Toronto Jazz Festival 2007

Alain Londes By

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For this project the focus was on going to the next level by stressing a groovier and edgier direction. "Hanuman exemplified just those qualities in the opening number to set the stage for the evening. For the whole evening, Scofield was standing slightly to the left of the other musicians to show non-verbally that they were two separate entities, but music was very much in unison and the fun chemistry was there for all to see. The mainly younger audience responded very enthusiastically throughout the show and couldn't resist the head boppin' effect of a hard-grooving number like "Little Walter Rides Again. Such a tune has a clear reference to the Miles Davis bands from the Amandla and Tutu projects of the jazz great's fusion years.

The mood shifted with "Tequila and Chocolate with it's easy samba-bossa feel preceded by Chris Wood's flamenco-like bass lines. Medeski used the keyboards to effectively play accordion-sounding melodies over the piece. He and Scofield complemented each other very well in the melodic progressions. For the most part the group as a whole transitioned from one tune to the next by slowing down progressively to Scofield's notes before picking things up again. For the soft-sounding ballad "Julia, Chris Wood switched to a standing bass. After 90 minutes, the audience showed it would enjoy more music by the group, as there was no opening act. They had certainly heard a rich variety of sounds from funk, blues, jazz rock, and a hint of Brazilian.

United Trombone Summit

An audience spanning many generations were treated to an impressive collection of trombone players, the United Trombone Summit, led by Slide Hampton. The four top-of-the line musicians, kicked things off with Kurt Weil's beautiful "Speak Low. The group took it up a notch with the busy 'The Groove Blues and proceeded to play what they call a "Romance Medley, with each featured artist playing one chorus of a song. Fred Wesley started it off with Rodgers and Hart's "My Romance, followed by Steve Turre with Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood," Slide Hampton with Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine, and ending with Wycliffe Gordon. As a one-time bandleader for James Brown and part of the JB Horns, Wesley was the object of the band's attention on Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon, an acknowledgement of the erstwhile trombonist-leader's R&B/funk roots. The horns were backed by a solid rhythm section, with Corcoran Holt on bass, Luke O'Reilly on piano and Howard Franklin Jr. on drums. Closing the 80-minute set was the fast- tempo favorite by Ray Noble, "Cherokee, always ideal for horn instruments.

L:R Steve Turre, Wycliffe Gordon, Slide Hampton, and Fred Wesley

Roy Hargrove Quintet

If that was not enough to get pulses speeding, the Roy Hargrove Quintet hit the stage for the second part of the show. In order to produce his identifiable loud and crisp sound, Hargrove used his distinctive Monette trumpet and flugelhorn. A good representative piece of this group's style and energy was the original "Camaraderie from the latest album "Nothing Serious that gave all musicians a good workout thanks to the fast tempo. Montez Coleman, a real machine on drums, was joined by Gerald Payton on piano and Danton Boller on bass to complete the rhythm section. These guys are all relatively young, yet so talented. Joining Hargrove up front was Justin Robinson on alto sax. Especially with a frontline of trumpet and alto, this smokin' band truly represented the spirit of bebop's giants, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.

A stylish addition to our premier jazz festival has to be the Grandmasters Series. The Four Seasons Centre For The Performing Arts was only too happy to reach out to the community for other cultural events. Jazz is a perfect art form that offers wonderful possibilities to our city's new stage. Dave Brubeck and his regular quartet had first honours in the more acoustically sensitive hall following the much younger singer-pianist Laila Biali with bassist George Koller and drummer Larnell Lewis. Herbie Hancock followed suit with Chris Potter on tenor sax, Vinnie Coliauta on drums, and Nathan East on electric bass.

Keith Jarrett Trio

The major highlight of this year's festival within the Grandmasters Series was the Keith Jarrett Trio. The location was ideal for a group of this caliber free from distractions of an open-air context. Before striking the first note, Jarrett ensured that his seat was 18 ½ inches from the Steinway piano in a humorous moment. It was all business after that, and what a show it was with two sets of pure music. In a recent interview clip heard on amazon.com, Jarrett admitted that a jazz musician should perform as if it might be the last time. You should not play as if you have all the time in the world. You should be faster than your insecurity when facing audience expectations as an "audience may have the wrong impression of what you are about to play. This philosophy was very evident from the evening's performance, and demonstrated the joys of a musical relationship that is fresher as ever.

The trio trio plays with the acute sensitivity to dynamics and ensemble tightness that you would expect from a group that's been playing together for 24 years. Gary Peacock showcased varied bass riffs, with Jack DeJohnette appropriately using just the right touch to orchestrate his partners melodic ideas on drums and cymbals. Both provided the ideal counterpoint to Jarrett's harmonic permutations and phrasings. The sound was well balanced whether the trio was playing an easy-tempoed "Yesterdays by Jerome Kern or a light swinging blues.

The pianist selected two melodic songs from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story—"Tonight and "Somewhere"—at times hunching over the piano keys or standing but always taking great care at playing and savoring every note to perfection. The meticulous notes during quieter moments felt like delicate leaves or light raindrops reaching the ground with the audience quietly savoring each. Jarrett nodded after each tune in appreciation to the receptive audience and in acknowledgement that the trio was in top form. The smiles among the musicians showed how much they enjoyed their improvisational journey over melodies that they know very well. A well-deserved standing ovation followed, as the enthusiastic crowd, not to be denied an encore, was rewarded with two—the last one a Jarrett favorite, Victor Young's "When I Fall in Love."


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