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Art of Jazz - Day 3

Roberta Gambarini & Neil Swainson Roberta Gambarini & Neil Swainson Atael Weissman
The final day of the Art of Jazz, Global Jazz Village - Italian Style, started off a little late. A combination of bad weather, a little rain and a cold front rolling through town caused a minor delay. Spirits were not dampened, a large gathering of people were in and around the Trinity stage checking out the Cuban element, Anacaona Cuban Big Band an all female orchestra, formed in Havana in the thirties and known as "Las Mulatissimas del Sabor", this glamorous all female orchestra was founded in 1932 Havana by Cuchito Castro when the political situation in Cuba resulted in many university closings. Defying the dominant belief that women were not capable of playing ’son’ music, Cuchito’s friends and sisters formed a top notch septet and named the group after the Indian queen Anacaona. Today Anacaona has 14 female musicians who blend traditional and contemporary rhythms in an exciting show that had everybody moving with enthusiasm.

Rashied Ali Quintet, his second show at the Art of Jazz he was a part of the debut season and this time he brought reinforcements. Josh Evans (trumpet), Lawrence Clark (saxophone), Greg Murphy (piano) and Don Paton (bass) the band started off hot with "Cutting Corners" ignoring sound problems and cold weather. Rashied Ali creates a full wall of sound to cradle his band mates, free to wander off in search of higher ground, trumpeter Evans soars. He lets rip rapid fire runs, reminiscent of Freddie Hubbard. They would play a Lawrence Clark composition "Lourana," a sweet sounding ballad with great harmonies between saxophone and trumpet. John Coltrane’s "Central Park West," a beautiful melody from the romantic Coltrane era. The final tune a Rashied Ali composition, "Skane’s Refrain" featured a long drum solo that was well paced and showed he still has some serious chops. The band powered the song to the finale and Rashied announced an enthusiastic "Bye, we’re out of here."

The Art of Jazz Ensemble a group that included Jane Bunnett, Larry Kramer, Don Thompson, Ethan Ardelli, Perry White and an unknown bass player and guitar player did a wonderful job playing Nino Rota’s music to the wonderful films of Fillini.

Roberta Gambarini and Neil Swainson in a duet performance, one of the ticketed events, the attendance was not what I would have expected; half capacity would be a liberal estimate. A show that I had to compare to the last great bass and vocal duet that I witnessed, also at Art of Jazz, the inaugural concert - Sheila Jordan and Cameron Brown. On that particular show I was amazed. Now having seen Ms. Gambarini in the intimate setting of a nightclub with her quartet and an open air festival with an orchestra, I was expecting an amazing performance. I was impressed with Ms. Gambarini, her style, her elegance of turning a phrase and her excellent scatting. But I was not amazed at her singing. She has yet to step outside and take chances, to let it all hang out, to go for a bit of a rough edge, it is just too perfect.

Her accompanist on the other hand let it all go. And bass playing that amazes one is a difficult task. Swainson goes about that task as if it's as easy as pouring water from a bottle. His smooth runs poured forth with abandon, he left his heart hovering over the stage. Intonation, intonation, intonation. Swainson plays fast, he plays with sensitive dynamics, always supportive of the lead instrument. He’s ready to take flights of fancy when an opening presents itself. With no mere display of flash, or the virtuosity that he possesses, he will play the most incredible lines of heart wrenching soulfulness, tonal perfection. For me, this puts him in line as one of the best contra-bass players in the world.

The vocal highlight of the evening occurred after the show. The Cuban group, Grupo Vocal Desandann performed for Roberta Gambarini at the back of the Fermenting House. I have never heard anything with as much spirit and beauty as this impromptu performance. It was a delight to see Ms. Gambarini literally jumping up and down with joy at the finale of their performance. Cuba, Italy, Canada the U.S.A The Art of Jazz 4th edition. Bring on the fifth.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Roberta Gambarini & Neil Swainson
  • Concert Date: 6/7/2009
  • Subtitle: Italian Fiesta
  • Venue: The Distillery
  • City State Country: Toronto, On. Canada
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