Hutchinson Andrew Trio
Scène TD de la place des Festivals
Montreal Jazz Festival
Friday, July 5, 2013 – 6 p.m.

The Hutchinson Andrew Trio brought their brand of melodic, open, Prairie jazz to Central Canada, and walked off with the 2013 Grand Prix de Jazz at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

The trio – Kodi Hutchinson on double bass, Chris Andrew on piano, Karl Schwonik on drums – opened the Ottawa Jazz Festival on June 20 on its main stage and also played at Brookstreet Hotel. On July 1, they played on an outdoor stage at the Montreal festival in competition for the award, and on July 5, repeated that show – with big grins – as the winner.

Kodi Hutchinson (bass) at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival jam. ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Kodi Hutchinson (bass) at the 2013 Ottawa Jazz Festival jam. ©Brett Delmage, 2013
The three are all from Alberta – the first band from that province since 1998 to win the Grand Prix award. Although they have played Ottawa and Montreal before in different combinations, this was their first chance to showcase material from a new album, Prairie Modern [Chronograph, 2013]. As Hutchinson told the audience Friday evening, several of the pieces talked about “where we're from – just imagine you're sitting on top of a mountain.”

The Friday show also featured Montreal saxophonist André Leroux, whose rich and intense sound on tenor and soprano sax complemented the trio. On Andrew's composition “Waltz for Clay”, Leroux began the piece with a slow, eloquent line on soprano, bringing out the song's theme of remembrance and sadness. After a quiet bass solo, he reentered for a longer exploration of the theme, Andrew replied on piano, and they ended the piece in unison.

“Wilds”, a romantic ballad with classical influences, started the show on the quieter side. “The Realm” began with heavy chords and deep bass riff over which Leroux's tenor soared in an evocative line, and then evolved into a more insistent rhythm. Andrew upped the pace even more with rippling notes up and down the keyboard, and Schwonik responded with an echoing drum solo, making each note count. As all reentered, it became more jagged and sparse before ending.

About 25 minutes in, the rain which had been threatening all afternoon started for real. Although not drenching, it continued for the rest of the concert and did drive away some of the audience. Those who remained heard a ballad, “Mountain Rose” by Hutchinson and Andrew, with considerable dynamic range, followed by “Ponderado”, a more abstract piece where Leroux's soprano conversed with Andrew's Monk-like piano. After a complex, flowing piano interlude, Leroux played a powerful solo full of coruscating lines that showed his full range and strength.

The hour-long show ended with “What Next”, a suitably up-tempo number that left everyone who braved the weather energized, and enthusiastically clapping. It was a show worth staying for (especially if you had remembered your umbrella), both for the group interconnectedness, and Andrew's skill as a composer of accessible and engrossing music.

    – Alayne McGregor

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