Day Two Electric Boogaloo

Mmmmmm...chip truck fries...nothing like a late-night snack to inspire one to blog...

Okay - so here's my still-up-after-a-long-day-at-the-festival report on day 2. I'll edit in the morning; but because of an early-ish appointment I'm writing now rather than worrying about cramming it into what will be a rushed morning...

Speaking of rushed, that's what I was when the second day (and first full day) of the festival began. I have only myself to blame, really; if I could be slightly less verbose in my blog entries I'd be able to get out of the house sooner. And the delay on the subway didn't help much either. In any case, I arrived on site a few minutes before noon, enough time to say a quick hello to Mark McLean's Playground (Mark on drums along with Kelly Jefferson on sax, Ted Quinlan on guitar, David Braid on piano and Marc Rogers on bass) and act as emcee for their show. It didn't take long to remember why I was keen on booking them for the festival - Mark's sense of groove permeated each tune; it was a funky way to start the day, and each musician brought his own outstanding talent to melody and solos alike.

At 2 pm, I attended the first Ken Page Memorial Trust workshop, hosted by Jim Galloway. The day's workshop was actually a blindfold test, and the testee was Ted Quinlan, fresh from his performance with Mark McLean. Jim chose a great selection of music, ranging from some of the first jazz guitar recordings to the more contemporary John MacLaughlin and John Scofield; I'm pleased to report that Ted passed with flying colours, missing only 2 of 10 audio samples. What I especially enjoyed about the session was the interaction between Ted and Jim, and the stories each told; that's what happens when you bring together two veteran musicians. You can expect more on Sunday when Jim sits down with Bernie Senensky to discuss the history of jazz in Toronto.

After a bit of a lull, I made my way over to Quotes where I caught the first few numbers performed by Gord Sheard's Brazilian Jazz Experience with featured guest Luanda Jones. It was another great audience, and the band didn't disappoint; Luanda's singing nicely complemented the core band's lovely bossa sensibilities. With all of the talk about jazz venues that takes place in this city, it's encouraging to see two days of strong audiences at's hoping the rest of the week's shows are as well attended!

From Quotes I skipped (not actually) across the street to catch Jim Galloway and Friends. For this performance, the friends were Andy Scott (guitar), Mark Eisenman (piano), Jim on soprano and baritone sax, Neil Swainson (bass) and Don Vickery (drums), along with special guest Harry Allen (about whom I wrote yesterday). A nice crowd had amassed, and I enjoyed the show. Jim's performances always harken back to the swing era, and these musicians know exactly how to capture the sound and the feel of that era without sounding dated. Each tune had a great energy, and the audience responded enthusiastically.

From the Outdoor Stage I walked down to Enwave Theatre to catch the Dave Holland Quintet. One of the perks of this year's Metro Square setting is its convenience to multiple venues: from the Square I can easily walk to the Enwave (about 15 minutes), Glenn Gould Studio (right around the corner), Quotes, the Horseshoe and The Rex; the Sony Centre on foot takes a bit more dedication but is still doable. Upon my arrival at the Enwave I said a quick hello to the band, then got myself settled. I, along with the rest of the audience, was in for a treat. I caught five tunes before ducking out, and each had energy and conviction. Dave Holland sounded great, but this is anything but a one-man band. Robin Eubanks shone, especially on his own composition "The Sum of all Parts". Steve Nelson, playing vibraphone and marimba (and frequently switching between the two in the middle of a tune), was his own orchestra; I especially enjoyed his comping. Nate Smith laid down the groove on each tune, regardless of the time signature. But, much as I try to remain relatively neutral on these matters, it was Chris Potter's playing that excited me most. Every time I hear him live he meets and exceeds my expectations; tonight his soloing was top-notch, and his technique was on full display - blistering lines played in the natural and extreme ranges of the instrument with equal ease. I admit that I was sorry to leave this show early.

However, I was looking forward to catching the Average White Band / Stax! double-bill back at the Mainstage. The tent was basically full, and the audience quickly got what they came for: when the Average White Band took the stage, they immediately launched into their familiar blend of jazz, funk and soul. They had the audience worked into a frenzy, and at the end of their set a standing ovation brought them back for an encore performance which included their hit single "Pick up the Pieces." After a brief intermission, Stax! (featuring Steve Cropper and Duck Dunn) took the stage to show off their brand of southern blues/rock/soul. It seemed as though the audience cooled a bit, but really things were just starting to warm up: once veteran soul singer Eddie Floyd took to the stage, the crowd was up on its feet, and the audience didn't really sit again until the end of the show. This was a soulful double-bill that seemed to meet everyone's expectations.

With the Mainstage performance wrapped up I made my way back over to Quotes to catch some of the late-night jam, tonight (and for the duration of the festival) hosted by pianist Stacie McGregor along with Artie Roth on bass and Archie Alleyne on drums. This is an excellent group, so even if you're not interested in jamming, I encourage you to come down to Quotes to check them out - you won't be disappointed. The contributions from jamming musicians were fewer this evening, so the trio did most of the work, but it was a treat to hear them play. Plus, it was fun to catch up with a few people (including a former trumpet student who happened to be there). The jam continues on Monday night through Thursday night; there is a vicious rumour that I might even join in on a night or two. (Do you guys know that tune called long tones...?)

My final stop of the night was The Rex to hear the second set of Bobby Sparks (keys), Michael League (electric bass) and Jason Thomas (drums), all three of whom have played with Roy Hargrove. They don't need famous name associations, though; they can hold court just fine on their own, with nearly impossibly funky jams and virtuosic playing. A special treat was local drummer extraordinaire Larnell Lewis sitting in on the first tune - he sounded very very good. You should check out all of these players...

And that's my report on day 2. It was a good day!

Okay - here's what's on my list for day three:

And that should do me for day 3...see you Sunday!


P.S. - Have you yet experienced a Dyson hand dryer? They're in the washrooms at Metro Square and at the Enwave Theatre. They're awesome. And no, they're not a sponsor. And yes, it's kind of weird that I'm excited about a hand dryer. But once you try them, you may never again want to use paper towels...

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