Monday, June 30, 2008

Jazzfest 2008 - Day 5

2 pm: Public Enemy press conference. Chuck D held court on the border, the environment, Barack Obama, race in America, the music industry, and much more, while Flavor Flav emphasized Chuck's points, politely disagreed with him on going over to Iraq, and told (possibly apocryphal) stories about chilling with Miles Davis and being namechecked by Obama.

6 pm: Checked out some of Alexis Baro's set from the press room patio. Really groovy tunes anchored by basslines. Baro's a killing trumpeter living in Toronto and his chops were in full effect.

7 pm: Caught some of Mario Allard's set. I've heard their tunes on their MySpace and the band has gotten really tight over the past few months. Too bad the sound guy decided to drown them in reverb - it muddied up the counterpoint and made the solos sound like they were on a bad '90s record.

9 pm: Corkestra @ Monument-National. The subtle mix of free improvisation and three-reed solis reminiscent of eras past was a perfect fit for this small, intimate room.

10:30 pm: Marc Cary Trio @ Gésu. I really wanted to like this, having loved his solo show at Toronto Trane Studio, but I found it needlessly jumpy. Cary himself referred to a segment as the "CD changer." There were glimpses of a tight trio hookup, and drummer/tabla player Sameer Gupta was truly fantastic, but overall it was underwhelming.

Jazzfest 2008 - Days 3 and 4

Day 3
Due to other commitments I could only catch one set of Steamboat Switzerland, a Swiss power trio of Hammond organ, electric bass and drums. I was disappointed that our usual complement of Québécois metalheads and noiseniks were absent from this group's continuous sonic onslaught, a mix of Medeski Martin & Wood, Dub Trio and Naked City. While highly impressive (and spectacularly through-composed in parts), I think this group is best served by a recorded mix so the details all speak clearly.

Day 4
4 pm: Monica Shore Quintet. The festival has launched a showcase series for combos from the four university music programs, and my McGill friends had their turn in the sun, featuring a couple of intriguing originals by guitarist Jordan Peters, a couple of Joni-does-Mingus tunes, and a fifth piece called "Harlem in Havana." Kevin Warren and Nic Bedard have a really strong hookup, allowing Shore, Peters and electric violinist Lisienne Tremblay to float over them in a sweetly textured blend.
6 pm: Roberto Fonseca. Someone who is not afraid of melody and restraint, whose tunes derive their power from their simplicity, and underlining the efficacy of emotion and communication. Wow.
8:30 pm: Continued the Latin party vein with a brief stop at Jose Conde's set, cut short due a torrential downpour. What I did hear was solid pan-Latin funk, greeted by some avid salsa dancers.
9:30 pm: Hank Jones & Charlie Haden. The only show of Jones' Invitation series I could see due to other commitments. I could listen to those two play the heads to tunes all day, never mind their solos. Haden was uniformly brilliant, and Jones, while showing some age, redeemed himself with his incredibly touching readings of ballads, blues, and "Motherless Child." Absolutely stunning.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Jazzfest 2008 - Day 2 (aka SHOWTIME)

2 pm: Hank Jones press conference. I hope to be half as elegant, witty and musical at half his age.
3 pm: Prep charts, warm up, zone in, etc etc. Hang out in press room.
4 pm: Press conference for Francois Richard's Nouvel Orchestra disc on Effendi. Nice chamber jazz with flute, strings & rhythm section.
6 pm: Nordic Connect @ Gésu. Great room for a great band. A bit of a rocky start but once they jelled, they fell into the inspiring beauty I can always get from sisters Jensen.
7:30 pm: Show up early for soundcheck. Meet the technical team and soundman. Fight with the Rhodes pedal that I eventually go without. Breathe.
8:55 pm: Gust of wind blows charts off the piano. Techs run and get extra plexiglass.
9 pm: Hit for the first set. Nerves finally calm down. Music happens. Phil sounds great, Seb sounds great, huge crowd... and competition judges in the second row. Didn't realize the blues stage right behind us would be going on at the same time. Once we started going you couldn't really hear it though.
10 pm: Breathe huge sigh of relief. Mingle with crowd. Congratulate Seb & Phil. Prep for set 2.
11 pm: Launch into set 2. What a difference one set (and one beer) makes. This set is the more late-night groovy, chillout set. More vocal crowd. We all feel more relaxed.
11:58 pm: Done.

