Wadada Leo Smith and the Golden Quartet
Ten Freedom Summers
Main Stage, River Run Centre
Guelph Jazz Festival
Saturday, September 7, 2013 – 8 p.m.
The story of the American civil rights movement is stirring, tragic, and full of hope. All those emotions are reflected in Wadada Leo Smith's massive and eloquent work, Ten Freedom Summers, part of which he performed at the 2013 Guelph Jazz Festival.
And that took 90 very intense minutes. The full work takes three evenings to perform, and has been recorded on a four-CD set.
But even hearing only four of the pieces still gave the Guelph audience a feel for the beauty of this composition, and how potent it was in performance.
Ten Freedom Summers memorializes key moments in the history of civil rights in the United States, from 1954 to 1964. Its subjects range from Rosa Parks to Emmett Till, from President John F. Kennedy's New Frontier to Thurgood Marshall to Martin Luther King, Jr. It's a collection of suites; each stands alone, but they can be played together or in different combinations.
The day before the concert, Smith told an audience at the jazz festival's colloquium that he wrote the first suite in 1977. It was the story of Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist who was a big hero to blacks in Mississippi, where Smith grew up. He composed it in response to a request by jazz violinist Leroy Jenkins for a piece to perform at an Italian jazz festival, and it gave him the opportunity to explore themes which he had been ruminating about for several years.
And then, as he researched those events, he said he found that some of the most important speeches in the history of civil rights were improvised – relating right back to the type of music he had been playing for decades, within and outside the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) to which he and Jenkins both belonged.
It was an ordinary Thursday morning at the Guelph Jazz Festival. Academics, musicians, and listeners were crowded into a small meeting room to listen to talks about Intercultural Musical Exchange, all part of the festival's academic colloquium.
And then several people, new to the colloquium, crowded into the room, taking the most disruptive routes possible to find empty seats and disturbing the crowd. Not much later, the same people started to interrupt speaker Sandy Evans, asking her edged questions and challenging what she was saying. Evans took the interruptions gracefully and answered them as best she could, but after several interruptions, the audience became edgy, and asked the interruptors to stop. This being Canada, it was all smoothed over eventually, but it was odd and unexpected – not the warm and respectful feel normally seen in those sessions.
Fast forward to Friday, mid-morning, to what was supposed to be a “Rapporteur Summary Session and Performance”. Pianist Marianne Trudel and drummer Hamid Drake started playing, and the same people interrupted again, even more in-your-face.
In April, 2013, three Ottawa singers created a tribute concert to two iconic female jazz singers: Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. OttawaJazzScene.ca was at the sold-out concert with our video production team, and we interviewed the singers afterwards.
They used Ella and Billie's appearance at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival – within two days of each other – and the classic recording that renowned producer Norman Granz made of those Newport performances as a jumping-off point for the concert.
Recreating the repertoire of those Newport concerts, Karen Oxorn, Nicole Ratté, and Dominique Forest brought back some of the greatest vocal jazz hits of the era.
Our video features excerpts from the concert, and the singers' explanation of their reaction to the songs and the concert.
The vocalists will perform the show again this Sunday at Merrickville's Jazzfest.
Some of these musicians will appear at the IMOO Ensemble SuperMusique concert at Club SAW on Sunday, October 20.
It isn't every musical performance or workshop where listeners have to get out of their seats not just to dance, but to follow the musicians around the building so they can still hear them play.
Listeners, walls, and ceilings became performing partners in the post-lunch musical performance at Guelph Jazz Festival's academic colloquium on Friday, September 6. The music commenced as it usually does, on the main stage space of the Macdonald Stewart Arts Centre (MSAC). Festival Artistic Director Ajay Heble switched hats (while still retaining his signature black beret), taking position at the piano instead of his usual listening post among the audience.
Before long, one musician investigated the ability of the gallery's drywall to modify the sound of his horn. Another walked among seated listeners with his trombone to create a moving point of sound.
Bassist William Parker – one of the most inventive and expressive avant-garde jazz musicians today – told an audience at the 2013 Guelph Jazz Festival that the core of music cannot be taught.
Jazz musicians – and others – can use the music of their great progenitors, he said, but it will end up being their own sound. “To go into the core of the music involves what we call the self-sound of the musicians playing.”
Parker was giving a keynote talk on September 5 at the festival's colloquium. Entitled “Sound as a Medicinal Herb: Creative Music 61 Years in Transition”, his talk ranged widely over many musical topics. He has had a long and fruitful connection with the Guelph Jazz Festival and performed in several concerts during the five days of the 2013 festival.
