Swedish pianist Esbjorn Svensson
's "Seven Days of Falling" was combined with a Helbock composition. The arrangement included a small electronic beat box: at one point Helbock played it by raising his foot onto the table while still playing the piano with both hands. Addressing the audience, Helbock said they were Austrian, but the famous alp horn was too large to bring on the plane. So Bär duplicated the sound with a coiled hose and a tuba mouthpiece, and was joined by Broger on trumpet. The sound they created turned out to be an introduction to saxophonist Paul Desmond
's famous "Take Five" (associated with pianist Dave Brubeck
). Broger played the head on tenor saxophone, switching to soprano saxophone for the bridge. When Helbock finally introduced the classic piano accompaniment riff the performance took off like a carousel ride.
This group is really something special. Three remarkable musicians who create a kaleidoscope of sound, and are visually entertaining to boot.
Joshua Redman Quartet/Alex Lefaivre YUL Quartet
Bass guitarist Alex Lefaivre
's YUL Quartet was nominated for the TD Grand Jazz Award (which is awarded to young Canadian jazz artists), which gave the group the unenviable task of opening for the beloved Joshua Redman Quartet. They are a contemporary jazz band made up of Erik Hove
(alto saxophone), Nicolas Ferron (guitar), Mark Nelson
(drums) and the leader on electric bass & compositions. After their opening tune, which had a distinct ECM vibe, he acknowledged as much, asking the audience "are you looking forward to hearing Joshua Redman as much as I am?" They then launched into a very creative interpretation of the theme from filmmaker John Carpenter's horror film Halloween
. Beginning with the creepy themewhich the crowd immediately recognizedthe arrangement opened up into an improvisational vehicle. They closed their brief set with a sort-of ballad, again with that rhythmic feeling of ECM-style rubato. Joshua Redman
was presented with the Miles Davis Award (which honors a great international jazz musician for the entire body of their work and influence in regenerating the jazz idiom) by Festival co-founder and Artistic Director André Ménard before his set. Both men managed to mix up the names of Redman with his father Dewey Redman
, who was responsible for Joshua's first appearance at the festival in 1991. After remarking on the physical weight of the award statue ("how am I going to get this thing home?"), Redman was happy to get on with the performance.
Much of the song list came from the quartet's current album Come What May
(Nonesuch Records, 2019), the third in the group's twenty-year history. Redman played a long unaccompanied tenor saxophone introduction to "Circle Of Life," before the group launched into its long-line theme. At times the music almost sounded through-composed, with seamless transitions from written to improvised. It was the first indication of just how attuned these players are to each other, with perhaps an additional boost from the attentive audience and the occasion. "How We Do" moved from a start-and-stop theme into fast swing, and kept that contrast going throughout the solos.
Redman paused to announce the songs and introduce the band members, saying that he had played more gigs with these three players than any others in his career. He also complimented all of the Canadians present on the Toronto Raptors' first NBA championship, commenting "you just get one." "Come What May" featured a lyrical (and bluesy) double bass solo from Reuben Rogers
. An Aaron Goldberg
original began with his unaccompanied piano. Even after the rest of the rhythm section joined the arrangement stayed fluid: after more piano solo with light percussion only, the trio returned, finally leading into an unaccompanied drum solo by Gregory Hutchinson
Legendary bebop saxophonist Charlie Parker
's "Chi Chi" displayed the band's bebop prowess. At one point it dropped back to a piano/bass duet, and the climax found the whole band trading fours with the drums. The standard "Skylark" featured another long unaccompanied saxophone introduction, perhaps recalling the great Sonny Rollins
. "Stagger Bear" (named after a weird dream Redman had about a drunk teddy bear) was opened by the bass, and featured saxophone and piano trading fours. For an encore the group returned with a Swing-era jazz standard.
A remarkable performance, highlighting the trust and generosity these players have developed over the years. There was always room for surprise, for players and audience alike.