REVIEWS FROM MONTREAL: Peter Bernstein / Mike Rud + Kenny Barron / Elena Pinderhughes + Renaud Garcia-Fons / Dorantes

Peter Bernstein (L) and Mike Rud (R)
Photo credit: Eric Harding

Sebastian writes: This is a round-up of short reviews of gigs heard in Montreal on 3rd and 4th July.

 Peter Bernstein and the Mike Rud Trio at Upstairs 

Upstairs is one of the two main year-round clubs in Montreal (the other is Diese Onze), paradoxically not Upstairs at all, but on a lower ground floor. Both clubs have extremely adept and capable owner-managers who take care of the business, and of the artistic side and the minute-to-minute running of the venues. These are places where the music is supported and nurtured.

The experience of small-group jazz played quite this well in a small club does bring that a wonderful feeling of being nourished artistically – that one has arrived at the right place at the right time . In the French version of proprietor Joel’s reminder to patrons to keep as silent as possible, he said  something which might bee too obvious about jazz, but nevertheless  has a rightness about it that makes it worth saying – and repeating:

“You are about to have a unique experience.”

That thought was definitely in mind hearing this encounter. Mike Rud is a guitarist based in Montreal whose highest profile album to date has be the Juno prize-winning Notes on Montreal, essentially a love letter to the city. He studied privately with Jim Hall, and is a fine and thoughtful player as well as being a composer and songwriter

He had invited Peter Bernstein as guest to play with Canadian musicians for  two gigs, the first in Ottawa with bassist Alec Walkington and this one, with the addition of a fourth player, one of Montreal’s top drummers Dave Laing. It was essentially a standards gig. The two guitarists’ sounds were well matched. I thought their physical stance told a story too. Bernstein tends to lean forward, Rud to lean back. Musically they were finding well-matched and different ways to function too: Bernstein was making a mark by finding and landing hard on the most descriptive rogue, “out” note in a line, whereas Rud was tending to keep the line shaped and even. A highlight was the ballad Darn tnat Dream  with some delightfully sparse less-is-more bass playing from Alec Walkington.

Kenny Barron Trio with Elena Pinderhughes
Photo credit: Benoit Rousseau / FIJM

Kenny Barron Trio with Elena Pinderhughes at Gesu

There are those things in jazz that a spectator of a live gig can just revel in, and where the only possible response is to allow oneself to be overcome by a sense of awe and wonder. The infinite subtlety and variety of Kenny Barron‘s piano playing is definitely one of them. Having listened to the Book of Intuition album quite a few times, I eventually got to the point where I  knew what marvel was coming next. In live performance , ie the “real thing,” the next thing that happens is always a pleasant surprise. The live performance is not more of the same. It is more of the kind of surprises you want.

Barron was a featured artist during three Nights in the Gesu centre and in the formation I heard he was working with Elena Pinderhughes whom he became aware of through a Juilliard connection. She has just been nominated Downbeat magazine’s Critics poll rising star on flute. Barron has Pinderhughes doing two specific roles in this set-up. She sings lyrics to Kenny Barron tunes, and as a flautist she takes solos, so it was an incomplete picture of her. Perhaps the most fascinating thing was to spot how the pianist was absorbing her solo flute lines and working ideas from them into his solos.  

Renaud Garcia-Fons
Photo credit: Benoit Rousseau 

Renaud Garcia-Fons and Dorantes at the Monument National

My next concert was the French bass virtuoso who is always re-vitalising himself with new projects Renaud Garcia Fons . This time he is in a duo partnership with flamenco piano specialist David Dorantes. Garcia-Fons has a vast range of tonal colours and melodic gifts to spare. He does springing bow in a way that makes the bass sound like a cimbalom. He does astonishing double stopping, his rhythmic assertiveness is wonderful. The pianist Dorantes came into his own in a solo tour de force which showed him to be quite some virtuoso. The crowd lapped it up with loud applause. But after my blissful 90 minutes of Kenny Barrron, maybe the next pianist I heard was going to sound monochrome by comparison.

Categories: miscellaneous

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