2013 Montreal Jazz Festival: June 28-July 2, 2013
Catching up with Versace after nearly a decadebringing the requisite soul to John Scofield's Ray Charles tribute at a performance across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec in the fall of 2005, just seven months after he'd shown a completely different side with Indo-Pakistani guitar explorer Rez Abbasi at the somewhat grotty but still kind of funky The Bayouit's clear that the keyboardist has come a long way in the ensuing years. Performing with everyone from John Hollenbeckon the drummer/composer's superb "covers" album, Songs I Like a Lot (Sunnyside, 2013)to being fundamental to the success of guitarist/composer Joel Harrison's equally fine Search (Sunnyside, 2012), Versace (also a member of Maria Schneider's orchestra, where he more than likely met Ingrid) is no longer a second-string player hired when others aren't available; instead, he's now being enlisted by artists ranging from Matt Wilson and Claudia Quintet to Cloning America as a first-call player, and with good reason. At Jensen's show, playing acoustic piano and a little bit of Fender Rhodes, Versace demonstrated both his intrinsic virtuosity and deep sensitivity to both the needs of the music and the action going on around him, whether soloing or as an accompanist.
Hollins and Wikan have certainly honed their own language over the years, and the only real problem is that they're not better known beyond their own circles. Hollins, as a soloist, demonstrated the same kind of allegiance to the material as Versace, often building solos very directly from a composition's primary theme; as an anchor, his robust tone and perfect choices gave everyone else the freedom to explore, with complete trust that, no matter how great the risks they took, he'd always be there as a focal pointeven giving Wikan the freedom to play with time and groove, turning Christine's "Margaretta" from its initially ambling waltz-time swing to a more backbeat-driven bit of near-funk.
Ingrid has long been known, beyond a clear mastery of her instrument, for her tasteful use of effects; at her Montréal performance she used her effects sparingly but with great results, occasionally adding a touch of wah or a hint of looping. Christine, switching between alto and soprano saxophone, has been gradually emerging as not just a composer of note, but a performer as well, her solos at L'Astral possessed of a wonderfully warm but dry tone and deep compositional focus that went deep into the material for new avenues of expression.
It was a terrific set that demonstrated the benefit of long-term relationships in the case of the entire group, and the intuitive possibilities of sibling partnerships. Christine's new big band record is due in October, but ever the student looking to expand her reach, she'll be studying for eight months with John Hollenbeck; Ingrid's last record as a leader, At Sea (ArtisrtShare, 2005), was nearly a decade ago, and if her performance with Christine demonstrated anything, it's that it's well and truly time for a follow-up. It was a tremendous set that, in its unassuming honesty, was yet another highlight of the 2013 FIJM.
Since emerging in 2007 with its debut, Organic Warfare (Loop), and more importantly its 2009 Loop follow-up, Green Delay, Phronesis has garnered significant attention in the UK and mainland Europe. Bassist Jasper Hoiby, pianist Ivo Neame and drummer Anton Egerthe drummer replaced, for just one recording, 2010's Alive (Edition Records) (selected as "Best Jazz Album of the Year" by both Jazzwise and, even more significantly, MOJO), by American Mark Guilianahave, since then, gone from strength to strength, their last recording, Walking Dark (Edition Records, 2012) further cementing the group's reputation as a modernistic piano trio with youthful appeal to a broad demographic.