likely to be pushing out a briefly thundering groove, before the group's focus shifted on a dime, as he was injecting crashing crescendos that were as absolutely perfect in their moments as Shorter's sparer contributions.

Perhaps the only signs of Shorter's advancing age were his slower gait, relatively short set and lack of encore. Still, with a performance this deep, this intense and this profound, Shorter could be forgiven for his set's brevity. And, as the entire evening pushed past the three-hour mark, this 80th birthday celebration was something for which Montréal fans should feel privileged to have attended; from Trio ACS' inventive arrangements of Shorter material spanning his long career and Sound Prints' thrilling homage to Shorter's own assertion that he's still here and still moving forward, it was a night that seemed to move from one high to another—a night, with absolute certainty, to remember.

June 30: Charles Lloyd Duos: Jason Moran and Bill Frisell

After an evening so filled with such energy and intensity, the following night was the perfect balm, as Charles Lloyd wrapped up his three-night By Invitation series with a show titled Duos, but which ultimately turned out to be something more.

For the first half of their roughly 90-minute performance, Lloyd and Jason Moran demonstrated why their first recording as a duo, Hagar's Song (ECM, 2013), was such a wonderful surprise. The two have been playing together in the saxophonist/flautist's quartet for nearly seven years, and have developed a language that's become increasingly profound with each passing year. Moran—first emerging in the late 1990s with saxophonist Greg Osby and his own Soundtrack to Human Motion (Blue Note, 1999)—has proven himself as encyclopedic a player as fellow pianist Craig Taborn, with a deep understanding of the tradition that makes him the ideal partner for Lloyd, whose musical interests have always run far, wide and deep.



In performance, Moran and Lloyd—sticking, for this evening, to just tenor saxophone and flute, and leaving his taragato in its case—delivered a forty-minute set that ran the gamut, as they did on Hagar's Song, from bold impressionism to near-stride traditionalism, all with the interpretive telepathy that only comes from considerable time spent in the studio and, in particular, on the road. Lloyd was particularly impressive on flute this evening, as Moran matched his partner's flurry-filled phrases with trilling lines of his own. And when Lloyd turned more contemplative, Moran was right there with the sparest of accompaniment—and when playing a cappella, proving that it really is time for a follow-up to his fine 2002 solo outing, Modernistic (Blue Note). The real surprise of the evening was when guitarist Bill Frisell entered the stage, Lloyd advising the audience, "This is a first meeting; please be kind." Not that he needed to ask; Frisell has always been an incredibly malleable player, capable of fitting into any context. When the three began to play, it turned out that this was not to be simply the duos advertized in the program, but more often than not a trio, with Moran only leaving the stage a couple times, including when Lloyd introduced "Voice in the Night"—a tune he first performed in quartet with Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo on Of Course, Of Course (Columbia, 1965), also featuring bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams (telling the audience "they're here in spirit"). In the context of that duet, Frisell was his usual self: a sensitive and astute accompanist and lyrical yet distinctive soloist who delivered chordal passages that moved from simple triads to unexpectedly skewed dissonances.

Frisell's own work is sometimes criticized for moving too far away from the jazz tradition and being too much aligned with the Americana that's actually been a fundamental since the very beginning, but when the context is right—whether it's here with Lloyd, or in the nearly three-decade trio with Joe Lovano and Paul Motian—Frisell not only demonstrates his jazz chops are as strong as ever, but that they're always a part of the picture, in some way, shape or form. In an2011 All About Jazz interview, he expressed some frustration at the pigeonholing of his career into various artificial "periods"—ECM, Downtown, Americana—and here, with Lloyd, he demonstrated why. At this point in his career, Frisell's voice is instantly recognizable, regardless of the context, and it's because he's managed to build one predicated on a wide variety of musical interests—not unlike Lloyd who, while considered more closely tied to the jazz tradition, has performed with everyone from the Beach Boys to Canned Heat. For musicians like Lloyd, Moran and Frisell, it's all music, and if there's any artifice to be found in the musical spaces they inhabit, it's certainly not self-generated.

An underlying premise proven in Lloyd's two-part encore, when he first performed an absolutely beautiful version of Bob Dylan's "I Shall Be Released," with both Moran and Frisell. Lloyd introduced the tune by explaining how Levon Helm had just passed when he went into the studio to record Hagar's Song, his voice actually beginning to break with emotion when he referred to the founding member of The Band as "a dear friend." It was a tremendously touching moment; later, after the show, he said "I shouldn't really talk like that to the audience; I'm not that capable." To the contrary; feeling and sharing what was clearly a deep sense of loss only made the performance of "I Shall Be Released" and the evening closer, Brian Wilson and Tony Asher's "God Only Knows," all the more compelling, as Lloyd, Frisell and Moran played both songs straight from the heart.

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All About Jazz needs your support

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All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

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