The Guelph Jazz Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary from September 3 to 8, 2013. New this year is a “World Artist Summit”, which will include improvisers from France, India, South Korea, Australia, Norway, Sweden, Turkey, Morocco, Brazil, the US, and Canada - including Ottawa.
In a world where jazz festivals have become increasingly similar, the Guelph festival's unwavering artistic vision - implemented by focused music programming, a wide-ranging academic, yet accessible, colloquium, and an adventurous and packed Nuit Blanche - continues to sustain this festival as one of the more interesting and creative music festivals in Canada.
Highly-respected musicians who were not heard during 'cross-Canada jazz festival week' at the end of June/start of July will headline Guelph this year. Tenor legend Pharoah Sanders will play in two ensembles led by Rob Mazurek: The Chicago Underground Duo on September 7 and the São Paulo Underground on September 8. Sanders, reportedly described by Ornette Coleman as "probably the best tenor player in the world" is a notable pioneer in free jazz.
As the other part of the September 7 double bill, trumpet player and Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) stalwart, Wadada Leo Smith, will present an expansive jazz work that memorializes 10 key moments in the history of civil rights in America, fusing composed and improvised passages into powerful, eloquent music. The piece, “Ten Freedom Summers,” won the 2013 Pulitzer Music prize.
To celebrate its anniversary, the Guelph jazzfest starts a day early this year on Tuesday, September 3, with a “World Percussion Summit”. It's a one-of-kind improvising percussion quartet. Members include Ottawa's Juno-winning percussionist and improviser Jesse Stewart, jazz and world music virtuoso Hamid Drake, Dong-Won Kim, from South Korea, well-known for his work with Yo-Yo Ma in the Silk Road Ensemble and master of the Jang-go and other Korean percussion instruments, and India's Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, the man described as "the living legend of the tabla".
Stewart and Drake played together for the first time in two sold-out concerts in March 2013 at Ottawa's GigSpace. [watch our video interview with Drake and clips from the concert]. The audiences' enthusiastic reaction to that concert suggests that the World Percussion Summit will be compelling. The festival has brought multiple percussionists together before, including one concert in the University of Guelph's library in 2010, where three drummers, including Stewart, interpreted a graphical score before a rapt audience [view photo].
At this festival, artists are frequently put together in multiple, different combinations. It's a great way to allow listeners to discover more about skilled improvisers, especially after they have travelled halfway around the globe.
Hamid Drake will also perform with Montreal-based pianist Marianne Trudel. She returns to the festival this year for a world premiere collaboration with bassist William Parker, who is influential in the New York City experimental jazz scene. Parker, “possibly the patron saint” of the festival, played in four diverse groups in 2011. See 2011 Guelph Jazz Festival: Tilting, and Plimley-Parker-Martin
Drake will also be heard with fellow Chicago musician and flutist Nicole Mitchell in the Indigo Trio collective. Mitchell was awarded the DownBeat Critics Poll and the Jazz Journalists Association Flutist of the year in 2012 and 2013. Her music “celebrates African American culture while reaching across genres and integrating new ideas with moments in the legacy of jazz, gospel, experimentalism, pop and African percussion.”
Guelph's own Matt Brubeck, who has impressed Ottawa audiences with his cello playing in the John Geggie Series, and more recently in the Juno-awarded Stretch Orchestra performance and AlphaSoul jams, makes multiple appearances. As the second part of the Indigo Trio double bill, he will perform a solo cello concert in the wonderfully resonant St. George's Church sanctuary. OttawaJazzScene.ca favourably reviewed two other solo concerts in this space last year: The gift of reverberation: Colin Stetson and Ben Grossman at the Guelph Jazz Festival.
Brubeck will also join Australian jazz saxophonist and composer Sandy Evans, and Indian tabla maestro Pandit Anindo Chatterjee for a world premiere. Evans has studied South Indian Classical music extensively, as she says “striving to develop a deeper understanding of the essence of the Carnatic musical system to create new music that respects the depth and beauty of both jazz and Carnatic music.”. (Quest)
The Scandinavian quintet Atomic satisfied Ottawa Jazz Festival audiences in 2011. Part of a double bill in Guelph, they will bring their “unique blend of acoustic free-bop, blending adventurous improvisation with virtuoso writing and arrangements” to the festival. They'll be followed by the young Norwegian Moskus Trio, making their North American debut, with influences from Paul and Carla Bley to avant-rock bands.
