|A trad band at lunchtime in the Place des Spectacles|
Friday 1st July was the Fête du Canada/ Canada Day, beckoning in a holiday weekend, and I couldn’t help being affected by the good-natured, relaxed vibe around the Festival area. The festival puts on hundreds of free events in- and out-of-doors to amuse a big crowd. It really works. No, I don’t miss the aggressivity in the a big cities in Europe like London or Paris one bit, but very much appreciate an escape from it. I did a couple of interviews which will go into a JazzFM Jazz Travels feature, and then headed to some of the ticketed gigs.
Chick Corea / Christian McBride /Brian Blade Trio
The Corea trio was welcomed on stage with huge applause, and were already deemed worthy of a standing ovation at the end of the first set, which was the part of the show I witnessed. Corea was on a mission to have fun. He took phone shots of the crowd as he walked on, and once McBride was tuned, he started to “tune” the audience as if he was running a vast ear training class. Corea wears his fearsome virtuosity lightly, playfully, and can’t resist a quip and a chuckle, as in waiting to resolve the final cadence of a tune until the applause is deafening, and then doing it “privately” with the band, making it inaudible under the welter of applause. Corea’s lightness of piano touch is also a wonder, deployed at its most affecting in a rapidfire Bud Powell Tempus Fugit. Corea’s trio partners are both giants of the music. Christian McBride shone both as trio member and as soloist, particularly in some devilish string-crossing episodes, but he does these feats almost with an air of benign, smiling detachment. Brian Blade‘s range of textures and feels seems infinite, the other two are always operating with a constantly changing backdrop. The way these three keep it light, are never trapped, is a constant object lesson. .
|5 for Trio|
5 for Trio
I caught this guitar-bass-drums trio from Quebec City, who were the curtain-raising act for the Blue Note 75 celebration. They had a compulsion to rock out in odd meters, to my ears the most interesting pacing and the strongest musical presence were coming from the guitarist when playing solo. All three seemed charming people, deeply into their music, but with a tendency to land in a groove and then stay caught in it, and to repeat it rather than giving the listener any sense of forward motion, until their final number with a strong intensity build. So they proved they are capable of collective momentum after all. They are bound to develop…
Soeurs Jensen Quintet at Diese Onze
This was my first time in this brilliantly and conscientiously run club in the rue St-Denis, the other main year-round club being Upstairs in McKay Street. Saxophonist/ composer Christine Jensen is a major force on the Montreal scene, (“a world class writer capable of going head-to-head with any large ensemble composer/bandleader on the scene today” says John Kelman), who will be running the band at the big closing event on the last night, a concert honouring Oliver Jones. This was a more personal project, reuniting her with her New York-based trumpeter older sister Ingrid Jensen, and with a fine trio which had been assembled specially for this gig, and had rehearsed for the first time together that afternoon. Trust the combined band-leading skills of the Jensen family: every tune had coherent shape, and the responsiveness of all the musicians made this a gig to remember.
The sisters played their own compositions – Christine has issued two stunningly good albums of her big band music – and by close musical allies, as well as by a musician they both revere, Kenny Wheeler. Ingrid Jensen has that wonderful ability – saxophonist Chris Cheek is another who does it amazingly – to give credence and shape and sense to tunes, while at the same re-inventing them, finding another right, authentic and authoritative way to play them.
The quality of this rhythm section was very high indeed. Drummer Guillaume Pilote graduated from McGill less than two years ago but was in his element playing at this level. Pianist David Restivo from Toronto had the idiom and the Jensens’ approach to every tune sussed completely, and bassist Rémi-Jean Leblanc was superb with hyper-accurate tuning and a commanding sense of time.