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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 13, No. 8 May 2008

Top Festival Picks

by Marc Chénard, Félix-A. Hamel, Paul Serralheiro / May 11, 2008

Once again, the jazz team of La Scena Musicale/The Music Scene has pored over the schedules of Canada’s leading festivals in search of shows to suit jazz fans of all stripes. This year, our top picks in our usual three categories are not only listed in the hard copy of this publication, they will also be posted with others on our newly created jazz blog (keep reading for more information).

Sure Bets

Last year saw the passing of the great lyrical tenor Luciano Pavarotti, as well as jazz tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker. With Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman, they played under the name of Tenor Summit. The Montreal Jazz Festival kicks off June 27 with an exclusive opening-night Canadian performance of these two masters with a new foil in tow… Ravi Coltrane! With a sterling front line like that and a surefire rhythm section backing them, does one really need to make a sales pitch on this one? MC

Sweeping across Western Canada on a six-city tour, starting in Ottawa on June 20th, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra is a group of accomplished soloists that join together to make a powerful group sound, covering repertoire that ranges from the earliest jazz (Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong) through swing-era (Ellington) right into more recent territory (Mingus, Ornette Coleman). To quote leader Wynton Marsalis, this is a band that plays “with feeling and precision.” PS

Finnish pianist and harpist Iro Haarla, widow of the legendary drummer/bandleader Edward Vesala, will be covering most of the Canadian festival circuit this coming June. Her quintet is a stellar band that includes the talented saxophonist and arranger Trygve Seim and another legend in his own right, drummer Jon Christensen. This group’s first ECM album “Northbound” is already a Nordic jazz classic (see record review section). FAH

Bold Strokes

Evan Parker, a veteran of the English creative music scene now in his mid-60s, has developed a totally unique approach on both tenor and (especially) soprano saxophones, expressing himself, as it were, in a language all his own. He will be performing first in Vancouver on several occasions, most notably with the Barry Guy New Orchestra (June 24, 25), as well as with his own trio (plus guest pianist Augusti Fernandez). On June 26, he will land in Montreal with both Guy and drummer Paul Lytton to play at the Suoni per il Popolo festival. PS

In late June, Vancouver will be closer to Oslo and Stockholm than ever with a Nordic invasion of sorts. No less than eight events will feature Swedish and Norwegian musicians, most notably the members of the supergroup Atomic (trumpeter Magnus Broo, saxophonist Fredrik Ljungkvist, pianist Havard Wiik, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love), saxophonist Mats Gustafsson (with his power trio The Thing) and drummer Raymond Strid. The aforementioned will also participate in a series of mix-and-match improv encounters with local musicians (François Houle and Dylan van der Schyff, among others), with American saxman Ken Vandermark also guesting. FAH

Inviting a contemporary classical string quartet to a jazz festival is a daring move for sure. Montreal’s Bozzini String Quartet will perform on two occasions in Vancouver, first with French pianist Benoît Delbecq on June 23, then on its own two days later. Earlier in the month (on the 3rd ), the foursome will make its debut at the Suoni per il Popolo Festival in a North American premiere performance of a piece co-written by Jean Derome and Joane Hétu. An intriguing proposition, to say the least.

Can Con

Scheduled at press time for the Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal festivals, Nordic Connect is a quintet featuring the talents of two Canadians of Scandinavian descent—trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and her sister saxophonist Christine. Two Swedes, pianist Maggie Olin and bassist Mattias Welin, round out the band with American drummer Jon Wikan. Centered on original compositions that are lyrical and fiery, the quintet plays with impressive subtlety. PS

More than twenty years after their album “Nouvelle cuisine” for Justin Time, Montreal’s best known vibist, Jean Vanasse, and bass legend Miroslav Vitous reunite for the festival season, with dates scheduled for Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal. A rare opportunity to hear the great Czech on stage in an intimate and most promising meeting. FAH

Ottawa native and current Montreal resident bassist Pierre-Yves Martel returns to his former stomping ground on June 29 to present his highly original adaptation for jazz quartet of Sergey Prokofiev’s “Visions fugitives” for solo piano. Two weeks prior on June 16, at Montreal’s Off Festival de Jazz, Martel and his fellow band mates, Gordon Allen (trumpet), Phillipe Lauzier (reeds) and Isaiah Ceccarelli (drums), will premiere an even newer repertory project, this time focused on the music of the quixotic French composer Eric Satie. Who says you can’t get new wine out of old bottles? MC

(c) La Scena Musicale