Art of Jazz Celebration in Toronto


Sign in to view read count
Calle 54. The Kansas City-born vocalist Kevin Mahogany's towering tenor voice was a little weary from his long layover on the tarmac in the States, but that didn't stop him from delivering a no- nonsense lesson in bluesology with his trio, which included a Charlie Parker tune and Nat King Cole's "Route 66.

The next night featured Footprints: A Journey in Dance and Drums; a three-part show narrated by former National Ballet of Canada star Veronica Tennant and highlighting the relationship between jazz and dances from Africa, Cuba, and Harlem. Representing the Motherland was the bubbly vocalist/dancer Muna Mingole, the "Blue Flame of Cameroon. Her infectious call-and-response vocals, along with a spirited, booty shaking, dance-off with several members of the audience, compensated for what she may have lacked in specific references to any authentically indigenous tribal style.

Authenticity reigned supreme when the dreadlocked, muscular, Afro-Cuban dancer Insua delivered a powerful praise-performance offering to Oshun, Shango, Obaltala and other gods of the Santeria religion. Backed by four percussionists of the hourglass-shaped bata drums and led by Bata master Roman Oqduardo, the gold-and-red-clad Insua realized the Yoruba-born, Caribbean-bred choreography. He traversed the area extending from the audience to the stage, then expertly navigated through infinite variations of the rumba, complete with an intoxicating duet with his turbaned female partner. But it was irrepressible Jimmy Slyde who brought down the house with his decades-honed tap dances, augmented and mirrored by his protégé Rocky Mendez, and supported by Detroit drummer Leroy Williams. With his plaid hat, yellow blazer and brown slacks, the eighty-year-old Slyde, truly one of the "last of the hoofers, wowed the crowd with his so-advanced-it's-simple steps, mellowed and perfected by age to minimal elegance. He and Williams engaged in a "percussion discussion that took on bebop repercussions, extended and amplified when bebop pianist Barry Harris—arguably the greatest jazz teacher alive—sat in and delivered sweet and succulent renditions of the Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol hits "Come Sunday and "Caravan.

Trumpeter/flugelhornist and Toronto homeboy Kenny Wheeler's tribute at the Cellar was supported by bassist Dave Holland's rock-steady basslines, with multi-instrumentalist Don Thompson on piano and vibes and former Bill Evans percussionist, Joe La Barbera, supplying in-the-pocket drumming. And that was merely the support for the frontline activity of alto saxophonist and Birth of the Cool alumnus Lee Konitz's angular saxlines and the amazing and underrated British vocalist Norma Winstone's agile and quasi-operatic vocals. Marred only by trombonist Bob Brookmeyer's no-show, due to chronic fatigue syndrome, Wheeler's buttery flugelhorn forays fronted a pleasing program of mostly his compositions, including the waltzy rendition of "Smiles Remembered and the Latinesque "Foxy Trot, laced with Winstone's sinewy wordless vocal, though Konitz's performance on the 2.0 upgrade of the standard "Invitation and a tune based on "What is This Thing Called Love were equally satisfying. But it was Wheeler's night, as he skillfully took his avant-oriented music from the sixties and seventies all the way to the change of the twenty-first century.

Another superstar from Wheeler's era, the prolific composer/arranger Carla Bley—along with her partner, bassist Steve Swallow—conducted a spirited AOJ Big Band at the outdoor Pure Spirits Stage—which featured tuba virtuoso and baritone saxophonist Howard Johnson along with Bunnett on flute supplemented by a percussionist and Gary Valiente's muscular trombone—through a mostly Latin set which featured some favorites from her book, from the peppery "Los Concineros to the mariachi-mooded "Tijuana Chapter, capped by a slow-funked encore of Charles Mingus' "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat.


comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read WOMAD 2017 Live Reviews WOMAD 2017
by Martin Longley
Published: September 21, 2017
Read Punkt Festival 2017 Live Reviews Punkt Festival 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: September 17, 2017
Read Gary Clark, Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan at the Iridium Live Reviews Gary Clark, Jr. and Jimmie Vaughan at the Iridium
by Mike Perciaccante
Published: September 16, 2017
Read 38th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival Live Reviews 38th Annual Detroit Jazz Festival
by C. Andrew Hovan
Published: September 15, 2017
Read Sue Rynhart at The Cresent Arts Centre Live Reviews Sue Rynhart at The Cresent Arts Centre
by Ian Patterson
Published: September 15, 2017
Read 38th International Jazzfestival Saalfelden Live Reviews 38th International Jazzfestival Saalfelden
by Enrico Bettinello
Published: September 15, 2017
Read "Jazzahead! 2017" Live Reviews Jazzahead! 2017
by Henning Bolte
Published: May 11, 2017
Read "Electric Hot Tuna at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center" Live Reviews Electric Hot Tuna at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center
by Doug Collette
Published: November 27, 2016
Read "Siena Jazz International Summer Workshop" Live Reviews Siena Jazz International Summer Workshop
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: August 8, 2017
Read "Amadou & Mariam At Stern Grove" Live Reviews Amadou & Mariam At Stern Grove
by Walter Atkins
Published: August 27, 2017
Read "Newport Jazz Festival 2017" Live Reviews Newport Jazz Festival 2017
by Timothy J. O'Keefe
Published: August 18, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.