In 2012, Parker led a project celebrating the music of Duke Ellington, including dates in the U.S. and Europe. The project's concert in Milano was recorded for a CD, Essence of Ellington [Centering Records, 2012].
“Now when we played that music, we cannot play Ellington's music the way Ellington played it. Maybe we shouldn't have been playing Ellington's music at all, but I did it because my father liked Ellington.”
Guelph Market Square (outdoors)
Guelph Jazz Festival
Saturday, September 7, 2013 – 2:30 p.m.
Montreal trio Bomata plays melodic mainstream jazz – with surprises. Led by Jean Félix Mailloux on double bass, it features a less-usual instrumentation: Guillaume Bourque on clarinet and bass clarinet, and Patrick Graham on drumset and a wide variety of percussion instruments. Ottawa audiences may remember Graham's range of textures from his appearance with Trifolia with Marianne Trudel at the 2013 Ottawa jazz festival, and his earlier collaborations with Jesse Stewart.
Their hour-long concert on the Guelph Jazz Festival's outdoor stage on a Saturday afternoon attracted a reasonably large and quite attentive crowd, who heard eight originals from the trio's two albums. The group showed considerable inventiveness in styles and rhythms, and demonstrated a fine blending of different tonal qualities; the deep notes from Bourque's bass clarinet melded well with Mailloux's full-bodied bass riffs. Graham added an adventurous quality with his frequent shifts among instruments, including an extended solo on kanjira and another on frame drum.
Overall, the trio's warm, all-acoustic sound was a delight to listen to: too interesting to be called mellow, but easily approachable by even peripheral jazz or world music listeners.
Satoko Fujii and Kaze
Cooperators Hall, River Run Centre
Guelph Jazz Festival
Saturday, September 7, 2013 – 10:30 a.m.
What kind of music would you expect at 10:30 on a Saturday morning?
As soon as I saw this ensemble – one pianist, one drummer, and two trumpeters – I figured this was not going to be your typical jazz show, not even your typical free jazz show. But the Japanese-French collaboration within Kaze produced some empathetic and kinetic music, with all the musicians working to support each other.
Which isn't surprising, given the intertwining connections within the group.
The best-known member of the quartet is Japanese pianist/composer Satoko Fujii. She and French drummer Peter Orins flanked two trumpeters: Natsuki Tamura from Japan and Christian Pruvost from France. Fujii and Tamura are not only married to each other; they've also recorded and performed together in ensembles ranging from duos on upwards. Orins and Pruvost also have long-standing ties: they both belong to the French improvisers’ collective Muzzix.
The four have been playing together since 2010, and have released two albums: Rafale (2011) and just recently, Tornado (2013). However, no composition names were announced during this concert, so it was not clear which, if any, of the pieces from those albums were included, or whether the concert was strictly free improv.
This tour (which covered Boston, Portland (Maine), and California, as well as Montreal and Guelph) was also the first time that Orins and Pruvost had played in North America – surprising given the quality of musicianship and originality they displayed in this hour-long concert.
Pianist Steve Boudreau and guitarist Garry Elliott will formally release their first duo CD, Pre-Dawn Skies, at a concert at GigSpace this Saturday. A project almost two years in the making, it's a thoughtful album of quiet, introspective, and highly melodic jazz, containing originals written by each of them.
Pre-Dawn Skies reflects more than 15 years of friendship based on similar musical tastes and the ability to bring out the best in each other's compositions. And given how closely both are tied to this city, perhaps it reflects bit of Ottawa, too.
Elliott has been an important part of Ottawa's jazz and classical scenes for decades. Originally from St. Lambert Quebec, "I came to the University of Ottawa when I was 20 and I just stayed."
Boudreau grew up in Ottawa and took his first music degree at Carleton University. He spent two years studying for his Masters at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, and has been on the road with traveling musicals for a good part of the last few years, but otherwise has lived here, playing both jazz and classical, augmented by the occasional Beach Boys rethink.
Alayne McGregor interviewed Boudreau and Elliott together in September for OttawaJazzScene.ca. It was immediately obvious how comfortable they were with each other. They completed each other's sentences, annotated the other's statements, and easily made each other laugh.
That extends to their music too. They performed a short preview of the album at the Ottawa Jazz Festival this June, along with bassist John Geggie and drummer Jeff Asselin, who will also be with them at GigSpace. The music easily flowed among the four, and kept the attention of a capacity audience in the normally noisy and busy Rideau Centre.
