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Vancouver jazz festival 2010

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Just thought I'd start a thread for this--it starts today & runs for the next week & a half. I'm attending the whole thing (reviewing it for Signal to Noise) & will post a few responses as they occur (I find it a lot easier to remember everything if I do daily reporting).

If there are any other Organissimo denizens in attendance this year, drop me a line & we can always meet up. I'll mostly be at the avant-garde-oriented stuff (since that's STN's main focus). Will be taking in Barry Guy, the Globe Unity Orchestra, the Schlippenbach Trio, MOPTDK, Pavone/Cleaver/Malaby, Eric Boeren.....

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This afternoon/evening, a couple free improv gigs--

First half of a set at Performance Works, a horn quartet plus Paul Lytton on drums--none of the horns familiar except Johannes Bauer, who's always entertaining though sometimes too broad for my tastes. Anyway, this was basically fun improvised jungle music, & it was refreshing to hear Lytton sans bassist, always making something interesting happen. Unlike a lot of improv this actually had some rhythmic interest to it--there was one section where there was a kind of layered time, with a 3 against 2 flavour though it was a lot looser than that. The trombonists occasionally laid down bass lines, the saxophonist (Henrik Walsdorff) did a kind of free-Konitz thing, & the trumpeter (Cappozzo) pulled out a fluegelhorn & showed a marked Kenny Wheeler influence (lyrical plus little upwards flares).

Then a quartet at the CBC, Gerd Dudek on tenor (from the Globe Unity gang) plus three locals. I found this interesting but frustrating--Tommy Babin has impressed me on occasion, notably a Guelph gig some years ago, but I do find he has a tendency to wallpaper free-jazz bass (i.e. it's always there, coating the music) & Dylan van der Schyff could have backed off a bit too at times--they did a vaguely Coltraneish thing a lot of the time to respond to Dudek's marked Trane influences but it did go on & on in a rather diffuse way. But I found Chris Gestrin at the piano fascinating--a tendency to stillness, that kind of harmonic suspension & "meta" gameplaying then you associate with Hancock in a certain mode. Interesting to nonte that his latest album has a cover of an Art Lande tune, if that helps suggest one influence. Anyway, he was sometimes inaudible but I got the feeling this was sometimes by choice, the way he wanted to make very specific & not always prominent interventions in the music. & there was one solo spot for him, all chords, which were winding in on themselves (touches of Evans' "Nardis" solos but with a more evened-out flavour), which was just so much more interesting than the rest that I wished I could hear more of that. Unfortunately his own trio set is tomorrow night, counterprogrammed to the Schlippenbach trio/MOPDTK, so I'll miss it.

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Barry Guy, Michel Gagne, "Fixed, Fragmented, Fluid" -- One of those ambitious multimedia projects that avantgarde-oriented festivals tend to like programming that are "innovative" and basically nonstarters. The opening set was fine--three improvs by various subsets of the group--the opening by Guy & Peggy Lee was a little too much the standard "incredibly busy virtuoso string duo" for me to really engage but once Maya Homburger entered I found things a lot more interested because she brought a kind of fractured cadenza-style drive that made for an interesting push-pull with the more "all-over"ish other two instruments. Then a superb Paul Plimley / Lukas Niggli duo, as animated and lightly gestural as always with Paul, fragments of barrelhouse & ragtime thrown into the mix. & then Guy / Peter Evans / Evan Parker, very much the standard dense headcrushing improv you'd expect but with Evans speeding it up it really got to levels of idea-splattering violence that made it a little more special.

Unfortunately the 2nd set was awful: it was a Guy composition intended as a collaboration with the animator Michel Gagne. There were some fragments of a prerecorded Plimley/Guy duo which had fully-worked-out animations by Gagne--those were OK. But for the rest I just ended up closing my eyes--Gagne resorted to a lot of cycling through limited sets of patterns, neither usefully synched to the music nor having much independent life of their own. & the music was not one of Guy's more impressive pieces.... I think the only bit that stood out for me was the weird duo of Homburger & Niggli, which I don't think exactly worked but the sheer blitz of percussive colour versus the violin was at least interestingly unbalanced.

