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Jazz Renaissance

I enjoy all different types of music, jazz being one of my favorites, classical being another of my favorites. When jazz meets classical with an eye for discovery, experimentation and reaching outside the box, it is a wonderful thing. The concert at the Youth Music Centre in Guelph, an intimate performance theatre with fine acoustics, featured three excellent musicians, Barry Guy acoustic bassist, Maya Homburger, violinist and Jeff Reilly, bass clarinetist. The material that they presented was extreme, a mix of soothing classical melodies with wonderful playing.

The concert started with Ms. Homburger taking a walk through the audience, perhaps her way of spreading the musical ambiance throughout the theatre. She started playing her violin at the back of the theater and gracefully moved through the audience to the front of the stage. The bass and clarinet join in, creating a beautiful sound.

Chamber music may best describe the music that the audience was treated to. Although it had a good portion of what I like to call the "wow" factor as these virtuoso musicians played incredibly. They created a resounding "wow" from the audience. They produced sounds from their instruments that are not supposed to emanate from these classical instruments. A bass clarinet is normally utilized as a low end, booming kind of instrument. Mr. Reilly plays his bass clarinet as an instrument that covers the range of soprano to baritone. In one solo spot, Reilly played a rapid run in the low register while at the same time creating some fluttering sounds in the high register. The "wow" factor - music that evokes that thought or as one audience member stated upon the conclusion of the first song, "wow". That is just about all you can say.

Barry Guy playing a five string acoustic bass, put on a show like no other I have seen. He played his bass as a percussive instrument. He stroked the bass with a bow like rod, the bow alone was utilized to hit the strings or saw at them. The bow was put through the bass strings and was drummed upon to create a cool sounding vibrato. The strings were slapped and plucked, banged and twisted. Mr. Guy employed numerous forms of manipulation to create all manner of weird and wonderful harmonics. If Barry Guy did not play truly fine sounding bass you would think that he did not know how to play western style rhythms. The bass solo that he performed mixed this wild percussive playing with beautiful harmonic playing. He mixed all manner of emotion in his performance, elements of humour, joy, sadness, and passion. His stops and starts created excitement, anticipation and focused on pure energy.

The excitement came from three short pieces inspired by Samuel Beckett. Mr. Guy referred to these numbers as "Fizzles, five, seven and three." A muddy bass tone, a brutalizing and aggressive affair that centers on squeaks and squawks. With scratching, plucking, clapping and stroking, the bass becomes a weapon of mass sound destruction. The right hand holds a tympani mallet and the bass becomes a soothing tympani, the master puts the sound back together again, weaving and wandering melodically to create a beautiful sound exposition.

Maya Homburger performs a solo. A piece composed by Barry Guy, all inspired by Butterflies, "Bach’s Solo Works". The improvisation comes from Mr. Guy who play’s along to the violin part creating an accompaniment to the solo violin. The violin takes flight with a fluttering, vibrating and stinging attack. Long silky strokes that sustain, float and flow throughout the theatre. The bass accents the silence, Mr. Reilly on bass clarinet joins in to evoke interest and the performance ends too soon. The crowd erupts in applause, a standing ovation, no time for an encore - Barry Guy claps for the audience and waves a final gesture to the audience. Cupping his ears, as if to say, thank you for listening so intently.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Barry Guy, Maya Homburger, Jeff Reilly
  • Concert Date: 9/6/2008
  • Subtitle: 15th Guelph Jazz Festival
  • Venue: Guelph Youth Music Centre
  • City State Country: Guelph, On. Canada
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