Montreal Jazz Festival 2004: Week 2
The Spectrum, on rue St. Catherine, whose interior looked like the Village Vanguard on steroids, held a doubleheader of sorts this evening. The Vinicius Cantuaria Quintet played the early show, and the charismatic guitarist and vocalist led a fabulously energetic band whose percussion-driven sound was primarily Latin, with some surprising Middle Eastern highlights added. Cantuaria sat while he played and sang, and the fabulous band fired off Brazilian rhythms con gusto. The lead percussionist, Paulo Braga, garbed in shades and a white bandanna, was a frenetic whirlwind, and the rest of the band seemed to draw energy from his performance, especially acoustic bassist Jay Osby, whose sound was large enough to boom over the rhythmic energy. The most interesting song Cantuaria performed that evening was Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Ligia," which was slanted toward the r&b/funk slot in the musical spectrum. And he induced the audience to participate in singing along on "Ela a Carioca," during which we provided out own warm breezes to Cantuaria's splendid guitar work.
After Cantuaria I went to the media room and asked, with a straight face, if there was any chance of me getting into the festival's Oliver Jones Trio/Oscar Peterson Quartet closing concert. The gentleman at the desk replied, with an even straighter face, "Not even if you're the Pope." So I went back to the Spectrum to see trumpeter Dave Douglas with his quartet Vacation Blues, featuring Roswell Rudd on trombone, Brad Jones on bass and Barry Altschul on drums. This group offered a feast of free jazz meets Dixieland inventions. Douglas blew with tremendous power and energy on up-tempo tunes and with sweet sadness on ballads. He and Rudd produced a riot of colors and intonations, dancing skillfully among the challenging arrangements, with Rudd occasionally coaxing frightfully deep notes from the trombone. Jones kept the heartbeat pumping smoothly throughout the set, and when Altschul wasn't keeping polyrhythmic time he was playing thunderous solos.
When the group came out to play their encore, Douglas issued an apology to the audience. "I'm sorry about our President," he said to wild applause and cheering. "We're really doing what we can to send him back to Crawford, Texas." The song that followed, Monk's "Bye-Ya," was dedicated to the recently departed Steve Lacy. Douglas explained that Lacy would often close his shows with that tune, and instead of telling the audience what he was going to play, he would simply raise his hand, wave goodbye, and start playingwhich is exactly how Vacation Blues ended their set.
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"We're from Toronto, but nobody's perfect," quipped Abbey Sholzberg, the bassist for the Club Django Sextet, who played a free afternoon concert at the Complexe Desjardins in the Hyatt Regency Hotel. The group also featured guitarists André Séguinot (the group's founder), John Farrell and Tony Oldland; Rodion Boshoer played violin and Gerry Duligal was on the accordion. The music they played was inspired by the great guitarist Django Reinhardt, evoking the swing and "gypsy" styles he helped to popularize back in the twenties and thir-ties. Today's listeners might be familiar with the style via the animated film "The Triplets of Belleville." The guitars they used were replicas of the ones Django played; Sholzberg expanded the homage by wearing red socks, which Django preferred (and I'd like to think that the violin in the group was a silent homage to Stephane Grappelli).
Among the songs they played were pitch-perfect versions of Reinhardt staples such as "I Found A New Baby," "Waltz of the Hedgehog," and I Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight." The group's take on "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)" featured beautiful accordion work by Duligal. At the end of the closing song, a rousing swing tune, the sextet shouted "DJANGO!" on the last note, the perfect exclamation point to mark the end of this edition of the Montréal Jazz Festival. Jusqu' à la prochaine fois, Montréal, au revoir.
Visit the Montreal Jazz Festival website at www.montrealjazzfest.com .