Then Mikko Innanen/Innkvisitio at Ironworks--terrific bassless quartet with Innanen (sax, plus some kind of wooden clarinet, & various toys), Fredrik Ljundkvist (tenor, clarinet), & a great synthesizer player & drummer whose names I won't look up right now. Kind of headbanging Ornette/Tim Berne in flavour, with a GREAT hookup between the rhythm section (it was fun to watch/hear) & the kind of music where when a player enters the fray you're not entirely sure what the effect will be--often quite the opposite from what you'd expect. A long piece in tribute to Yusef Lateef was especially good.

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Yesterday was an interesting day--probably if I wasn't reviewing the festival I would have gone to a slightly different program, as there's only so much "loud noisy busy" avant-garde stuff I want to see in a row & there was a fair bit of that--I was really sorry to miss the Chris Gestrin trio, which was playing at the same time as MOPDTK & the Schlippenbach Trio. I've been listening to Gestrin's 2nd trio disc on Cellar Live & it's really fine stuff.


1) 3:00 Granville Island--two duos by Barry Guy, with Maya Homburger & Alex von Schlippenbach. The Homburger duo was lovely, one of their typical programs of improvs, "Veni Creator Spiritus", two Biber sonatas, & some of Guy's compositions. My favourite moments were when Guy's own composed interlude peeked out of the Biber, & also the final suite, "Tales of Enchantment". They've been doing these kinds of programs for a while & I think this is one of the better ones I've heard in terms of how it all meshed together & Homburger's improvising seemed often hard to pick out of the more "composed" stuff.

Then AVS/Guy--I have mixed feelings about AVS when he's at his pushiest busiest so it was really nice to encounter him in his most ruminative, light-handed mode here--I love his 12-tone-ballad shellgames. I wasn't entirely sure it worked when he dropped into his atonal take on "All the Things You Are" (Guy didn't as far as I can tell bother to follow it) but this was nonetheless really strong, thoughtful improv. Guy's pleasure is also always infectious--he can be a wonderfully tuneful player when he's so inclined.

2) second half of the 4:30 set at Studio 700--this was billed as solos/duos but the 2nd set was a straight quartet gig, combining the frontline of Monk's Casino (Rudi Mahall & Axel Doerner) & the frequent local rhythm section Torsten Mueller & Dylan Van Der Schyff (cf their disc with John Butcher). Rude anything-can-happen improv, the horns often like a bebop acidbath, van der Schyff MUCH better than the previous afternoon, & I like Mueller's purely acoustic approach (very different from Guy's!), no insistance on dominating the ensemble but instead infiltrating it with little swerved sounds, the bow & strings often at strange angles.

3) big evening event: Mostly Other People Do the Killing, a band that every jazz critic loves except possibly me; I mean, I can see why people find them fresh & exciting but the whole faster-louder-busier-more-ironic thing starts to drive me batty after a while. The most deeply ironic thing here was a moment where they went through "All the Things..." nearly straightforwardly, except that Irabagon's endlessly unreeled line was more like a parody of Konitz/Marsh linespinning, Shea's discreet drumming was.... well, coming from Shea you KNOW it's gotta be ironic, & I noticed Moppa Elliott was actually playing the bass line (plunking out the roots in the most literal way possible) wrong-handed! Anyway, very very impressive, & migraine-inducing too. They ran through a bunch of their tunes, or rather ran around with them, chewed them up (Braxton collage is in, Zorn jumpcut is out). One of those "fun until it's not fun" situations.

Schlippenbach trio: they did their thing, beautifully as always: listening to Lovens I was reminded of how old-school (compared to MOPDTK) he is in that you actually just get a lot of the sound of his playing--like a traditional jazz drummer, there's something about the way he hits a cymbal that means he doesn't have to necessarily do anything complicated & you can just listen to it endlessly (& indeed he sometimes did focus on just hi-hat or cymbal). AVS was in his "erect walls & demolish them" mode mostly, working at kind of block/slab-like two-handed chordal crunches repetitively; the balladic moments over sound a bit like an atonal take on Monk's "Just a Gigolo" variations. Parker got a nice tenor feature in the middle that had a little unexpected harmonic fizz in the first half. The set went on too long & could have used a few more of the quieter moments, I felt.

4) Plimley/Guy/Niggli at Ironworks. This went from "one of the best things at the festival" to "irritating" in the space of a few minutes. The playfulness was genuinely inspiring--I love seeing Guy in his most impish moments, & Plimley has his mischievous Wizard of Oz air, jumping up & plunking back down. I think that Niggli can overdo things--I started to lose the thread when it just became this all-over batter in the 2nd piece (starting with everyone pulling out all their percussive tricks). The audience seemed to love this & the musicians were clearly having a GREAT time but I eventually gave up when it became clear we'd reached the turning where they were just never going to dial it down.

