Diverse combos kick off Jazz City
The Edmonton Journal
Sunday, June 27, 2004
Diverse gatherings of musical friends, up-and-comers and adventurers entertained enthusiastic crowds as the opening notes of the 25th Jazz City Festival rang out from various venues Friday night.
Over at the Winspear Centre a chance to mark the anniversary had veteran jazz greats and past festival regulars playing musical chairs in an extended jam session for around 800 fans.
The Toronto trio Inside Out started things (that's Lorne Lofsky, Kieran Overs and Barry Romberg on guitar, bass and drums respectively), and if their sound was soft and intricate it also verged on sleepy (a version of the ballad Estate was especially beautiful). Then it was time to rev things up.
Before long saxophonist Kent Sangster, bassist Mike Lent and drummer Sandro Dominelli were joined by Tommy Banks at the piano and trombonist Hugh Fraser, always a force to be reckoned with. Sangster's bubbly, Rollins-esque number Sunnyside upped the energy, before Fraser played a marvelous foil to the reedman on another quick one.
A shift change found Banks and Lent backing that magnificent New York songstress, Sheila Jordan, still classy, funny, warm and powerful at 75. Her take on Autumn In New York was delightful, while Everything Happens To Me gave her a chance to start throwing in personal stories (a car accident, not a serious one apparently) and some of her trademark bop-style scats.
But the magical moment of the set happened when Jordan started Sheila's Blues, the story of how she became a convert to bebop and Charlie Parker as a 14-year-old. P.J. Perry strode out to serenade her with his alto sax part-way in prompting an overflow of fun and humour from the singer that brought the audience to their feet.
Another shuffle saw Perry finding deep emotional swells next to guitarist Gene Bertoncini on a bossa nova with two basses, Lent and Taylor meshing the pulse, leading to Bertoncini's more delicate but equally expressive answer. Then it was time for a heavyweight horn workout as Perry, Fraser and tenor saxophonist Patience Higgins got together, blowing with bounce and riffing behind each other over a quick bop tempo to cap the opening set, nearly 90 minutes long. Stylish gang.
A hop over to the Coast Edmonton Plaza host hotel found Toronto hearthrob Matt Dusk, 25, with a sold-out audience of mostly younger, mostly female patrons in the palm of his hand for a round of romantic tunes (Fly Me To The Moon, As Time Goes By and originals in a similar vein).
Dusk has got that suave slightly unshaven look, all the right moves and gestures, the perfect touch of graininess in his velvet vibrato (and was that a slight smirk of confidence I saw?) - all the right stuff. Only time will tell if he can move beyond this Sinatra simulation to find something more individual, but no one seemed to be worrying about it at the show.
Finally, their was a keen balance of playfulness and the cerebral when the deceptively simple, angular, spacy and hook-laced Swedish quartet Stahls Bla got it on for a receptive crowd at the Arts Barns/PCL Theatre. Their free-wheeling fragmented melodies drew on minimal structures with a hint of Monk-ish repetition, spicy rhythms and ever-building tension.
Most of it was very high energy but when things slowed down to feature leader Mattias Stahl's physical, double-mallet vibraphone sound against the resonant bowed bass it was simply hypnotic. Just another fine example of the new generation of equipped, adventurous players coming out of Scandinavia.
© 2004 The Edmonton Journal