Japanese pianist/composer Satoko Fujii brings trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and two musicians from the French improvisers' collective Muzzix, trumpeter Christian Pruvost and drummer Peter Orins, to present her latest project of free jazz with unusual instrumentation, Kaze. Described as “twists and turns, noise followed by lyrical beauty; nuanced percussion followed by powerhouse drumming; and wild cacophonies that lead into introspective solo slots” (Dan McClenaghan, AAJ), the project has received considerable critical acclaim.
Closer to home, there are some unusual musical projects to be heard too. Fiddle, tabla, and banjo played with Celtic, Swedish, Indian and jazz influences? Catch the Oolong 7. Guelph past faves Tim Posgate and Ravi Naimpally join up with Fiddle player Jaimie McClyment and Neil Hendry.
The Improviser-in-residence at Musagetes/Improvisation, Community and Social Practice (ICASP), Rich Marsella, will conclude his summer's work with Rimsky-Korsakov's “Scheherazade”. Guelph kids of all abilities will bring his rearranged orchestral classic to life as "a concerto for electric guitar, with as many interesting ensembles as possible to help colour the arrangement.
"Ensemble Supermusique brings together a supergroup of veteran Montreal improvisers (Joane Hétu & Jean Derome on woodwinds, Guido del Fabbro on violin, Danielle Palardy Roger on percussion, Martin Tétreault on turntables, Nicolas Caloïa on double bass, Guillaume Dostaler on piano, Nemo Venba on trumpet, Scott Thomson on trombone, Pierre Tanguay on drums, Lori Freedman on bass clarinet, and Bernard Falaise on guitar) in powerful mixtures of large group composition, improvisation and "musique actuelle", to present the composition "Pour ne pas désespérer seul : Not to Despair Alone." Scott Thomson and Lori Freedman are known to Ottawa listeners, having being popular at IMOOfest and IMOO concerts in the past year. Others in group have played in the last few years at Guelph.
Free public concerts will run again on Saturday, from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. Expect some fresh new sounds you won't hear at many other other festivals. Joined by accomplished jazz musicians Kevin Turcotte on trumpet, Rob Mosher on woodwinds, Joe Phillips on bass, and Nick Fraser on drums, Juno award-winning Jayme Stone will play banjo music like you've never heard it before. Isaiah Farahbakhsh (Guelph) brings classical and the jazz traditions, with pop music and free improvisation influences to create hybrid solo cello music quite unlike anything you've ever heard. And those are but two of the seven free concerts. Nuit Blanche will include even more free musical and other performances, art installations and activities; they will be announced on July 22.
Ottawa's Souljazz Orchestra will play what's sure to be a fiery performance in the downstairs hall at St. George's Church at midnight on Saturday.
For those who endeavour to enjoy, and survive all of Nuit Blanche, from dusk until 7 a.m. and are awake again by 2 p.m. Sunday, the 20th Guelph Jazz Festival will close on September 8 with a new, commissioned work by percussionist and composer Jesse Stewart. He has performed at all but one year of the festival. Playing percussion with the Penderecki String Quartet, a chamber ensemble that champions music of our time and has performed a wide range of repertoire from Haydn to Zappa, Stewart will present his premiere of “Gnomon Variations”.
The free academic colloquium which takes place during the first three days of the festival will have the World Artist focus as its theme this year; details will be announced later.
With top-calibre musicians coming from around the world, it would be disappointing to have to choose one over another because of concurrent concerts. For its 20th anniversary, the Guelph Jazz Festival has sensibly chosen quality over quantity. Performances run serially (except possibly during Nuit Blanche) so that listeners need not make frustrating choices. The less frantic pace allows listeners to appreciate all the innovative music that this distinctive festival has to offer, in the context of the small-city feel which is so much part of its experience.
– Brett Delmage
View the full 2013 schedule and more details about the music at the Guelph Jazz Festival website.
You can hear music by musicians performing at the Guelph Jazz Festival on Ron Sweetman's In a Mellow Tone (in the CKCU FM On Demand archives until September 3)