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Let's see--been two days since I posted which means, uh, like 10 concerts ago.... let's see what I remember.

Sunday the 27th--

3:00 Granville Island--terrific gig by Torsten Muller, Evan Parker, Paul Lovens--I enjoyed this a lot more than the Schlip 3o, truthfully, just because Muller is a player who mostly plays "small" things (resolutely unamplifed) but they're very insistent & idiosyncratic--he has a physical relationship with the instrument unlike any bass player's I've seen (in particular, he has some of the most extremely varied angles of attack I've seen with the bow, & also likes to contort the strings in unusual ways). & it was just a blast seeing them work all this out--not least when something truly unexpected happened, like a passage where Muller & Lovens did a Mingusy "playing in 2" thing & I was waiting to see what on earth Parker would do (in the event, he deliberately played "against" it). Also some great tenor/drums battles here.

tail end of Guy/Homburger/Houle show at CBC Studio 700--a return to "Tales of Enchantment" from the previous day. Maybe not quite as magical though the outlines of the piece (suite actually) were a bit clearer.

Globe Unity at the Roundhouse--a truly impressive 2-hour show by a 11-piece edition of the band--no bassist, Lytton AND Lovens on drums, & a mix of old hands & some newish faces in the brass/horns (Henrik Walsdorff on alto sometimes stealing the show). Despite the potential for a wall of sound, this was however loud always quite modulated, with a lot of spontaneous section-work and riffing that really DID make this feel like an update of the classic big band idiom; also the players fully inhabited the idea of "acting out" in an almost dramatic fashion, i.e. inhabiting different personas (and since they had one solo in the first set, & one duo in the 2nd set, there were lots of opportunities to for instance do something totally different in each solo spot--e.g. Mahall was in his "droll children's song" bag for his first solo, then with Johannes Bauer was totally brutal in the second set). Evan Parker & Gerd Dudek seemed to feel a real kinship here--aside from their duet in part 2 they were also frequently paired up in the section work (sometimes with Mahall). Very instructive to hear Dudek's crisply articulated post-Coltrane sax against EP's melting whirls. Anyway, a great show--if they've got any more North American stops, I do recommend boardmembers catch them while they can.

Gordon Grdina's trio with Fred Ljundqvist--without looking at my (mostly illegible notes) I don't remember a lot about this except that it was really good, hot playing--Grdina is a guitarist who doesn't stint on the notes but isn't a grandstander, it's always very fluid & of-the-moment. & it's always a pleasure when he pulls out the oud! There was one audience clapalong that, well... I hate audience clapalongs. Never mind, it was good.

Next day--

Han Bennink/Grdina/Willem De Joode/Francois Houle--terrific "free prog rock" set I'd call it, with Bennink funny but not inclined to chaos, & god this rocked the roof off on occasion.

Nils Petter Molvaer--the rock-concert lighting for this one had me stifling a laugh at times (you know: austere edge lighting on otherwise dark stage, then the light cycle all over whenever it gets Heavy & guitarsoloey) but this was mostly enjoyable FXy trumpet/guitar/drums stuff that aims for the "cinematic" bag. Not sure I had a lot to say about it, though the ending did seem interminable.

Bill Frisell/Eyvind Kang/Rudy Royston--mostly in the "pleasant, mildly rocking" vein of latterday Frisell--didn't find it irksome, didn't find it especially exciting either (it's all very "tasty"), but it was really nice to hear him play "Subconscious-Lee" at least. Wasn't pleased about his glib take on the Carter Family's "Look on the Sunny Side of Life" though.

Michael Moore Quintet--this was Moore plus 4 Vancouverites, a really fine gig at Ironworks--Moore's the master of modulation, sometimes literal (I loved the way he took "vanilla [triadic] chords" on the tune "ABCs" & with some twisty harmonic paths did something very fresh with them), sometimes more emotional/narrative. There was a tune called "The Whistleblower" which seemed to be his take on Wayne Shorter's 1960s sound--like a blues shuffle with everything out of place & a totally unique chorus structure--& also at the start of the 2nd set a tune that really elegantly merged slidy modal stasis with rapid "All the Things You Are" movement & yet didn't have anything like a conventional "tension/release" feeling. Chris Gestrin was again excellent here (first time he'd worked with Moore!) & Brad Turner made a really sinuous in-and-out foil for Moore. Stayed for both sets of this one.