I can't really talk about our set in any better detail. Phil said that he finally gets the music now, and it sounds that way. Seb played his ass off and learned this music - which, while not extremely difficult, isn't all that easy - really quite quickly and I'm very happy to work with him. July 5 (next Saturday) they announce the competition winner, and whoever wins will play an additional set that night. Stay tuned to this space.

Set 1: 9 pm
Driscollage [in memory of Chris Driscoll]
As of Now
Dancing Serpent in Dawn's Quiet
Tonglen [for Andrew D'Angelo]
Visions (Stevie Wonder)
Ramblin' (Ornette Coleman)

Set 2: 11 pm
As of Now
Pleasure is All Mine (Björk)
Dancing Serpent in Dawn's Quiet
Dupla Traiçao (Djavan)
Settled in Shipping
First Impressions
Erghen Diado (Peter Lyondev)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Jazzfest 2008 - Day 1

2 pm: Get down to the JazzFest site. Fulfill press room duties. See Gilberto Gil walk by.
2:30 pm: Check out the Djembe jam at the SIMM (Montreal Musical Iinstrument Salon) tent. Play until my hands get a little sore. Walk around the rest of the Festival site, including a Roland/Rock Band/Guitar Hero tent. Fail at Rock Band.
4 pm: Press room hang with usual suspects Len Dobbin & Mike Chamberlain from Hour. See Joe Lovano walk in.
5 pm: Press cocktail @ the Heineken Pavillion with The Lost Fingers. Laugh my ass off at manouche Gypsy swing versions of Technotronic's "Pump Up The Jams" and "Billie Jean." Talk to Stewart D'Arrieta (of Belly of a Drunken Piano) and That 1 Guy.
9:30 pm: Gilberto Gil @ Théâtre Maisonneuve. Got my hopes up from eavesdropping on the soundcheck, in which they played Jorge Ben's "Ponta de Lanca Africano." Highlights were great, but at some points the set dragged. He played one of my favourite songs - "Andar Com Fé" - among other new and old tunes and covers in a 2-hour set.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

You gotta move somethin'

Suoni Per Il Popolo reviews are trickling in over at Panpot. My reviews of Roswell Rudd/Mark Dresser and Hard Cell, earlier in the festival, should be appearing in the next issue of Coda. About 6 hours of respite this morning separates my last Suoni concert - Ken Vandermark's Free Fall, and Magnus Broo/Paal Nilssen-Love - from the onslaught of my next assignment.

Reminder: Indigone Trio hits the Best Buy Stage TOMORROW at 9 & 11 pm. Two sets of music, free, on a Friday night. If you're in town, I'd like to see your face in the audience. Jazz Fest behind the scenes bloggity-blog stuff will go here, the rest (official reviews and such as that) will be reserved for Coda.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Montreal Jazz Fest Podcast

My Ropeadope brethren asked me to do a podcast of my picks at this year's Jazz Fest. I obliged them.

Gilberto Gil - Eu Só Quero Um Xodó (June 26 @ Théâtre Maisonneuve)
Quantic Soul Orchestra f/ Alice Russell - Pushin' On (Alice Russell June 27 @ Club Soda)
Joe Lovano & Hank Jones - Budo (June 27 @ Théâtre Jean-Duceppe; Joe Lovano w/ Saxophone Summit June 27; Hank Jones June 26-29)
McCoy Tyner f/ Michael Brecker - I Mean You (McCoy Tyner July 1-3 @ Place des Arts)
Dave Brubeck - Kathy's Waltz (July 4-5 @ Théâtre Jean-Duceppe)
Charlie Haden - Latin Genetics (June 27-28 @ Place des Arts)
Brad Mehldau - Things Behind the Sun (June 27-28 @ Gesù and Théâtre Jean-Duceppe)
Orchestra Baobab - Bul Ma Miin (July 2 @ Club Soda)
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - I Shall Not Be Moved (July 2 @ Théâtre Maisonneuve)
Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra - Darling Nikki (July 3 @ Théâtre Maisonneuve)
Cassandra Wilson - You Gotta Move (July 4 @ Théâtre Maisonneuve)
3 Na Massa f/ Thalma de Freitas - Enladeirada (June 29-30 @ outdoor stages)
Indigone Trio + Strings - Smacked (June 27 @ Best Buy stage)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Saturday in the park

