October 5th marked the start of the 2018 edition of Jazz Sur Son 31
and its neighbouring towns. If jazz is part of Toulouse's DNA, a good reminder of this comes from the legacy of one the city's most popular artists, the singer Claude Nougaro who immortalised his hometown in the ballad "O Toulouse." "Serait-ce dans tes tripes une bulle de jazz?" Is that jazz bubbling in your gut, asks Nougaro. He felt it at the time and it's still the case today. It may not be on too many people's radar, but Toulouse has a thriving local scene. It boasts several top-quality music schools (the university even offers a degree in jazz and improvised music) and as a result has a significant reservoir of local talent. The ongoing success of festivals in the region (Jazz in Marciac
being the most high-profile one) has helped cultivate an eager audience and create a sustained ecosystem in which musicians can meet and play. Today Toulouse and the south west represent significant hubs in the otherwise very Paris-centric French landscape.
The life of a musician today inevitably involves constant moving around, from town to town, and festival to festival, so it must always feel satisfying to get to play on home turf. Assuming the role of ambassadors for the Pink City's local scene was the homegrown trio led by pianist Amaury Faye
. They presented music from their previous release, Clearway
(2017), as well as compositions (all original) from their latest album. This will be part of a series of live recordings in 5 European capitals, to be released over the next 5 years. Faye moved to Brussels
(where the first album was recorded) in 2015 after graduating from Berklee School of Music. Today he leads his own trio and is also involved in saxophonist David Haudrechy's successful Initiative H project, as well as Giuseppe Millaci
's Vogue Trio.
The piano trio is a classic format in the jazz world, and any young bud will be aware of those who tried the waters before them and reshaped the trio concept. At times sounding right in the tradition of Bill Evans
, at times going for Brad Mehldau
-like lyrical ruminations, at others verging on the minimalist trip-hop sound of GoGo Penguin
, the group offered an exciting blend of old and new. Inspired rhythmic modulations from drummer Guillaume Prévost, anchored by Louis Navarro
's composed bass, gave Faye plenty of room to elaborate his improvisational craft, and he showed he was equally at ease playing ballads, earthy grooves, or straight-ahead post-bop. There will undoubtedly have been some connoisseurs in the room, excited to see the prodigal son's return, but for many this would have been their first introduction to the 27-year-old. And no doubt they would quickly have realised: this guy is going places.
If Faye is the son, then Detroit drummer Ali Jackson
is surely the adopted son. He's known south-western France for quite some time now. Indeed, as a long-standing member of the Wynton Marsalis
quintet and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
, he's a very familiar face to audiences at the Marciac Jazz festival. The trumpeter, who's the festival's main patron, performs there twice a year. But Jackson is now also a full-time resident of the pink city. The reason, as Aaron Goldberg
enthusiastically revealed to the room half-way through their trio's set, is because Jackson's son was recruited to play professionally for the Blagnac (a Toulouse suburb) youth soccer team. He's been warmly received by Jazz sur son 31, who offered him a four-night residency to showcase some of his current projects.
The Ali Jackson "Yes! Trio" is one of his latest international projects featuring Aaron Goldberg on piano and Omer Avital
on double-bass. The three have been performing together since the early nineties in New York City
, and their mutual understanding is evident. With the kind of fluid, responsive communication that makes for the best kind of improvised music, they balanced quiet ballads, nifty blues and post-bop expressionism into a cohesive ensemble. Jackson plays with an infectious enthusiasm and frequent touches of humour. Displaying an uncanny versatility on the drum kit to make subtle rhythmic overlays, he created stirring grooves which meshed marvellously with Goldberg's intricate harmonic narratives. Avital was given many opportunities to shine and indulged the audience with some superbly inventive solos that jumped between both extremes of his dynamic range, to great effect. Of particular note was his solo on their cover of Jackie McLean
's "Dr Jekyll" (popularised by Miles Davis