Today: Grdina with the Coat Cooke Trio--fully improvised I think but it actually did have "spontaneous composing" here, including some nice ballad work & nasty blues grooves. Cooke I only knew from his NOW Orchestra work, & it was a pleasure to hear what a big traditional post-Rollins sound he had on tenor--his opening solo was really eloquent, in fact--& the rhythm section had the veteran Clyde Reed & a young guy on the drums who was not flashy but had ideas & wit & a good sound (I really hate it when the drums don't sound good, like a recent Whit Dickey gig I was at where they just seemed to wrap the music in wet paper): the name was Kenton Loewen.

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Enjoying your commentary, Nate. :tup

Sounds like you're getting to a lot of interesting music. I'm guessing it's not unusual when you have a lot of these free/creative improve performances packed into a relatively short space that things can be a bit hit or miss. Sounds like mostly "hit" though, for you.

Your descriptions of the music offer a nice flavor of what's happening. What about the audiences/attendance? Any after-hours or off-festival things happening? And how's the food?


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The attendance is pretty good--keep in mind the afternoon gigs are free, but everything I've been to (ticketed or non-) has been pretty packed, though I think no sellouts. The Frisell/Molvaer seemed a little empty given the size of the theatre, but maybe I'm wrong. -- Haven't really sought out food spots though if anyone has strong recommendations I'm all ears. I did have a funny experience getting taken to an Ethiopian place a few days back--I ordered rather casually off the menu & ended up getting a kind of lightly spiced steak tartare with fresh cheese. We were supposed to share dishes but I could see that it would not exactly be a popular item so I simply ate it myself. Fortunately I'm not averse to raw foods--actually it was quite good, just not very shares-friendly!

Last night I just took in one gig, a double bill of Dupont T (French group) and Eric Boeren's quartet. The Dupont group was kind of frustrating--lightfingered virtuoso stuff, very contemporary Euro jazz in flavour with a certain rhythmic element from the Steve Coleman/Rudresh Mahanthappa area (in fact Mahanthappa is on their CD but it was a French saxophonist here). The willowy young pianist had some enjoyable chops--a rapidfire solo on the first tune was nice & I really liked his bitonal solo intro to the 3rd piece--but all round this was very precious stuff & I kind of zoned out at the end.

Boeren's group was great though--a mix of Ornette tunes & originals & an Ornette-style version of "Embraceable You"; Michael Moore was in his usual deadpan saucy form & Han Bennink was swinging like mad on a single snare drum. Goodhumoured without being chaotically goofy like some Dutch stuff, & Ornette's tunes remain some of the greatest instigators for small-group improvisation, I think--the manage to scorch the earth & throw out new shoots all at once, in the space of about 30 bars.

Today was the Quatuor Andre LaChance--pleasant enough fusion with LaChance on guitar rather than bass, but wasn't doing a lot for me so I took off after they got to a rather squishy ballad. Gestrin was there again but playing "Moog bass" (Brad Turner was the keyboard soloist).

Tonight is a double-bill of Tomasz Stanko & Tord Gustavsen--have mixed feelings about going (Stanko's recent work bores me) but I'll probably show up nonetheless.

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Gustavsen was much more enjoyable than I'd anticipated given that I wasn't sure how well the smoothed-out gospel of the one album I'd heard (The Ground) would communicate in concert. It was the same group plus a saxophonist (no vocalist, unlike his recent disc of Auden settings)--some bits that were just too precious for me but on the other hand there was a physicality to the playing I wouldn't necessarily have expected--I mean, the incredibly quiet/soft playing actually started to make me feel tense & involved, thinking about the way it's bound up with touch & breath & pulse, & the loud bits really did feel ecstatic, not the staged drama of the Molvaer concert at all. The "wordless hymns" weren't my bag but I mostly liked this.

The Stanko was surprisingly terrible. I had time for his previous band of youngsters (Wacsilewski et al) but this one was just pretty useless--piano, electric guitar and electric bass, drums, with none of the dynamic shading of the Gustavsen... it was exactly the kind of unvaried chorus-after-chorus playing I least enjoy in mainstream jazz, & the drummer was annoying me (I think it may have been the miking, but there was an unpleasant quality to his cymbal work where you only really heard the stick hitting the cymbal but virtually none of the actual resonance & decay--& he also used those bundled stick/quasi-brush things a lot, which rarely sound good to me), & the electric bassist was really useless on the lite-bossa numbers--some really clumsy moments there. The best thing was one tune where rather like A Woman Is a Woman's big Karina striptease number the band stopped playing during Stanko's trumpet solo & then resumed at the end of each of his choruses.

