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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 18, No. 7

Jazz: The Festival Beat

by Marc Chénard / June 1, 2013

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Suoni per il Popolo, 13th edition: More Bold Strokes

A showcase for avant-garde musicians of all stylistic stripes, the Suoni per il Popolo has now become a rallying point for fans with venturesome tastes. From alternative rock to electronica, from free jazz to non-idiomatic improv and even an incursion into written contemporary music, musical experimentation is the driving force of this event.

Like all festivals with a proven track record, there are names that hold a special place in the hearts of its organizers. In the “avant-garde jazz” section, reedist Ken Vandermark is one of them, to the extent that we’ve lost track of how many times he’s played in town, both during the festival and between them. Yet, he has not appeared in town for a while, but this absence is made up for by a two-night stand (18-19/6). On the first evening, he will spar with compatriot trumpeter Nate Wooley and British drummer Paul Lytton, followed by a duo set by Paal Nilsson-Love (drs.) and Terry Ex (b.) On the second night, he will lead one of his many bands Turn Left with special guest, trumpeter and saxophonist Joe McPhee. The latter will also be heard in a rare duo setting with German reedist Peter Brötzmann in the previous week (10/6), while British saxophonist John Butcher will demonstrate his unique sonic explorations in both solo and group settings (16/6). A guitarist unlike any other, Joe Morris will make his festival debut in a trio setting (22/6). As part of Morris’ unit, bassist and festival stalwart William Parker has put together a unique band, the French-American Peace Project (see details in the concert recommendations further down, under Discoveries and Bold Strokes). Montreal’s own Ensemble SuperMusique will share an evening with the Nouveau Jazz Libre du Québec, a duo comprised of drummer Guy Thouin and saxophonist Brian Highbloom (20/6). Paired down from 30 to 18 musicians, Nicolas Caloia’s Ratchet Orchestra will premiere a specially commissioned work by composer-violinist Malcolm Goldstein (12/6).

Thanks to the initiative of the Bozzini String Quartet, there will be a focus on the German-Swiss contemporary music collective Wandelweiser. A notable guest here is Austrian trombonist Radu Malfatti, a one-time pioneer of European improvised music in the 1970s but now pursuing a more radical brand of composed minimalism. Also of note are several films showings, including an excellent documentary on German saxophonist Peter Brötzmann entitled “Soldier of the Road” (9/6), “A World of Sound” on the late tenorist Dave S. Ware (13/6) and “Parallax Sounds” on the Chicago jazz scene (17-6), a must see for all fans of Ken Vandermark and his coterie.



» Upstairs + More festival picks

Not to be overlooked in the upcoming festival splurge, Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill is back with its own series. Best known as the mainstream jazz den par excellence in town, this cozy locale will also divide its program between veterans and upstarts. Of the former, pianist Barry Harris, at 83, is no less than the custodian of the bebop flame. True to the form and spirit of his mentors Charlie Parker, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, he will peform in a trio setting with two veteran accompanists (28-29/6). Barely a few months younger than the pianist, Helen Merrill is a living legend of vocal jazz. Invited to play at Upstairs in the summer of 2009, the singer cancelled her engagement. But here she is, making up for it in what may well be her penultimate Montreal performances (3-4/7), her first in town since 1986! As for Ranee Lee, she is still very much in fine form and will wind down the series on July 7 with her vocalese.

At first glance, alto saxophonist Greg Osby and pianist Bill Charlap have little in common stylistically, apart from working within the jazz mainstream. The former will appear with first-rate drummer Terry Lynn Carrington in a special quintet project dedicated to Dexter Gordon (30/6). Charlap, for his part, will tickle his ivories (5/7) to the tune of well worn standards that are the bread and butter for many a jazz fan.

On the flip side of the coin, the series will welcome some new comers and repeat Upstairs visitors like guitarist Gilad Hekselman and his trio (27/6) and drummer Colin Stranahan (6/7), not to forget a pair of highly-touted New York drummers, Mark Giuliani (1/7) and Nir Felder (2/7).

In keeping with its reputation, the FIJM runs a gamut of styles in indoor series, five of which are more tightly focused on jazz. For the benefit of the novice fan, here are a few suggestions:

» Jazz d’ici
Sure Bet – Ingrid and Christine Jensen (2/7)
Discovery – Jacques Kuba Séguin and Litania Project (28/6)

» Invitation
Sure Bet – Charles Lloyd Quartet (28/6)
Discovery – Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn (5/7)

» Pianissimo
Sure Bet – Enrico Pieranunzi (4/7)
Discovery – Gwilym Simcock (30/6)

» Jazz Beat
Sure Bet – Ravi Coltrane Quartet (28/6)
Discovery – Orchestre national de jazz de Montréal (16-musician big band, 6/7)

» Jazz dans la nuit
Sure Bet – Steve Kuhn Trio (2/7)
Discovery – Tim Berne Snakeoil (6/7) 

Translation: Catharine Hine


National Festival Picks

When it comes to the organization and coordination of jazz events, Canada is the envy of our American neighbours, for fans and organizers alike. With almost 20 members, the Jazz Festivals Canada network is not that well known in the communities that are part of it. It is, however, a major help to artists, as it supports them in their national tours. In November, the artistic directors meet in Montreal to field proposals. They select not only headliners and big names, but also Canadian talent who are supported by Canada Arts Council touring grants. In this scheme, artists stand to gain as much as the audience, who are given the opportunity to discover acts both within and beyond our own national borders. Without the indispensible coordination process between festivals, many artists could never cross Canada’s vast terrain. In years past, this publication has covered the national jazz scene extensively and this year’s column follows in this vein by highlighting some of the principal players who will soon be travelling from coast to coast in the festival circuit.