This is an edited version of our conversation. It started at the beginning of their relationship:
Hamid Drake and Jesse Stewart
St. George's Church (Mitchell Hall)
Guelph Jazz Festival
Friday, September 6, 2013 - 11:30 p.m.
Hamid Drake and Jesse Stewart share a creative imagination which allows them to hear rhythms and create interesting sounds from unexpected sources – which became clear at their late night duo concert at the 2013 Guelph Jazz Festival.
The two percussionists, Drake from Chicago, Stewart from Ottawa (and formerly Guelph), played in a basement church hall to an almost-capacity audience. Their two drumsets sat closely beside each other on a low stage, surrounded by a wide range of other percussion instruments within easy reach.
Drake and Stewart first met at the Guelph Jazz Festival a decade ago, but their first concerts together didn't happen until last March in Ottawa. Those shows were so successful – standing ovations and the two drummers grinning at each other at the end in perfect happiness – that they decided to repeat the experience in Guelph.
It was a Guelph Jazz Festival performance of epic proportions.
Friendly Rich Marsella brought together 1001 Arabian Nights, more than 17 musicians, kids of all abilities, a church full of listeners, some uncommon instruments, musical theatre, and balloons. He put a new face and sound on Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade for the symphony's 125 birthday and the Guelph Jazz Festival's 20th anniversary.
The spectacle was the highlight of a summer of rehearsals and instrument-building driven by Marsella's work as Improviser-in-Residence at Musagetes/Improvisation, Community and Social Practice (ICASP), the close academic partner of the festival.
Friendly Rich's Scheherazade again demonstrated the wonderful performances that can be created by enthusiastic professional and amateur artists of all ages and abilities working together, motivated by the festival's core commitment to community engagement.
The free noon-time concert on September 7 filled the sanctuary of St. George's, one of the largest churches in Guelph, right up to its vaulted ceiling, and kept listeners listening, laughing, and totally engaged with music and theatre designed for all ages.
– Brett Delmage
Tell us: Which Canadian jazz performers do you think the NAC should feature in 2014-15?
Performing at the National Arts Centre still carries a great deal of prestige – especially if you're in a series like NAC Presents.
Now in its third year, that series “celebrates the best of Canada on the national stage by showcasing Canadian legends of all music genres as well as the icons of the future.” And obviously when it includes musical icons like Ian Tyson or Robert Charlebois or Diana Krall or Phil Nimmons, the series is doing its job.
But is it doing a good job of showcasing jazz or supporting a full range of Canadian jazz musicians?
The 2013-14 series lineup announced last week did have a better balance between jazz vocalists and instrumentalists than in previous years. But it didn't include many mainstream jazz artists who who could draw good crowds, or whose careers are starting to take off and could use the Ottawa boost.
There are many prominent Canadian jazz musicians who are currently touring and/or have new projects – and haven't reached Ottawa yet – whom the NAC might want to present.
Let's throw out a few names:
- More Saturday night jazz at AlphaSoul Café
- Guelph 2013: Espousing music of the moment (review)
- NAC Presents instrumental jazz in its 2013-14 program
- Nick Fraser's CD is full of resonances
- Guelph 2013: Matt Brubeck pushes the cello's boundaries in a solo concert (review)
- Guelph 2013: The Indigo Trio soars and leaves the audience exalted (review)
- Steve Boudreau's back, with a new solo CD
- Adam Daudrich celebrates the tradition of the jazz piano trio with his own new music
- William Parker and Ken Aldcroft: subtle textures which filled the room (review)
- L'OFF Festival in Montreal and Le Festival de Jazz de Quebec announce lineups for October
- Guelph 2013: World Percussion Summit breaks the borders of rhythm (review)
- Jesse Stewart's Gnomon Variations a timely arrival for 20th Guelph Jazzfest
- Cool and groovin' - with gelato
- The Montreal Jazz Festival pays an upbeat tribute to Dave Brubeck (review)
- Orchestre national de jazz Montréal scores with Joni Mitchell tribute (review)
- Jayme Stone melds chamber music, jazz, and bit of bluegrass into an intricate whole (review)
- The Lemon Bucket Orkestra: a dancing good time (review)
- Phil Dwyer and Don Thompson celebrate the long-lasting beauty of standards (review)
- Second annual IMOOfest in November
- Paul Tynan sees different big band styles on each side of the border
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