To welcome in the solstice, there was a whole lot of stuff happening this weekend in our fair city, all colliding on Saturday June 21.

My day started with Popolo in the Park, the annual picnic organized by the Suoni Per Il Popolo fest. Lake of Stew kicked it off with their traditional-sounding bluegrass songs about armadillos and the Sherbrooke street bus. Andy Williams followed up with a last-minute set, and the highlight for me was Matana Roberts with a group of high school students from NDG (a neighbourhood on the western part of the city) in a mixture of groove-based free improv and a couple of tunes by the students. (I guess I wound up writing about this, Matana!) The students were surprisingly good, considering that they don't have the opportunity to play a lot. The MC they had was actually really impressive. People I was standing with, who didn't know of Matana's work beforehand, were really taken with her playing, the students' playing, and just the idea of workshops and outreach. There was also free food, arts and crafts, HVW8 doing some live painting, lots of kids, dogs and bicycles.

I walked down St-Laurent to check out the annual Main Madness event, closing down the Main between Sherbrooke and Mont-Royal to all manner of street vendors, performers, and terrasses. What a relief - considering the endless construction on St-Laurent that's forced business off that street, done considerable damage to businesses that remained, and pissed off residents, it was nice to stroll down the Main without having to navigate around gravel and potholes. Lots of Portuguese BBQ chicken, noodles, falafel, and cotton candy. I bumped into Michael Reinhart who was doing a solo set at Yellow Door's kiosk, and marvelled at the massive gaming tent Amp Energy had set up.

I headed back north on St-Laurent to catch the Fringe Pop showcase, the usual co-presentation of indie goodness by Pop Montreal and the Fringe Festival. With the festival running late as usual, I caught the tail end of Drag Racing, culminating in the crowning of their first Drag King as best performer. Everyone's favourite St-Henri klezmerjazzpunks, the Youjsh, took the stage to a surprisingly numerous crowd. Sarah and I were amused by the two toddlers that seemed to take to the raucous Balkanized party rather well. Next up were Zeroes, another bunch of former McGill jazzers who have sold their souls to rock 'n' roll (Ben Shemie, also known as Blink Blink Blink; Max Henry; and ex-Indigone drummer Liam O'Neill). Any band with Max and Liam will have electro-disco undertones, and this one lived up to their reputation, along with Ben's thrashing guitar and tender vocals and the more aggressive singing of Joe Yarmush.

I skipped out on the closing Fringe Pop band, Wintersleep, to catch Gary Schwartz's new (Mostly) Ornette project with Chet Doxas on soprano and clarinet, Erik Hove on alto, Zack Lober on bass and Phil Melanson on drums. Gary has arranged some of Ornette's more familiar tunes ("Turnaround," "Lonely Woman," "Peace," and "Broadway Blues" among them) and played them along with his own Ornette-ish "Whatdyasay?" and a free improvisation. The arrangements deconstruct the tunes - on the closing "Broadway Blues" they never played the head fully but used the different key centres as bases for improvisation. There were some three-part solis that I didn't expect to work, but did, and was happy to hear that all the elements of "Lonely Woman" that everyone forgets - the two different time feels, the looming bass figure at the beginning - were prominently incorporated into Gary's version.

Edit: Gary e-mails to say:
You made me realize that I forgot to give credit to the arrangers involved in the project. I need to set the record straight. Lonely Woman and Broadway Blues both came from Alex Côté, Tomorrow Is The Question from Chris Smith and Peace from Chet Doxas. Everything else is basically me.