I went to Ironworks for Plimley/De Joode/Bennink but it was sold out--I eventually made it into the back room & listened to the end of the first set via the soundboard feed through the amp back there but it wasn't the same & I just found I'd lost my desire to hear it. It seemed fine but I couldn't really make any qualitative judgment on it due to the circumstances.

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Well, apparently I missed an interesting confrontation at the Plimley/De Joode/Bennink gig.... The story I have is that Han insisted for the entire evening playing as loud as possible, & Plimley eventually tried to get him to tone it down, even getting up to tell a story about how much he loves Han's brushwork & "well, Han, why don't you play some brushes?"--& Han pulled them out for a few seconds, t hen went right back to the hard stickwork. Anyway, this made me very curious about whether the scheduled Plimley/Bennink/Gratkowski gig at the CBC studio the next day would be a disaster. It started out very strained, in fact--Han deliberately not coming to the stage at the start then coming on with his sticks in a plastic bag, & it indeed opened with Plimley basically in dialgoue with Gratkowski & Han playing incredibly loudly & confrontationally. But it actually did end up a very fine concert--Plimley seemed to decide to turn it into a kind of bashing free barrelhouse session & then it ended up as a great kaleidoscope of swing & stride & boogie woogie & 1930s swoony balladry... I'd never heard Frank play so much "in the pocket" jazz actually as in some bits here. There were a few recognizable tunes--"Green Chimneys", "Cottontail" and a wonderful polytonal skit on "C Jam Blues" with Bennink tapping out rhythms on the floor.

Boeren/Tony Wilson/De Joode/van der Schyff--really nice free set at Ironworks, with Boeren's immersion in Ornette & Cherry still audible; I loved the frenzied guitar-trio moments here too.

I swung by a nice basement space on Alexander St to catch a more rock-oriented improv session with JP Carter--I liked the space (the beer was cheaper than at Ironworks!), but the music was null (Carter was fine, but the drummer basically clunked away & the bassist ground through her bag of riffs) so headed back to Ironworks for Michael Moore/Peggy Lee/DvdSchyff. I'd originally had doubts about going to this--I'd seen lots of improv gigs this festivals & had seen all these musicians in various combinations--but this was clearly the outstanding improv gig so far. Hard to describe why except to note the extraordinary sound of Moore's clarinet combining with Lee's very passionate cello (bowhair was flying everywhere by the end), & that rather than the musicians seeming to be constantly searching around for where the music should go or aiming at "variety", it simply found its own unique but manifold musical space & that was sufficient room for exploring over the entire set. The 2nd set with Moore on alto was less sublime but it was really intriguing to hear his own distilled lyricism absorb elements of Coltrane's long-form modal playing here. Anyway, I took no notes as I was more interested in just listening to this gig--probably wasn't recorded, it'll just be a fond memory, but the first set was close to perfect.

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Phew.... been a while since I posted & it feels like a whole month's passed.... that's what happens when you go to 3-5 concerts daily. I have been almost painfully conscientious about covering as much as I can.... fortunately it's also been really enjoyable, for the most part, so the overload of music is just something I've learned to live with.

OK... where was I?

I gave Lisa Cay Miller's Q a shot at Granville Island--my devoted readers may recall that I hated a concert of hers in the same venue a couple years ago so I was going to give this a miss, but then reports were that her improv session at the Ironworks with Lee & Mitchell was very good. Alas, the Q gig didn't do much for me--same jangly unsubtle use of prepared piano that I remembered from the previous occasion, & though the players obviously were more comfortable with the music than last time (Q has been together for a while & their CD is pretty good), I didn't find the compositions terribly inspiring either. I was totally baffled that the opening number, which didn't sound like it needed more than 32 bars of stuff written out, was spread out over 4 or 5 pages of score...!

