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Guelph Jazz Festival: Guelph, Canada, September 7-11, 2011

Guelph Jazz Festival: Guelph, Canada, September 7-11, 2011
Sara Villa By

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Guelph Jazz Festival, Colloquium & Nuit Blanche
Guelph, Canada
September 7-11, 2011
As Prez used to say, if you are a good improviser you are able to tell a soulful story. What happens, then, when some of the most experimental improvisers from Canada, Australia, Norway, and England (among the others) are involved in a four-day kermesse, including an all-night long nuit blanche, filled with experimental performances?
The single story, then, becomes a complex, intertwined narrative of individual tales, a patchwork of signatures as mystical as the bass notes of William Parker coupled with the 70-people Element choir, directed by Christine Duncan, or as minimalist as The Necks' 65-minute, stream-of-consciousness, single-piece set.
Such diversity, mixed with the equally heterogeneous nature of the academic colloquium surrounding the jazz performances (this year the multiple panels were dedicated to the theme "Sound Practices: Improvisation, Representation and Intermediality") has made of the Guelph Jazz Festival the 2010 winner of the Premier's Award for Exellence in the Arts. And this year the program was another exciting array of innovative collaborations, such as the Paul Pimley, William Parker and Gerry Hemingway trio, and established, all-Canadian formations, like Marianne Trudel's Septet, bringing together musicians from Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec for a musical project composed by Trudel herself in honor of her friends and colleagues.


The Rent

Following the path traced by composer and musician Steve Lacy, The Rent—a young, enthusiastic jazz band from Ontario, featuring soprano saxophonist Kyle Brenders, drummer Nick Fraser, double-bassist Wes Neal, trombonist Scott Thomson and vocalist and dancer Susanna Hood—presented a series of jazz poetry performances and scat-sung arrangements of Lacy compositions, disclosing once again the naturalness with which certain poems inform compositions such as "A Ring of Bone" and metamorphose through free-flowing vocals into the purely sonic nature of a musical composition.

The harmony of this formation resided in the instinctive ways that Brenders, Thomson and Hood dialogued, almost a cappella, with the subtle rhythmical texture realized by Fraser and Neal. A clear example of such mirroring was evident in the syncopated, half-cut breaths of "Multidimensional," when Blaga Dimitrova's lines ("The world is multidimensional and that gives us headaches. We want it to be monochrome so it can be clear"), sung by Hood with a melodic counterpart by Brenders and Thomson, were heightened by the ironically repetitive tip-tapping accents of both Neal and Fraser.


Tilting—Nicholas Caloia Quartet

Nicolas Caloia entered onstage, with his bow stemming from a back pocket, almost like a sword. But it was soon clear that the piercing nature of the double-bassist's style stemmed from dexterity rather than violence: it was the capability of passing from a crescendo of pizzicato, exquisitely reinforced by Isaiah Ceccarelli's fast- paced rimshots, to a sad, meditative moment of low, bowed notes, embraced by the metallic whispers of Jean Derome, on woodwinds, and by the essentialist touch of pianist Guillaume Dostaler.


William Parker


Some of the most interesting passages of the whole set were those centered on instrumental metamorphoses: Ceccarelli started by focusing on the melodic nature of the cymbals, while Derome replied with more percussive riffs on his bass flute. It was clear that these musicians were an open window on Montréal's jazz and especially free improvisational scene grown around the tradition of the Ensemble de Musique Improvisée de Montréal. Discovering and enhancing the least expected sonorities from an instrument represented a key avant-gardist signature which left a sediment of this shared background and history, enriching the most individual vocabulary of the solos with the trace of an established collective matrix.


Paul Pimley, William Parker and Jean Martin

A surprise trio, featuring pianist Paul Pimley, bassist William Parker and drummer Jean Martin. Parker, a Guelph festival aficionado, exploited the possibilities offered by playing his double-bass, at times, with two bows simultaneously, with an esthetic V that extended from his hand, embracing the bridge of his instrument. In the midst of the set the sonic result of such gesture was a meditative, mantra-like series of choruses, their vibrations heightened by the circular movements of his bows.

Martin replied by finger-tapping his snare drum, radicalizing the meditative, ritualistic roots of his percussive role, while at the same time allowing the bass to resonate as the lead voice of this climax. Pimley entererd the transcendent sonic texture of the section by letting his hands caress the piano from within, making it whisper metallic, prayer-like sighs.

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