Jazzworks 2009: Jazz Boot Camp for Adults
Organizing a performance with 16 musicians of different backgrounds was challenging enough; doing it with virtually no rehearsal spoke to the high level of everyone involved. For two hours the faculty broke down into various permutations and combinations of subsets, with music ranging from mainstream to R&B. Pianist Gordon Webster and percussionist Aldo Mazzaplaying only a single hand drumworked their way through Chick Corea's classic, "Spain" with the kind of excitement of discovery that was clearly as much a surprise to them as it was to the audience. The altitude-challenged, ever-funny Julie Michels led a small group through a crowd-rousing, gospel-inflected tune that also featured a knockout solo from pianist Dave Restivo, as her singing went from coy and suggestive to downright provocative, answering the tremendous applause by saying, "If this is the response I get, I need to bathe more often."
l:r: Gordon Webster, Aldo Mazza
There wasn't a weak link in the group. Saxophonists Lozano, Bolduc and Nash all proved inventive in a multitude of contexts, while flugelhornist Jim Lewis delivered one of the best solos of night, making it a necessity for anyone in the audience to check him out further, once the weekend was over. Guitarist Kevin Barrett, on nylon-string guitar, was just as impressive as Restivo during Michels' feature, but it was Justin Haynes who proved to be one of the evening's biggest surprises. Best-known for more idiosyncratic playing in a free contextand earlier in the evening, he did plenty of that by bowing his guitar and twiddling enough knobs on his effects to get all kinds of unexpected sounds out of his electric guitar; but it was in the finale, a fabulous arrangement by Rob Frayne, where he proved that he may choose to work in a freer context, but when faced with changes and a more mainstream, large ensemble setting, he's still just as capable at navigating changes and creating incredibly compelling melodies that completely avoided any kind of repetitive pattern pitfalls. If the concert proved anything, it was that there's a huge groundswell of incredibly talented Canadian artists (Nash was, of course, just as fine, but is more established in New York) looking for a larger audience.
Christine Duncan's free improv reading of Jim Croce's hit, "If I Could Save Time in a Bottle" was an terrific demonstration of vocal pyrotechnics that extended beyond the merely melodic into sounds that a human voice shouldn't rightly be able to make (but she did anyway). But through it all, with a backing sextet featuring Nick Fraser, Jean Martin (another amazing demonstration of two drummers absolutely never getting in each other's way; instead, working together with a single purpose), Haynes, Lewis, Lozano and Geggie, Duncan also proved capable of profound lyricism.
Geggiewho only got one break in the entire performancecontinued to demonstrate just how important the last couple years have been for him; a time where he's taken tremendous steps forward in creating a distinctive voice and, through his ongoing concert series and as leader of the Ottawa Jazz Festival jam sessions, is capable of working in absolutely any context.
It was a terrific way to end the evening, even as students young and old went off to the campfire to roast some marshmallows and continue talking about the unifying reason they were there. The next morning came all too quickly, with a lot of people running on a couple hours' sleep and plenty of coffee. But they remained focused, as they hit the ground running, once again, to get to final rehearsals for the afternoon concert.
It was an unfortunate time to have to leave, but it was also long enough to have captured the essence of the Jazzworks jazz camp. As the camp heads into its 17th year in 2010, the only certainties are that it will continue to exist, and that it will continue to provide a remarkable experience for musicians of all ages who want to try and gain a better understanding of what it is to play jazz.
All Photos: John Fowler