Ottawa Jazz Festival Day 11: July 1, 2007
Bouncing back after some criticism over its 2006 line-up, the 2007 TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Festival was an overall success. Some of its biggest-ever crowds attended performances in Confederation Park by legend Dave Brubeck and relative newcomer Pink Martinianother act that drew in a significant number of under-thirties.
At the various indoor series, the piano focus of the Connoisseur Series yielded memorable performances, and a fascinating opportunity to experience just how different a single instrument can sound under the hands of a diverse group of players. The too-brief but substantial Improv Invitational series featured two local groups (a welcome first) and two European groupsall demonstrating it's possible to be challenging and fun. The Studio series had its share of that as well. And after a couple of lean years for after-hours activity, the late night jam sessions were jumping almost every night, with everyone from Roy Hargrove to Junior Mance sitting inand, in the case of the always enthusiastic Hargrove, hard to shut down.
There were a couple of missteps, most notably Dr. Lonnie Smith, whose rant early into his set, suggesting that John Coltrane was responsible for the death of jazz in clubs, was met with resounding indifference if not disdain. Piano wunderkind Matt Savage, while undeniably talented, was a case of a back story more interesting than the resultant music though, at only fifteen, he's got time on his side, willing to help him evolve into an artist of merit.
Amongst the twenty-five shows covered by All About Jazz, the following shows stood out:
- Bill Evans Soulgrass A surprise that featured known entity and festival favorite, violinist Christian Howes, and legend-in-the- making banjoist Ryan Cavanaugh, this ex-Miles Davis saxophonist's mix of bluegrass and jazz occupied a similar space as Béla Fleck and the Flecktones but, with a more direct rhythm section, grooved far harder while still flexing plenty of muscular solo power;
- Bill Frisell
- John Geggie Group Opening the Improv Invitational series, local bassist John Geggiewho also returned to lead the late night jam sessionsalready had a reputation for operating without a safety net at his own series held during the off-festival season. Here he demonstrated that free music can be both beautiful and lyrical in a trio with percussionist Pierre Tanguay and Pierre-Yves Martel on the viola da gamba, the cello's ancestor. Three lengthy improvisations found their way to (and sometimes left) compositions by Dave Holland, John Zorn and Charlie Haden. The only unfortunate thing about the show was its low turn-out;
- Toots Thieleman/Kenny Werner Two artists, separated by a nearly three-decade gap, delivered the festival's most sublime performance, a loving tribute to classic jazz material ranging from Herbie Hancock to Michel Legrand and Bill Evans. There is, quite simply, nobody who sounds like the 85-year-old Thielemans on chromatic harmonica, and nobody capable of following the harmonicist's gentle twists and turns with ease while simultaneously charting new directions of his own than pianist Kenny Werner;
- Dhaffer Youssef
- Roy Haynes Octegenarian he may be, but drummer Roy Haynes looks more like a youthful fifty and plays like an out-of-the-gate twenty year-old. Keeping the ever-important mentoring tradition of jazz alive, he brought a superb quartet of young players who turned the most well-heeled Cole Porter standard ("My Heart Belongs to Daddy") into a post-Coltrane modal burner with stunning solos from pianist Martin Berjeramo and saxophonist Jaleel Shaw. Unquestionably the hottest show of the season.
l:r: Tony Scherr, Rudy Royston, Bill Frisell
Any time guitarist Bill Frisell comes to town, he's worth seeing. This time, with longtime friend Tony Scherr on bass and relative newcomer Rudy Royston on drums, Frisell delivered a set ranging from edgy freedom and dense loops to loose grooves and idiosyncratic lyricism;
l:r: Joanna Lewis, Ivana Pristasova, Petra Ackermann, Melissa Coleman, Dhafer Youssef, Jatinda Thakur
Tunisian-born, Paris-resident oudist/vocalist Dhaffer Youssef's last couple of albums have seen him working in an electronica space with Norwegian Nu Jazzers including Eivind Aarset and Nils Petter Molvaer. Here, accompanied by the Divine Shadows Strings and tablist Jatinder Thakur, Youssefwho, on occasion, sampled and looped his oud as well as Melissa Coleman's cellodelivered a largely acoustic set that dissolved not only musical boundaries but cultural ones as well. Combining Middle Eastern tonalities with the intimate warmth of a classical string quartet and the intricate pulse of Indian rhythms, Youssef's performance was the sleeper hit of the festival;
Visit People Project, The Souljazz Orchestra and the TD Canada Trust Ottawa International Jazz Festival on the web.