July already?!

So, last night was a bit of a late night, so my vocabulary centers aren't firing on all cylinders. With that in mind, this blog post will be slightly abbreviated (as opposed to the exquisitely crafted (?!) verbosity of previous posts), so that my brain isn't too taxed and you don't have to decipher enormously long run-on sentences peppered with poor grammar such as what this sentence is turning into. Plus, it sounds as though my neighbour is rocking out to Guitar Hero so I'm a bit distracted...

Day six of the festival was excellent. Adrean Farrugia's band Ricochet got things started at noon as part of the Lunchtime Concerts and they sounded great: Adrean (piano) was joined by Kevin Turcotte (who, in my humble opinion, is possibly this country's best trumpeter), Kelly Jefferson (no slouch on sax!), Andrew Downing (bass), Anthony Michelli (drums) and Sophia Perlman (voice). Adrean's compositions are modern but beautiful, and I enjoyed the journey I was taken on by the tunes I heard. They've just released their first CD - I encourage you to check it out.

From the mainstage I went over to The Rex to launch "Jazz for the Teach", the final installment of this year's educational programming. The three days of events went well, overall, and I look forward to building on them over the course of the year and for next year's festival. My thanks to Andrew Jones and John Chalmers for preparing so well to lead yesterday's session, geared towards high school teachers looking to hone their jazz education skills.

Shortly after 2 pm I returned to Nathan Phillips Square to catch Phil Nimmons and Ted O'Reilly as part of the Ken Page Memorial Trust Workshop Series. Phil is a true Canadian jazz legend and has been an enormous inspiration in my life so it was a pleasure to see him. As always, he was eloquent, thoughtful and entertaining (not bad for an 87-year-old!) and he had a lovely crowd watching on.

Back to The Rex to check in on "Jazz for the Teach" (where they were launching into their jam session) then back to the Primus Stage for the Mike Cado Tentet as part of the Afterwork Concerts. This ten-piece band (you know, tentet) was formed initially to perform the original arrangements Phil Nimmons wrote for his Nimmons N' Nine group and now includes Phil's tunes as well as compositions from members of the band: John MacMurchy (sax and clarinet), Andy Ballantyne (alto sax), Kelly Jefferson (tenor sax), David Mott (baritone sax), Jason Logue (trumpet), Ron Westray (trombone), Mike Cado (guitar), Tom Szczesniak (accordion), Andrew Downing (bass) and Anthony Michelli (drums). The band did a great set (even inspiring a contemporary hula hoop dancer...honest...I've got photos...) and it was a nice way to pay tribute to Phil Nimmons.

The evening unfolded as follows:

6:30 pm - to the Enwave Theatre to say hello to Joshua Redman (sax), Aaron Parks (piano), Matt Penman (bass) and Ari Hoenig (drums), the members of James Farm. It was fun to also find that I had worked previously with their road manager, Paul Boothe (it's a small musical world!). The concert was well attended and was intense - modern, long-form compositions performed by four outstanding musicians. Ari Hoenig especially stood out; his drumming moved fluidly between rapid-fire fills and carefully composed band shots...and he never missed a beat (ha!).

7:30 pm - to the Four Seasons Centre to catch the first part of the Keith Jarrett Trio concert. If you haven't yet heard this trio (Keith on piano, Gary Peacock on bass and Jack Dejohnette on drums), I encourage you to do so. These are three master musicians who have been playing together for decades. They know each other so well musically; at times I wasn't totally sure what was happening on stage - where was the music going next? - but I had complete trust that they would resolve it satisfactorily and they always did. A particular highlight was the suddenly very major-key sounding chorus of My Funny Valentine - it might only be Keith Jarrett and company who can take a sad song and make it happy, even for just a few bars. I had already left when Keith requested the piano change...

9:30 pm - out to Hugh's Room to catch some of Roberta Gambarini's lovely set. She was performing with the pianist and drummer from Roy Hargrove's band along with local bass giant Neil Swainson, and the room was packed - a beautiful night of music for those in attendance.

10:15 pm - back to the mainstage to catch Mavis Staples. There is a reason she is known as a queen of gospel, soul and R&B. What a voice! She put on an incredible show - she even had Canadian guitarist Colin James, fresh from a gig with the Steve Miller Band, join in for the last tune - and I was moved by the emotion with which she performed. She was singing songs written at a complicated time in American history - a time before my time - and this added context I found very meaningful. Plus it was just really good music. By the end of the night everyone was on their feet, dancing along.

The post-concert hang was fun too - although Mavis and her crew weren't able to stick around, Colin James did; and soon after the concert ended Jackie Richardson (perhaps Canada's answer to Mavis?) dropped by. The air was buzzing with excitement following the evening's performance (I didn't get to hear Allen Toussaint, who apparently was fantastic) and some great conversation was had.

The last stop of the night was the Hard Rock Cafe for the late night jam. Our guest from TD was with us again last night and it was fun to accompany her to her first late-night jazz (and jam) experience. The band was amazing - Robi Botos assembled an all-star quartet, including a tenor sax player visiting from Germany - and the crowd was enthusiastic. A number of musicians showed up and by the time the second set was underway, there was a great vibe in the room. The hang really is such an important part of the scene and it was fun to chat, laugh and share great music with friends and colleagues.

Today's a bit lighter schedule-wise, but no less heavy musically:

  • At noon, the Paul Read Orchestra takes the stage as part of the Lunchtime Concerts
  • At 2 pm, Heather Bambrick will be Chase Sanborn's guest as part of the Ken Page Memorial Trust Workshop Series (and, if you don't know Heather, she's an amazing singer and could be a stand-up comic for her sense of humour...)
  • At 5 pm we launch our annual Groove and Graffiti program with a performance by Buck 65 and a display of student aerosol art
  • At 6 pm Nadine McNulty - a former Artistic Director of Afrofest - will be in the Jazz.FM91 Talkback Tent discussing tonight's African-themed concert
  • At 8 pm Soul Influence will greet concertgoers, the Souljazz Orchestra opens up and Angelique Kidjo headlines on the mainstage
  • Also at 8 pm, the Roy Hargrove Big Band takes the stage at Koerner Hall
  • And, though this isn't an official jazz festival presentation, you can bet that I'll be heading to The Rex shortly after 11 pm to see Rudresh Manhathappa, a great alto saxophonist from New York

Plus - it's July 1st - already! - so happy Canada Day! I look forward to seeing you out and about today...

Josh

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