But still, even after all that music, Darcy can still make me jealous. I will not live down the fact I took a gig the night Stevie Wonder played the Bell Centre last year. I went back and forth on buying tickets - on his last tour he played his (then)-new music from Conversation Peace, and I wasn't really sold on the music from A Time 2 Love - I found out from many people that he played nearly nothing but the old-school, surefire tunes. DAMN.

Friday, June 20, 2008

2008 Montreal Jazz Fest picks

So the countdown is in full swing - less than one week till the 2008 Montreal International Jazz Festival kicks off with three special shows by Leonard Cohen, and one week exactly till Indigone Trio hits the CBC/Best Buy Stage.

This year's selection for the Grand Prix is heavy on talent from both my hometowns - representing Montreal: my friend and colleague Mario Allard's Quintet is in the running too, along with trumpeter Jacques "Kuba" Seguin, pianist Arden Arapyan, the electric jazz of WAZA, and guitarist Reno De Stefano. Coming up from Toronto: drummer Daniel Barnes, trombonist Avi Granite (with my Toronto drummer of choice, Nick Fraser), and the killing Cuban ex-pat trumpeter Alexis Baro. Rounding out the group of ten is Alberta's Jerrold Dubyk.

Here's my picks, leaving aside the big ticket concerts like Steely Dan, Return to Forever, et al.

Multiple nights: Harry Manx - a great Canadian acoustic bluesman that over the years has also incorporated Indian ragas into his work; Daniel Lanois - the great guitarist/songwriter/producer in four different venues.
June 26: Gilberto Gil - one of the pioneering forces of tropicalia and MPB, now Brazil's Minister of Culture; David Murray's Black Saint Quartet - revisiting the hallmark era of this brilliant, hard-blowing tenor saxophonist.
June 27: Nordic Connect - sisters Christine and Ingrid Jensen, both phenomenal composers, joined by pianist/composer Maggi Olin; Hank Jones & Joe Lovano; Alice Russell - the voice of Quantic Soul Orchestra, this is what British soul is all about.
June 28: Steamboat Switzerland - described to me as "MMW meets metal"; Yaron Herman Trio - Herman played solo as an unannounced opening act last year and completely captivated me. DO NOT MISS THIS.
June 29: Roberto Fonseca - first seen at the Festival playing with Ibrahim Ferrer, a superb Cuban jazz phenom; Hank Jones & Charlie Haden.
June 30: Effendi JazzLab - a band showcasing the top talent from this Montreal label; Public Enemy - with a live band, no less; Corkestra - Dutch composer Cor Fuhler's large ensemble, in the vein of great American avant-gardists; Marc Cary Trio - a brilliant NYC pianist's acoustic group.
July 2: Orchestra Baobab - the grand masters of Senegal; Dirty Dozen Brass Band/Blind Boys of Alabama - from the street to the church, if this doesn't move you, check your pulse; McCoy Tyner solo.
July 3: Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra - the irreverent slide trumpeter accompanies the silent comedies of Laurel & Hardy; Miguel Zenon Quartet - the brilliant alto player, part of Guillermo Klein's Guachos and the SFJazz collective, leads his own group.
July 4: Cassandra Wilson - her honeyed, husky alto wraps around every song she sings; Dave Brubeck Quartet & Octet - the first jazz pianist I ever really appreciated revives his little-known octet music!; Christian Scott Sextet - trumpet wunderkind from NOLA with a hip-hop attitude.
July 5: Lee "Scratch" Perry & The Wailers - dub heaven!; Torngat - another jewel in Montreal's indie-rock crown, with members from Arcade Fire and Bell Orchestre.

