Saskatchewan Jazz Festival 2005
Oh, yeah - they play a concert that night. It's, as Tobin the festival manager put it, awesome in a "very in your face and aggressive" way. It's not like they have any weak links, but Potter's intense soprano sax is cited as a highlight.
Meanwhile, I don't completely bomb at my improvisational efforts. My last task is dropping some envelopes off for a few performers at their hotel. One is saxophonist Joel Miller, who I met the previous week at the Medicine Hat Jazz Festival in the neighboring providence of Alberta, but is not on the hotel's list of registered guests. Drawing on my previous week's experience, I say "he might be under the name Medeula; that's the name of his current group." Sure enough, the reservation is under that name and I turn in feeling pleased in a rather absurd way.
"Record rainfall soaks Saskatoon."
This will be tomorrow's front-page headline in The Star Phoenix, getting bigger play than the Canadian government's decision to recognize gay marriages, a lead story for news organizations around the world. But all I know upon waking this morning is I'm in for a terrible day. The rain is coming down in wind-driven sheets and, while the souvenir tent at least has a roof, I can't envision any scenario where T-shirts, bug spray and admittedly some very cool-looking shorts are likely to be in demand.
As it turns out, Canadians prove they're rugged in their tolerance of bad weather, but not insane.
A call from a coordinator as I'm leaving my room lets me know the park concerts are being cancelled and, since Wednesday is the lightest day of the festival with only one evening show scheduled, I'm off the hook until tomorrow. I celebrate by looking around the downtown mall (the usual stuff) and various stores lining the streets, including a used record store with a bunch of High Times issues in the magazine rack and a petition to form the Saskatchewan Marijuana Party hanging near the register. I buy roughly 30 to 40 new and used CDs by various Canadian jazz artists I've never heard of and spend the rest of the day catching up on writing and sampling the albums, happy enough to be dry I end up skipping pianist Maurice Drouin's quartet-plus-two-vocalists performance at The Bassment.
Meanwhile, some residents will feel the effects of the nearly three inches of rain for days, as the river and a sewer system already overtaxed by a series of heavy storms in the region leads to sandbagging of neighborhoods and basements flooded with backed-up wastewater.
Thursday: Harmonizing in the park
They say everyone has the same 12 notes - it's what you do with them that counts.
That theory was colorfully illustrated under nearly cloudless skies at the souvenir tent in the park Thursday as Marlene Henderson and Paulette Andrieu arrive for the early- afternoon shift. The roughly dozen items for sale are in their usual places on the bins, if a bit haphazardly, during a noontime concert by the Jim Moffat Quintet (interesting collaboration of old-school piano/sax/drum mingling with progressive guitar/bass from players at least a generation younger). Henderson and Andrieu immediately launch into a professional and thoughtful display of harmonization, putting coordinating shirt/short combinations on hangers, adding flourishing touches on high (hung) hats and making sure all the notes (price tags, brochures) fall into place. It's the difference between sitting in on "So What" with a Jamey Aebersold CD verses Miles Davis in his club days.
Henderson, a semi-retired teaching/medical assistant who moved here from her lifelong hometown of Edmonton in 1968, says selling clothes was one of her former occupations. She says her move to Saskatchewan was only supposed to be for a few years, but she "felt at home right away and never left."
"When you get into an elevator people smile at you," she says. "People would never do that in Edmonton."
The musical talent in the tent belongs to Andrieu, a retired teacher now working in a vitamin store, who started singing a few years ago ("old ones like Ella, Sarah") and spends much of a performance by the Don Watson Octet singing, humming and swaying to two sets of mostly old standards. She says several times the vocalist sounds a lot like local judge Grant Curry ("satiny smooth"), who it turns out to be. She notes many members of the band have played together for years, describing their performance as "swinging, mellow, very cohesive, very blending together."
Among the evening's main concerts are saxophonist Joel Miller and pianist/trombonist/ conductor Hugh Fraser, both of whom I saw and enjoyed in Medicine Hat the previous week. The third act is the funk-oriented Moses Mayes And The Fusion Orchestra, making it the obvious choice for the evening once my writing/editing chores are done - not an unpleasant task as a saxophonist (Miller?) is practicing a variety of phrases in the hotel room one floor down from mine.