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Festival International De Jazz De Montréal 2017: July 5-6

Mark Sullivan By

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Chet Doxas' "View From a Bird" (inspired by a painting by the Spanish artist Joan Miró) found him back on clarinet. One of the refreshing things about his playing is that clarinet and tenor saxophone get equal time: he switched between them all through the set. Steve Swallow's "Now and Again" was the first of several premiers in the set. This is definitely not a repertory band: not only did they not play all Carla Bley music, they only played one track from the new album. Chet Doxas' "Gord Downie" was written in honor of the Canadian rock musician (lead singer of The Tragically Hip). Downie is currently fighting cancer, but remains active in social causes, notably support of the indigenous peoples of Canada.

The biggest surprise of the evening was the premier of a new Carla Bley suite: the "Unholy Mess Suite." With sections titles like "The D.O.N.A.L.D." and "The Godawful Ending," it was clear what mess was being referenced. The piece was certainly not a mess. It has all the hallmarks of Bley's composing: new music from her is a gift. The group closed out the set with another Bley classic, her arrangement of "Floater." Called back for an encore, they played Douglas' "False Allegiances." He brought the evening full circle by quoting from "Ida Lupino" during his trumpet solo.

This is a marvelous group of players, and there is something truly magical about their collective chemistry.

Harold López-Nussa Trio

Cuban pianist Harold Lopez-Nussa and his trio with Senegalese bassist Alune Wade and drummer Ruy Adrian López-Nussa (his brother) had the late "Jazz dans la nuit" slot at Gesù. Stage announcements were entirely in French, so my comments will be brief. Right out of the gate it's clear that this is a smoking hot Latin jazz band: the two brothers are especially virtuosic. Exciting Cuban rhythms abound—one tune was definitely a rumba—but not everything is fast and loud. There is room for lyricism and dynamic contrast.

The pianist really showed his lyrical side during an unaccompanied ballad. Then his brother came onstage to join him in a frenetic dance for piano four-hands. It was an amazing display, complete with hand crossing at the keyboard and two seating shifts on the piano bench (playing all the while). Clearly a rehearsed "bit," but an absolute hoot nonetheless. When the full band came back they finally played a tune with a pronounced clave that I could identify: "The Peanut Vendor," a famous Cuban son first recorded in 1927.

Photo Credit: Mark Sullivan

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