June 26: Ecos de Portoalegre - Montreal has a long history of turning out fantastic Latin-inspired party bands, and this group is no exception; Empirical - a buzz-worthy jazz ensemble from London
June 27: Roberto Lopez Project - the multi-talented musician/composer brings his Cuban street-party sound; Jacques Seguin's Oddlot; INDIGONE TRIO.
June 28:
Joel Haynes Trio f/ Seamus Blake - a bunch of McGill University alumni now back in Vancouver, with the award-winning NYC sax player; The Dynamites f/ Charles Walker - an old school Stax/Chess soul revue.
June 29: Jose Conde y Ola Fresca - another great urban Afro-Cuban party band; 3 Na Massa - a showcase of Brazilian women over broken bossa beats; Jamaica to Toronto - a showcase of Canada's unsung roots reggae talent from the 1970s heyday in Toronto.
June 30: Alexis Baro; Mario Allard Quintet; Björkestra - Travis Sullivan's big band explorations of Björk, NOT TO BE MISSED.
July 1: The big news is the Bran Van 3000 block party, but I'm more partial to keyboardist Daniel Thouin's Terra Firma band.
July 2: Percussion Jam - meet at the mainstage, get a drum, and play along!; Chicha Libre - Brooklynites venturing into Peruvian music; Naturally 7 - a killing R&B a capella group;
July 3: Felix Stussi & Give Me Five - last year's Grand Prix winner; Chris Tarry Group - the great electric bassist, now living in NYC, brings his always fantastic band; Papagroove - who says Québécois can't do Afrobeat?; New Groove Orchestra - my McGill buddies formed this updated, horn-driven funk extravaganza.
July 4: L'Orkestre des Pas Perdus - the twisted brass band of trombonist Claude St-Jean; Antoine Berthiaume - this brilliant guitarist indulges his more straight-ahead side in trio; Zaki Ibrahim - an up-and-coming conscious soul singer from Toronto, daughter of South African activist Zane Ibrahim.
July 5: Raymond Scott Quintette - Concordia University has a band paying tribute to this unsung genius composer; Gokh-Bi System - the new sound of Senegal; Sonny Landreth - the slide guitar master.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Dobbin's Den/Hearing Trumpet playlists

Dobbin's Den
*Oscar Peterson/Benny Green - "Barbara's Blues" (Oscar & Benny)
Ben Webster/Harry "Sweets" Edison - "Did You Call Her Today?" (Ben and "Sweets" )
McCoy Tyner - "Rolem (alternate take)" (Fly With the Wind Keepnews Edition)
Simona Premazzi - "Autumn Leaves" (Looking for an Exit)
*Altsys Jazz Orchestra - "Body and Soul" (Watercolours)
New Talent Jazz Orchestra - "Number Nine" (The Sound of New York Jazz Underground)
Bobby Watson - "Deep Pockets" (From the Heart)
*Michael Blake - "Temporary Constellation" (Amor de Cosmos)
*No Phone - "The Future is Beautiful" (No Phone)
Pat Metheny - "Calvin's Keys" (Day Trip)
Kate McGarry - "It Might as Well be Spring" (The Target)
Charlie Haden's Quartet West - "First Song (for Ruth)" (Best of)
Brad Mehldau Trio - "Wonderwall" (Live)
*Christine Bougie - "Think from the End" (Hammy's Secret Life)
*Harley Card - "Ghosts" (Non-Fiction)
Brian Blade Fellowship - "Rubylou's Lullaby" (Season of Changes)

Hearing Trumpet
Mickey Finn - "Dudek!" (Dudek!)
Makoto/DJ Zinc/Om'Mas Keith/Denius - "Close to Me" (Various Assets - RBMA 2007)
*Beast - "City" (EP)
Jackson Conti - "Upa Neguinho" (Sujinho)
*Monica Freire - "Você tem que decidir" (Na Laje)
Jason Miles/DJ Logic f/ Christian Scott - "Exotic Thoughts" (Global Noize)
Aguaturbia - "I Wonder Who" (Love Peace & Poetry: Chilean Psychedelic Music)
Tom Waits - "2:19" (Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards)
*Karkwa - "Le compteur" (Le volume du vent)
Matmos - "Polychord" (Supreme Balloon)
Aaron Neville - "Hercules"
*LAL - "How the World Began" (Deportation)
*Ariane Moffatt - "L'équilibre" (Tous les sens)
The Meters - "Handclapping Song"
*Baptiste - "Constance" (Entrée)

Saturday, June 07, 2008

In the shed

We had the second rehearsal with Seb yesterday, and Phil just got back from a tour of China with Yannick Rieu. For my part I know I'm shaking the rust off a lot of the trio tunes. The pieces that lead double lives - with and without strings - have us working to find a trio sound again, and it's an exhilarating pursuit. Between the two rehearsals, we've covered pretty much all the repertoire for the two sets.

