Day 8 - Festival International de Jazz de Montreal, July 5, 2006
The connection between these two artists was palpable, with an intuitive ability to flexible time that often required no eye contact at all between them. Their mutual appreciation was also clear throughout the performancesometimes through the smallest gestures, at other times through their faces reflecting the enjoyment both were clearly having on this rare occasion of re-acquaintance. A sentiment shared by the audience who, despite another performance to come, would not let them go without an encore. Mirabassi asked if the audience wanted a fast or slow tune, and by choosing a soft ballad that ended in beautifully unresolved ambiguity, the audience were left satisfied, but also wanting more. Hopefully there will be a follow-up to Graffiando Vento to fill that desire.
In contrast to Mirabassi and Guinga's 7 pm performance, the 9:30 pm show was considerably larger in scale. But before a trio co-led by saxophonist Stefano Cantini and pianist Rita Marcotulli took the stage, augmented with a string quartet of Montreal musicians conducted by Mauro Grossi to perform music from L'Amico del Vento (EGEA, 2005), accordionist Renzo Ruggieri performed a single extended solo piece. Much like French accordionist Pascal Contet's show on the closing day of the 2005 International Festival Musique Actuelle Victoriaville, Ruggieri demonstrated just how creative the instrument can be. But unlike Contet, who utilized a variety of effects to broaden the textural possibilities of his accordion, Ruggieri relied strictly on its acoustic nature, performing a piece that mixed form and freedom, melody and texture, and to great effect.
The piece fit comfortably into EGEA's aesthetic of accessible music that, on deeper examination, goes much deeper. It's a shame that there are those who feel that the artistic value of a performance and/or artist is defined by how inaccessible the music is. Music needn't be abstruse, idiosyncratic or overly complex to bear weight, and Ruggieri's performance proved it.
As did that of the Stefano Cantini & Rita Marcotulli group. Richly orchestrated, the set looked forand foundthe nexus of European classicism, jazz tradition and improvisational acumen, though where the lines were drawn were sometimes vague, one of the many factors that made the set so enjoyable.
Cantini is a fluid player on both tenor and soprano, and while there was a scored foundation throughout the set, there was also plenty of interplay between him, Marcotulli and double-bassist Raffaello Paretiwhose deep-in-the-gut tone and ability to build focused and narrative solos made him an especially pleasant surprise. While Cantini stayed close to the center for most of his soloing during the set, spare use of multiphonics and a dextrous ability to range from lyrical simplicity to more powerful bursts of energy implied that he's capable of much more.
While Cantini seemed to be the main focus throughout the first part of the setif for no other reason than Marcotulli being turned mostly away from audience while Cantini was front and centershe proved to be an accompanist who, when combined with the string quartet's more defined role, allowed for greater spontaneity. And while her often contrapuntal interplay with Cantini and Pareti proved her a terrific team player, it was in the latter half of the set, where she was afforded more solo space, that her ability to apply an impressionistic classical approach to an improvisational and jazz-centric setting demonstrated why this group is a co-led affair. While this was not music to which the term reckless abandon can be easily applied, there was no dearth of ideas, and she demonstrated a certain looseness of approach that ensured that this performance would be different from any otherwhat one would hope for and expect from any group placing itself in the jazz continuum.
Grossi's conducting of the string quartet was an essential part of the performance, as there were times where it had to be integrated with the somewhat more open-ended interaction going on between Canto, Marcotulli and Pareti. The arrangements were both lovely and evocative, with the quartet, at times, asked to tap on their instruments to create a polyrhythmic foundation that made up for the fact that there was no percussionist to be found,
What was, perhaps, most revealing about the performance was the choice of encore. Dipping into the standards repertoire, Cantini, Marcotulli and Pareti played considerably freer, demonstrating the kind of musical breadth that makes any individual project a matter of choice. The bulk of the group's performance may have been about elegance and lyrical beauty, but it was clear that their interests are more diverse. Marcotulli, in particular, played a fine piano solo that was a the perfect combination of spontaneously created form and more overt improvisational abandon.