To the Ironworks for "Houle/Smulovitz Duo with Lori Freedman".... this proved surprising on two grounds: (1) it was Vivien Houle the vocalist (apparently no relation!) not the clarinetist Francois and (2) she was sick & couldn't make it. So it was Freedman (clarinets) and Smulovitz (laptop, electronics, violin)..... this started out rather testing-the-watersish & in general I'm not a huge fan of improv+electronics gigs but this one developed pretty nicely... I was amused to note that while Smulovitz avoided one of the most annoying cliches of the genre--big delay/echo--Lori actually reintroduced it via acoustic simulation of delay! (i.e. repeating a phrase exactly but more indistinctly). One piece used cutups of Houle's vocal improvs & worked nicely, though I think I probably wouldn't have enjoyed this so much if it actually had an improv vocalist for the whole thing (a pretty YMMV area of the music). Some use of wildly sped-up and slowed-down violin samples that actually worked well too. Lisa Miller apparently played with them on the 2nd set but I had departed to catch the Roundhouse gig.

At the Roundhouse--I avoided Brandi Disterheft after inspecting the program (my impression was: bassist/singer hoping to cross the pop/jazz divide, with nice taste in coiffure), so came for the Pavone/Malaby/Cleaver gig. Organissimo is home to at least one Malaby skeptic & one Pavone skeptic.... I must say that I'm occasionally unsure what to make of Malaby, but here mostly I found him very enjoyable... I guess I just really appreciate someone who's really thought about how to take EVERYTHING from the post-Evan Parker tradition of nonmelodic, "textural" sax playing, & then wed it to straight jazz playing. I don't find him a really forthcoming personality as a player but some of his playing here was just terrific--there was one soprano solo here I really liked, that kept surprising me in the way it moved from Surman-style lyricism to notes winging all about the place. & he did one of those climactic JATP/free-jazz squeal/honk things at one point that was actually worth listening to. Pavone is amazingly enough nearly 80 years old now, & I would never have guessed it--seemed more like a spry 55-year-old.

The Inhabitants--marvellous gig at the Ironworks. This is one of the really underrecognized Vancouver bands people should know about--Dave Sikula on the guitar, JP Carter on trumpet, I forget the bassist, Skye Brooks on the drums. Aching FXed trumpet that's not quite like any of the usual suspects (Mazurek, Kondo, &c), doses of slow-burn rock & blues, Sikula's beautifully forthright guitar work, great tunes that do interesting things with the usual "quiet/loud/sparse/busy/metrically complicated" range of options & rhetoric. Why these guys aren't better known is beyond me.

Next day:

Bill Coon double quartet with Brad Turner--I love jazz + strings projects, so this was one I wanted to see. Some tasty arrangements that were mostly not too sweet, & Coon does interesting things even with a bossa. The initial pair of arrangements of a Jim Hall blues & a Portuguese tune were great--Turner did a deliberately somewhat showy solo on the latter which contrasted nicely with the wistful nature of the tune.

.... will write more later on the next stuff I saw/will see.... Gratkowski/Muller/Eisenstadt/Wooley, Tony Wilson, Fond of Tigers, Deerhoof.... then today it's Babin, Coon/Hammett-Vaughan, not sure after that but ending with Eisenstadt's Canada Day at the Ironworks.

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Memory starting to fade..... but:

Gratkowski/Muller/Eisenstadt/Wooley--this one started off with a longish "feeling each other out" bit but gradually started to move into interesting territory--the main thing for me was hearing Eisenstadt's free playing here, which was very "small" and precise & clear, in a way that's actually pretty rare in the genre (often playing with snare head muted with a cloth, in fact).... the interaction between him & Gratkowski (a first encounter) was fascinating.

Tony Wilson 5tet: they basically played all of the group's album Pearls Before Swine, no material from the recent set of variations on Benjamin Britten's Lacrymae, & it was actually nice to hear this stuff in this format as it removed the one element of the band I didn't like (the saxophonist on the CD, who mostly plays loud Zornish splatter). Wilson's methodology is somewhat peculiar, in that he builds up these terrific multi-part grooves that probably have a certain Afrobeat element--& then for improvising the band simply stops & does a very spacious, quiet improv, then eventually work their way back to the groove. They did a Tom Cora tune (also on the CD) which was very tasty indeed, & this was a particularly good way to hear Jesse Zubot & JP Carter together & apart (Carter much more "open" in sound than in the Inhabitants). A fine gig.

Huntsville--marvellous Norwegian band from the Rune Grammophon/Sofa zone--long-form drone/folk improv, with Ingar Zach using a lot of small motored devices to keep metal bowls ringing, snares beating, &c. I loved the use of banjo halfway through, though it seemed to provoke a small flood of people heading to the exits!

