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Festival International de Jazz de Montréal 2017: July 3-4

Mark Sullivan By

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They demonstrated this by opening with two of their originals. "Blues For Charlie" was written for Charlie Haden by Joshua Redman. Redman begin it playing solo, joined by Colley's bass, then the rest of the band. Clearly a blues, but treated very freely. Until it was back-announced Scott Colley's "New You" had me convinced it was an Ornette Coleman tune I couldn't quite place. It had a characteristic start-and-stop theme, and inspired a wonderfully frantic sax/cornet duet break near the end. Redman spoke about his long history with the festival, and the recent Canadian sesquicentennial, along with U.S. Independence Day. Like Danilo Pérez he could not resist making reference to current U.S. politics, which seem to make an event like this festival increasingly unlikely in the U.S. The next selection came from the original band's book: Don Cherry's "Guinea," originally recorded on Old and New Dreams (ECM, 1979). It was fittingly introduced by unaccompanied cornet, the band joining in for the jubilant world music-inspired theme. An altogether joyous performance. They continued with another old selection, Dewey Redman's "Walls-Bridges" (Redman joked that it was OK to applaud the bridges, but not the walls).

Scott Colley's new piece "Haze and Aspirations" featured his beautiful unaccompanied opening. The band concluded the set with two Joshua Redman compositions: "It's Not The Same" and "Unanimity." They left the stage, but the audience would not be denied. For an encore they played Charlie Haden's "Song for Ché" ( a classic from the first Liberation Music Orchestra album), which led into the first and only Ornette Coleman composition: "Ramblin'" from Change of the Century (Atlantic, 1960). A fitting end to a marvelous performance. This band's interaction is a marvel to hear. They truly have the spirit of the Old and New Dreams quartet: all the freedom, and all the joy.

The Neil Cowley Trio

Britain's Neil Cowley Trio had the late "Jazz dans la nuit" slot at Gesù. With a primary instrumentation of acoustic piano, double bass and drums, they look like a conventional jazz piano trio. But they are not called "post-jazz" for nothing, because what you see is definitely not what you get. They frequently integrate electronics into the sound, and even when they're not, their minimalist rhythm patterns have a rock feel. Think of a gentler version of Nik Bärtsch: music based on pattern repetition.

The first two tunes both had pre-programmed electronics opening; rhythmic in one case, atmospheric in the other. At one point bassist Rex Horan switched to synthesizer bass, giving a more powerful sound than double bass—he then stayed on keyboards for the end of the piece, for a full electronic-acoustic hybrid. The third piece began with contrapuntal piano lines, eventually building to an ostinato which drummer Evan Jenkins played an exciting solo over. Cowley has a hilarious deadpan announcing style. In addition to a good deal of self-deprecation, he mentioned that most of the group's set was from the recently released album Spacebound Apes. His piano playing was finally spotlighted with a short, unaccompanied spot with a hymn-like sound, a marked contrast to the frequent driving rhythms. Later in the set he did actually play a couple of brief piano solos with a jazz feel: but still no walking bass, and no bebop in sight.

Photo Credit: Benoit Rousseau

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