When Liam O'Neill was still playing drums in Indigone Trio, he was really into Dave King from the Bad Plus. I've only gotten into them over the past couple of years - quite frankly, reading the blog and understanding where Ethan, Dave and Reid were coming from made me re-evaluate their music with new ears. In revisiting one of our covers I realized it had a very TBP sound to it (not to mention the part in another tune that is very consciously a TBP moment). Phil and I discussed it afterwards and he brought up the point that TBP really own their covers. If there were no composition credits listed, I could easily think "Flim" and "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" came from the pen of Iverson, Anderson or King.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The telephone rings again

Just picked up the new Brian Blade Fellowship record, Season of Changes. It's gorgeous in its layers and texture. I want to revisit the first two Fellowship records because I never really got into them at the time.

There is a telling statement in the liner notes though: you can text Verve for ringtones of three of the tunes. Wow.

The sinking feeling in my stomach - that even the "major" jazz labels are resorting to commodifying this expansive music as a friggin' ringtone - is countered by the idea that someone, in lieu of Rihanna, would use the Brian Blade Fellowship as a ringtone!

Monday, June 02, 2008

RIP Bo Diddley

I'm not sure when I first heard the Bo Diddley beat, but I remember when I became aware of who he was: the American Bandstand 40th Anniversary show in 1992, when Dick Clark invited such luminaries as Donny Osmond and Lita Ford to join the master in a surprisingly tolerable version of "Hey Bo Diddley!" I guess his rhythmic authority could unite anyone.

I also remember learning about the clave and thinking, "Hey, a 3-2 clave is the Bo Diddley beat. Go fig!" Also, same revelation that New Orleans street beats = 3-2 clave = Bo Diddley. It's a small world after all.

Bo Diddley is dead. Long live Bo Diddley.

In the twilight

Now it can be told: Indigone Trio is performing at the 29th edition of the Montreal Jazz Festival! We are in the running for the Grand Prix du Festival, the festival's annual competition. It's a strong field this year, with lots of my friends and colleagues involved - I'm just happy for the gig. We're playing two one-hour sets on Friday, June 27. One at 9 pm and the other at 11 pm, on the CBC Radio-Canada/Best Buy stage, in the series called Les Brunantes (Twilight).

This will be a very special evening, for many reasons. Firstly, we've been working so much with strings lately that it's nice to revisit our "trio-only" book. Some of the charts for strings started out in the trio, or we've brought some of the string music into the trio format, but there's a whole other selection of music that is exclusive to the trio. Secondly, I'm proud to welcome bassist Sebastien Pellerin into the Indigone family. Seb played bass in my first McGill combo ever, and we've worked together on and off in the intervening years. We had our first rehearsal with Seb a couple of weeks ago and he's already put his stamp on the music.

As much as I'm happy to be playing with Seb, it's unfortunate that my partner in Indigone crime, Alex Mallett, is unable to make this gig. I've long thought of Indigone as the balance between myself and Alex, in terms of our compositional styles. I can't imagine playing his tunes without him, so the Jazz Fest sets will reflect a slightly different vision of Indigone; the repertoire is exclusively my compositions and arrangements. I'll be blogging about the process - of revisiting the trio material, adding new tunes and new members, planning and contemplating the setlists - leading up to the Festival hits.

In short, and boldface:
FRIDAY, JUNE 27, 2008 - CBC Radio-Canada/Best Buy Stage
(on the esplanade of Place-des-Arts)
Sets at 9 pm & 11 pm
Nominated for the General Motors Grand Prix du Jazz and the Galaxie Rising Star Award.

Indigone Trio is:
David Ryshpan - piano/keyboards; Sebastien Pellerin - bass; Philippe Melanson - drums.