Fond of Tigers and Deerhoof at the Commodore--not a jazz gig of course. I liked the Tigers' two CDs a lot, & they're hometown heroes, so it saddens me to report that their gig was pretty sludgy. One of the most compelling things they do is these long-form pieces with insanely intricate timesignatures, layers, back and forth juggling of material.... usually it's classified as prog rock or math rock. But (1) I was less pleased that that was ALL they did on this occasion--as loud as possible, too (there are actually quiet & melodic moments on their CDs, & even the Toronto gig I caught from them a little while back was more varied!); (2) wasn't too taken with Stephen Lyon's leadership--the band seemed not really to be gelling--though he was also battling a rogue tuner & two broken strings; (3) the unfamiliar material seemed to be retreading familiar territory--in fact, there was one tune that pulled out a riff so close to a piece they'd played earlier (I think it was "A Long Way to Temporary", 3rd in the set) that I wondered if it was a reprise.

Deerhoof--also loud but the leavening vocals & sense of humour (& more entertaining stage presence, at times guying pop-band cliches or striking poses) were a big plus & the tunes also are a lot shorter! They did a lot of stuff from the two albums I know--Friend Opportunity and Offend Maggie--plus probably some earlier things, one new piece that sounded like it needed more work, & the drummer came to the mike for a "Gabba Gabba Hey" interlude. I didn't stay for quite all of it as I was weary but it was a much nicer way to end the evening than the Tigers' barrage.

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Incidentally I should say about the Commodore Ballroom that it's a great space--a huge old 1920s dancefloor/concert space that's now used for rock concerts. In front of the stage is a huge polished wood floor which I gather has springs beneath it; during the intermission I spotted a troupe of dancers (probably from some of the free street festivities over the weekend) who were delightedly testing it out, one redhaired woman doing jetees. I wish there were more old spaces like this left in Toronto.


Next day: Tommy Babin's Sendero Luminoso--his slant on bossa & Latin carnival music, I gather.... a really enjoyable concert, though my favourite piece was the least typical, something like a Motianesque free ballad. Anything with the Carsick duo (Sikula/Carter) is always a pleasure to hear, too--Carter played some of his straightest horn of the festival here & sounded great.

Bill Coon & Kate Hammett-Vaughan at Granville Island's Tap Room--lovely standards set, including a medley of Frank Loesser tunes in honour of his centennial ("Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year", "I've Never Been in Love Before", I forget the 3rd), Legrand's "Once Upon a Summertime", & some Joni Mitchell & Patsy Cline to diversity the book a little (the Cline was "She's Got You"). Very swinging stuff, too, despite the bare format. Pity I didn't catch any of Kate's avant-gardish gigs, but I like her in this bag too.

I skipped out on Peter Van Huffel halfway through the 1st tune. Couldn't see the point.

A great double bill to close the fest at Ironworks--Peggy Lee's "Film in Music"--I haven't the faintest about the bandname--it's an octet, & basically it's simply the usual mix of Peggy's excellent compositions (the requisite layered grooves that's kind of a Vancouver house style--though the direct emotional quality of the strings gives it a different flavour) & then long mostly a cappella free improv solos to stitch them together. Peculiar band in that Torsten Muller seemed to be basically doing his own thing, adding small, nearly subliminal squiggles to the music but I think not playing anything scored--Andre Lachance's electric bass & sometimes Chris Gestrin's piano were really the foundation of the music. Anyway, though I wasn't entirely sure about this disparate mix of improv & compositions, the individual bits were all good & there were some spectacular moments--Jesse Zubot's unaccompanied violin solo & a really urgent 10/4 rock thing with Tony Wilson scorching the guitar, in particular.

Then Harris Eisenstadt's Canada Day--with Babin on bass (Opsvik couldn't make it), doing just fine playing some tough tunes. I like the CD just fine but I think that it's a little too cool for me; the concert was all-new music & I found it exciting to hear how Harris was taking that updated 1960s Blue Note sound & then introducing a lot more of his own African-influenced sound... in fact there was an arrangement of a Mongezi Feza tune in the 2nd set, & there were a lot of tunes that had a celebratory township feeling. As I remarked to Harris after, there were a lot of Michael Moore's "vanilla chords" on this night!

& that was the last gig of the festival. As always, a pretty impressive program with a very good hit/miss ratio relative to just about any other festival I've attended. It was a pleasure to be there.

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