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Friends, colleagues, teachers, players
As in, yesterday featured some of each, and all contributed to a great day at the festival.
All four categories were represented in my first stop of the day - a rehearsal of my own with my Toronto Jazz Orchestra. We're preparing for our Radiohead Jazz Project 2; this was our last run-through before the gig. As I've probably said before, I feel so lucky to get to work with these 17 musicians, who for the most part are happy to go along with my diabolical artistic plans. Playing arrangements of Radiohead tunes at 11 am is perhaps not the relaxed, newspaper-reading, americano-drinking Sunday morning of my dreams, but the band sounded great, the vibe was relaxed and I came away excited about next Sunday's show.
My first official festival stop of the day (after checking in at Nathan Phillips Square) was the Music Gallery, where a group of 12 or so middle and high school teachers were gathering for our first Jazz for the Teach session. Yesterday's session focused on small ensemble playing and jazz fundamentals, and was led by jazz education veterans Shannon Gunn and Alex Dean. We do our best at the festival to support emerging jazz musicians; it's just as important to support music teachers - they play a key role in fostering the next generation of musicians and music supporters.
A bit of down time followed, which was welcome, and provided lots of opportunity to look skyward and hope that the rain held off. By 5 pm, when the Carn Davidson 9 were taking to the Outdoor Stage, we had experienced a few sprinkles, but nothing substantial. In my mind, the Carn Davidson 9 is one of the more interesting and important groups to recently emerge on the Toronto jazz scene. Consisting of 9 of the city's top jazz musicians (who collectively have amassed a substantial list of accolades), they perform arrangements by local composers of tunes written by co-leaders William Carn and Tara Davidson. Yesterday's show was solid: great tunes, great playing, and a great sample of the high-caliber musicians in town. The performance was well-received by the audience (umbrellas at the ready) and, as if planned, the rain started only after the final note was played.
At 6:30 I made my way down to the Enwave Theatre to say hi to Karrin Allyson and check out the first few tunes of her set. Due to stormy conditions south of the border (I'm talking meteorological, not political), what was to be a trio ended up being a duo - Karrin on piano and vocals with Jeff Johnson on bass - but if the musicians were phased at all by the change they didn't let it show. Karrin sounded fantastic - she is a master of her craft and I enjoyed the control she displayed of her voice and the piano, her feel and phrasing, and melodic interpretation. I also enjoyed watching Jeff Johnson play - he created much interest in his accompaniment without ever getting in the way.
At 7:30 I slipped away to get to the Music Gallery to greet the Ig Henneman sextet and catch some of their show, the first in The Incubator series. With musicians from The Netherlands, Denmark and Canada, it's truly an international ensemble, and their repertoire reflects trends in both the improvised jazz and contemporary classical worlds. The tunes I heard ranged from fully composed to fully improvised; the last of the short set I heard I found particularly beautiful - in it, the group was divided into two sets of three musicians, with each set playing one half of the tune. Ab Baars switched to shakuhachi for the piece, and the ensemble's blend worked wonderfully in the Music Gallery acoustic.
From the Music Gallery I headed back to Nathan Phillips Square and the Toronto Star Stage to hear the end of Hiromi's Trio Project set and then The Bad Plus with guest Joshua Redman. I arrived only as Hiromi was starting her last tune (and was there for the encore) so it's difficult to know how the show went in its entirety. If the two tunes I heard were any indication, it was a high-energy, blistering set, with each of Hiromi, Anthony Jackson (on 6-string electric bass) and Simon Phillips (on enormous, double-bass-drummed, multi-tommed, many-cymbaled drum kit) flying on their respective instruments. The tent was packed, and the audience leapt to their feet at the set's conclusion.
After the intermission, The Bad Plus took to the stage to present their brand of modern jazz along with special guest Joshua Redman. This was the collective's first stop in what is to be an intensive touring schedule, but they sounded as if they had been playing together for years. While what I heard in Hiromi's set was enormous talent embellished by lots of flash, The Bad Plus brought a different sensibility to the stage: the music required perhaps a bit more patience on the audience's part - the intensity, the flash, the climax came gradually over the course of each tune...but I found it so rewarding to go along for the ride. In the hands of the four outstanding musicians on stage, each tune was a journey whose destination, though not always clear from the outset, was incredibly satisfying. In fact, I had hoped to get over to The Horseshoe, but I was so riveted by the music onstage I found myself stuck to my chair...
The backstage hang after last night's mainstage show was a blast. I ended up meeting up with Michael Bates, a bass player now living in New York who was in my class at the University of Toronto. He's in town for tonight's Francois Houle 5 show at The Music Gallery. He was at the show with Samuel Blaser (also part of the Houle 5); we ended up finding Francois Houle and Benoit Delbecq at a nearby French restaurant and chatted into the wee-ish hours. It was fun to catch up, reminisce, and talk shop.
So - after a great day yesterday, today I'm looking forward to:
- Today's KMPT Inside Track, featuring Jim Galloway in conversation with Roberta Gambarini, 12:30 pm on the Outdoor Stage
- L'Orkestre des pas perdus (a great contemporary brass band from Montreal) out the Outdoor Stage at 5 pm
- The Robert Glasper Experiment, 7 at the Enwave Theatre (this show is sold out...but we've added a midnight show - see below!)
- Mario Romano's Quartet opens up for Natalie Cole, 8 pm at the Sony Centre
- Roberta Gambarini opens up for Roy Hargrove's RH Factor, 8 pm on the Toronto Star Stage
- Francois Houle 8 pm at The Music Gallery, in duo and quintet format
- Los Amigos Invisibles, 10 pm (doors at 9 pm) at The Horseshoe Tavern (this show is also sold out)
- The Robert Glasper Trio in a special midnight show at The Wrongbar
See you on the square!