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2010 Guelph Jazz Festival

At last years Guelph Jazz Festival I did a lot of driving. Toronto to Guelph. It’s not a long drive but it's long enough to make a late night show discouraging. This year I decided to take advantage of Guelph's offer of a deal on a hotel close to the action. An accommodating room and allowing for a more relaxed festival experience.

Late night shows, early morning shows and concerts on top of each other. A busy schedule entailed. The beauty of the Guelph jazz festival, other than the music, is the close proximity of the venues. You walk a lot, but as the weather was exceptional this presented a wonderful end of summer get away.

On three occasions a church played host to the concerts adding the spiritual element. For the performance with the Elmer Eisler Singers and bass clarinetist Jeff Reilly this proved to be an over the top, out of this world performance. Other highlights included master tablist Zakir Hussain. The newly formed trio of Andrew Cyrille, Jane Bunnett and Henry Grimes, an the established trio of Chad Taylor, Henry Grimes and Marc Ribot.

My long weekend at Guelph went something like this: Tasa. My first show, this is a Toronto based Indian fusion group featuring guest violinist Mark Feldman, an excellent soloist. The other featured solos of note came from saxophonist Ernie Toller and trumpeter Kevin Turcotte. The band has a surreal sound. Ravi Naimpally leads from his position on tabla, a new and pleasant addition is vocalist Samidha Joglekar.

David Darling an ECM artist, a cellist, I'm a fan of the cello. Darling played with passion, a solo performance that captivated the audience. A last minute substitute for two notable ECM artists, German based cellist Anja Lechner with Argentinean bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi. Some scheduling conflict bumped them from the program, Darling took over with a commanding performance. The second half of this double bill featured a presentation of composer Peter-Anthony Togni's, Lamentatio Jermiae Prophetae. One of the most intense concerts I have witnessed. Upon completion it seemed as if Reilly would collapse. He looked completely exhausted.

That same evening, same venue although relocated to the lower level of the church to witness Henry Grimes, Jane Bunnett & Andrew Cyrille. The trio seemed to be under the leadership of the bassist Grimes who took off with authority and never stopped. Bunnett was not at her best, she had an apparent hand injury that she seemed to be favoring. Her fist half of the show was very light, she came on with more power during her flute playing. The drummer Cyrille played a commanding role always driving the rhythm and creating a free floating sound. He got right into the drums, cymbals, skins, rims and snares. At one point he attempted to eat the snare drum or at least take a bite out of it.

Marilyn Crispell an early Saturday morning show 10:00 AM. I rushed to get to the theatre, the show started in typical jazz fashion at about 10:15. Crispell played a day in her life. Starting off a little scrambled, heating things up with excitement and getting rid of some frenetic energy a near chaotic (controlled chaos) groove. Finally settling into a glorified routine of playing marvelously. At the time I was not aware her recent ECM album is entitled One Dark Night I Left My Silent House.

The Broadview Trio, Mike Murley (tenor saxophone), Rich Brown (electric bass) and Ted Warren (drums), a powerhouse trio of high level musicianship where funk meets bop and swing reigns supreme.

The Ratchet Orchestra a twenty seven piece orchestra from Quebec under the leadership of Nicolas Caloia. The orchestra crowded into a small church, they utilized every square inch of the front of the church. The band played with an open, loose sound. They played six compositions. The ones that featured screaming violins were the most exciting, others had horns blasting and rhythms pounding. The two drummers and two percussionists were always pushing the rhythm, sometimes at odds with each other.

Marilyn Lerner, Ken Filiano & Lou Grassi a powerful trio that started out free and found complete freedom. From arco bass, to hit everything all at once drumming the group seemed to be competing for sound waves. They created new music as they went head long into unknown territory with confidence and joy. The audience in tow and loving every exciting moment.

Sangam: Charles Lloyd, Zakir Hussain, Eric Harland amazing tabla playing, strong saxophone and interesting, although not necessary, to see and hear Lloyd play drums. Harland was tasteful and supportive on his instrument, drums and piano. The thirty minute encore was pushing it.

The Trio: Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell, George Lewis, the essence of what the Guelph jazz festival is all about. Improvisation, adventurous explorations of musical thought, patterns, sounds and ideas. Abrams one of the founders of Chicago's improvisational gurus, the AACM that blew minds in the 60's, continued into the new millennium. And after the first lengthy free for all a quarter of the audience departed. The ones who persevered were treated to the best of free jazz. Abrams took charge with tonal prodding and partial open ended melodies. Mitchell carried the musical flavour forward with ostinato delivery of whining, whirring, melodious saxophone notes while Lewis dug deep and created a bottom end with trombone blowing that rattled the stage lights. The audience that stuck around till the end rallied forth with a hesitant yet respectful show of applause. The Trio came out for an encore Roscoe Mitchell picked up his horn and blew one long sustained joyous howl. I laughed and offered my thankful applause.

Marc Ribot, Henry Grimes and Chad Taylor early morning concert, mind numbing guitar work from Ribot and driving bass care of Grimes. Taylor complimented Ribot reminding me of the joined at the hip style of Hendrix and Mitchell, or Ayler and Murray. The concert was a tribute to Albert Ayler and fitting that Grimes played with Ayler on many an album. This was the penultimate concert of the festival, my final concert as I was scheduled to do an interview with drummer Chad Taylor. The final concert of the festival featured artistic director Ajay Heble (piano) and his band Vertical Squirrels, sounds like it would be catchy.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: The Trio: Abrams, Mitchell, Lewis
  • Subtitle: Small Town Feel - Big City Jazz
  • City State Country: Guelph, Ontario, Canada
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