» Sure Bet

David Murray Infinity Quartet + Macy Gray

Absent from our festival scene in recent years, David Murray returns in full force this summer with a new album and a musical style firmly rooted in jazz and soul. Macy Gray, a star vocalist on the African-American music scene, will join Murray onstage for an evening that will heat up the stage as much as it will lift the spirits.

Ottawa (22/6)*, Victoria (26/6), Vancouver (27/6), Saskatoon, (29/6), Montreal (1/7)
(* Playing with a big band ensemble, also in Kitchener 21/6)

Herbie Hancock

This pianist and keyboard player needs no introduction. He has earned his superstar reputation as both a jazz and pop music icon. A Miles Davis alumni, Hancock, at, 73, has earned another distinction, that of being named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. This summer, he will play the Western Canadian festival circuit.

Saskatoon (26/6), Edmonton (27/6), Victoria (29/6), Vancouver (30/6)

Courtney Pine and House of Legends

Courtney Pine, an Afro-British saxophone player in the lineage of John Coltrane, will tour the country following a long absence. The project is a fusion of multiple black musical traditions, creating a style that is jazz as much as it is pop.

Winnipeg (22/6), Toronto (23/6), Ottawa (24/6), Vancouver (27/6), Victoria (28/6), Saskatoon (29/6), Montreal (30/6)

John Scofield and Überjam

Who hasn’t heard of this jazz fusion icon and his electrified band with a German-sounding name? If you don’t already know it, it’s one helluva grooving outfit.

Saskatoon (23/6), Vancouver (25/6), Halifax (10/7)

»Discoveries + Bold Strokes

Vijay Iyer

For those in the know, this pianist could pass for a sure bet by now. But for others, he is a musician to check out for his rhythmic concepts, which are very sophisticated, yet can swing deftly and take unexpected turns.

Vancouver (21/6), Victoria (22/6),  Saskatoon (23/6), Montreal (4/7, trio, 5/7  piano duo with Craig Taborn and 6/7, solo)

Silke Eberhard Trio

Last year, German altoist Angelika Niescier gained unanimous support amongst audiences at three Canadian music festivals. This year, a colleague of hers, Silke Eberhard from Berlin, may well do the same with a saxophone and two clarinets in tow. Another fine example showing that women in jazz need not only be pianists or singers.

Ottawa (22/6), Vancouver (25/6), Victoria (26/6) 

French American Peace ensemble

American improvisation masters (William Parker, Hamid Drake and Kidd Jordan) and the founding father of French free jazz, François Tusques will come together in a first encounter. As an added bonus, the great Louis Sclavis will also play, but for one Canadian concert only, in Montreal.

Montreal (Suoni per il Popolo) 13/6, New York (Vision Festival) 14/6, Vancouver (21/6), Ottawa (23/6) (First two performances with Sclavis.)


This Greek word, meaning “prudence” or “wisdom,” helps to describe a very cogent and thoughtful approach of a group comprised of Danish bassist Jesper Høiby, Swedish drummer Anton Eger and British pianist Ivo Neame. This trio is a serious contender to succeed the E.S.T. Trio since its leader’s unfortunate demise five years ago.  Vancouver (22/6), Montreal (1/7)

» Canadian Content 

Peter van Huffel / Gorilla Mask

Originally from Toronto, this Berlin based saxman will tour with a trio this summer, playing 13 shows from coast to coast. This is one man on the go who is earning a solid reputation on the international scene. A talent to be discovered.

Kingston (22/6), Ottawa (25/5), Edmonton (28/6), Vancouver (29,30/6), Toronto (2,3/7), Montreal (Casa del Popolo, post/festival, 4/7), Halifax (6/7) and Saint John, NF (10/7) + 3 other performances outside the festivals.

Carlos Lopez Afro Columbian Jazz Orchestra

Carlos Lopez, the Columbian born guitarist who now lives in Montreal, won big in the “touring lottery,” with a grant allowing for 12 summer tour dates for his octet. Four horns and four rhythmists will jazz up the Cumbia, much to the delight of festival-goers.

Ottawa (22/6), Calgary (26/6), Edmonton (28/6), Victoria (29/6), Vancouver (30/6), Montreal (3/7) Halifax (8/7) and Saint John, NF (10/7).

 Marianne Trudel Trifolia

On the heels of a performance in Germany with her trio in April, Marianne Trudel hits the road this month with percussionist Patrick Graham and bassist Étienne Lafrance. With the addition of keyboards and an accordion, the pianist offers a subtle variant on the classic piano trio format.

Victoria (21/6), Vancouver (24/6), Edmonton (26/6), Toronto (27/6), Ottawa (28/6), Montreal (4/7), Halifax (9/7), Saint John, NF (10/7) 

Translation: Elisabeth Giles

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