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The Vancouver Jazz Festival Part II

There is only one full day left of jazz festival action and then there is a short curtain call of Canada Day festivities on Granville Island, July 1.

A quick reprise of today’s highlights at David Lam Park and the Roundhouse Community Centre. I volunteered at the Ironworks last night so, I did not get up early and I forget to charge my cell phone. I decided to leave my motorcycle at home and take the bus downtown. I arrived just in time to get into Paul Plimley’s performance on piano with a quartet of mostly European influenced players. Harris Einstadt (Toronto) on drums, bassist Wilbert de Joode and saxophonist Tobias Delius.

In the second piece, Paul’s extended solo developed beautifully out of an ensemble improvisation and was one of the best pieces of music making in the improvised set. The ensemble played very well together, interacting and responding to each other in a musical dialogue. The group’s mood changed dynamically when they played a soulful ballad as the penultimate piece, showing that improvised music doesn’t have to be loud, noisy and full of odd sounds. The final piece demonstrated that it could be exactly that and the concert ended on an energetic chord.

After a meal, I wandered over to see Ezeadi Onukwulu , who had played with me in the third incarnation of my ensemble, “Play the Moment Composers’ Collective”. This group featured three female singers who danced in African fashion. I recognized Nick Apivor on percussion, but I did not know the other players in “One Human Race”. Ezeadi sang in his native Nigerian and adopted English languages and I was reminded that he is quite a good flute player. I was happy to see him playing to such a large audience in David Lam Park.

It was getting late, as I had to get over to the Centre for Performing Arts where Monty Alexander was opening for the Andy Bey Trio. I stopped by to see if Alan Matheson had started in the Roundhouse Festival Hall, but they were tuning up and I decided I couldn’t wait. Alan is one of Vancouver’s finest trumpeters and he plays piano very well. He was playing with his usual front line of David Branter and Julia Nolan on saxes and my former composition instructor, Rob McKenzie on trombone. I noticed Lawrence Mollerup on bass, but I had to look in the guide to identify Jon Roper the guitarist. I hadn’t seen this group with guitar before, but I didn’t want to be late for the ticketed show and I planned to walk across town. I will have to catch up with them at a later concert.

It was a beautiful day in Vancouver, and I enjoyed walking over to the venue. It is always a trade-off at the jazz festival as there were some shows that I really wanted to see at the Roundhouse, but I had a ticket for the Centre. Monty Alexander had already started, so I waited until the piece was over before I took my seat. I was in the very back row, and in another venue that could be a problem, but I have never had a bad seat at the Centre. I could hear every note thanks to the great soundman and I was impressed by Alexander’s style.

The trio was very tight and the rhythm section meshed into a supportive unit for Monty’s excursions through reggae, latin and popular jazz standards. There were many traceable influences, but all of the arrangements reflected the extended harmonies of jazz, even though some of the rhythms were heavily influenced by Alexander’s Jamaican roots. This was a thoroughly enjoyable set with some fine piano playing that never strayed too far into dissonance.

Andy Bey also played piano very competently, especially showing his abilities on works by Thelonius Monk. These were sung by Andy with lyrics that had been added after the piece had been composed by Monk. Adding lyrics to jazz instrumentals has become more of a trend as even Joni Mitchell has put lyrics on such standards as “Pork Pie Hat”. But Bey did not write the words, he sang an existing arrangement. He did write some of the material that tended towards the blue side of jazz. The piano chords were all extended and reminded me of be-bop arrangements, but the vocal was steeped in the real blues. Unfortunately, this style is not the most popular with Vancouver audiences, particularly when originals such as “Economic Blues” are sung. Bey ended his set with some be-bop jazz numbers that he sang wordless scat over his stellar rhythm section without playing piano. This is one of the few concerts I have seen at the Centre to end with the last song, as it is a venue where standing ovations and curtain calls are routine.

Everyone may also be feeling that the end of the festival is drawing near and they want to skip around from venue to venue tasting the last fruits of the tree. Every year, it takes me a while to adjust to going to shows everyday and it is a big job just to coordinate everything I want to see. I never have gotten to see everything and this year is no exception. I will fill in the rest of the shows I saw during the week when I summarize at the end of the festival.

I look forward to a sunny Sunday in David Lam Park.

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  1. Lisa
    June 29th, 2008 at 20:50 | #1

    Hey Victoria,

    Great blog – I enjoy your writing style not to mention the wealth of knowledge you share – thanx!

    great meeting up with you again this year – maybe see you in the park today . . .

    cheers,
    L

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