It was, for Lloyd and his quartet, a night where conventions were summarily dissolved as they worked the charts with reckless abandon, whether time-based or rubato, truly reinventing compositions that have, in some cases, been part of the saxophonist's repertoire for over half a century. With Lloyd about to enter his ninth decade on this plane in 2018, he continues to evolve at a time when so many others his age are slowing down or resting on their laurels. Not that Lloyd doesn't deserve to do just that, but on the basis of his 2017 FIJM performancemade all the better for the absolute clarity of sound in Le Festival à la Maison symphoniqueit seems clear that Lloyd is one of those musicians for whom the search is ongoing, and for whom the journey is far more important than the destination. July 1: The Bad Plus By Invitation With Kurt Rosenwinkel, Gésu
On the evening of Canada's 150th birthday celebration, as The Bad Plus
closed its three-day By Invitation runits first night, on its own; the second, with the ever-masterful alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa
and, for its final evening, a hotly anticipated encounter with one of modern jazz's most magnificent guitarists, Kurt Rosenwinkel
bassist Reid Anderson
, the group's spokesperson, quipped "We were delighted to hear of your Canada day habit of buying CDs...and we'll come out afterwards to say hello, so if six or eight of you would hang around we'd feel really good about ourselves."
Well, they may, indeed, have wanted to sell CDs, since it's at after show merchandizing tables that so many artists now sell more of their albums than anywhere else in these days of Spotify, YouTube and other revenue-draining streaming services; but as far as feeling good about themselves? They ought to have felt pretty darn good about their 100-minute set (including encore) at the beautiful, intimate 400-seat Gésu theatrefor the first time, competing with another venue (Place des Arts' three year-old Le Festival à la Maison symphonique) as the best-sounding and most comfortable venue used by the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.
Full disclosure: when The Bad Plus first emerged with a major label deal on Columbia Records with 2003's These Are the Vistas
, the extraordinary media hype (cover stories on just about any jazz periodical around) seemed, well, a bit excessive. Fourteen years later, however, and now associated with Sony's revived Okeh imprint, The Bad Plus have not only managed longevity; they've also successfully transcended all the hype, evolving into a group far more capable and significantly more appealing. More often than not, it's not the music that's the problem; clearly, it's the listener.
Inviting Rosenwinkel wasas Mahanthappa no doubt was the previous evening (sadly, missed)- -an inspired choice. Friends all, Rosenwinkel, Anderson, pianist Ethan Iverson
and drummer Dave King
delivered a set that, to a full housewhich, based on the number of people turned away, could easily have been moved to a larger venuewas high on non-superfluous virtuosity, surprising (for those only familiar with TBP's early albums) grace...and the kind of chemistry that only comes from many years spent on the road and in the studio.
Of course, the latter characteristic can't be said about Rosenwinkel's appearance, as it seems to be a first encounter (or, at least, a first formal encounter); but, as their Montréal audience discovered just moments into Anderson's "Love is the Answer"a song that dates back to TBP's 2001 eponymous debut on the Spanish Fresh Sound New Talent imprintif there wasn't a longstanding simpatico between the trio and guitarist, there certainly seemed to be plenty of immediate chemistry and, even more, no shortage of sparks flying around the stage...even if they were somewhat subdued in a tune largely driven by the normally boisterous King, who only switched from brushes to sticks and more energy when Rosenwinkel took his first solo of the night.
And what a solo. It's been four years since last seeing the guitarist with his own quartet at the 2013 FIJM
and, while his own show the following evening was a question mark, given the significantly different approach he's taken on his new album Caipi
(Heartcore, 2017), one thing that was perfectly clear throughout his performance with TBP was that he's a musician who truly continues to evolve year-after-year...irrespective of the music he's playing. Recalling his sound check before delivering a festival highlight
at the 2004 Ottawa Jazz Festival, once Rosenwinkel had finished setting things up with his quartet, he continued to practice, practice, practice...beyond, in fact, when the festival wanted to open its doors, until he got what he was working on just right.