Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 10, No.4, 2011

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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Bernard Dubé
  Contributing Editors
David Solway
Nancy Snipper
Farzana Hassan
Samuel Burd
Andrée Lafontaine
Sylvain Richard
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
  Music Editors
Emanuel Pordes
Diane Gordon
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Denis Beaumont
Marcel Dubois
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Jazz Contributors

Tommy Emmanuel
John Stetch
Susie Arioli
Coral Egan
Diana Krall
Stacey Kent
Carol Welsman
Aldo Romano
Denzal Sinclaire
Madeleine Peyroux
Bireli Lagrene
Sonido Isleño
Provost & Lachapelle
Kevin Breit
Sophie Milman
Annie Poulain
Badi Assad
Donato & Bouchard
Ingrid Jensen
John Roney
Russell Malone
David Binney
Kurt Rosenwinkel
Mimi Fox
Voo Doo Scat
Coral Egan
Martin Taylor
Jordan Officer
Melody Gardot
Jean Vanasse
Yves Léveillé
Sylvain Provost
Louciana Souza
Patricia Barber
Jill Barber
Corrine Bailey Rae
Chet Doxas
François Bourassa
Sylvain Luc
Neil Cowley
Marianne Trudel
2010 Montreal Guitar Show (Sylvan Luc)
2008 Jazz en Rafale Festival (Montreal) - Mar. 27th - April 5th -- Tél. 514-490-9613 ext-101 (featuring David Binney)
Montreal Jazz Festival 2010







Piano Keyboard


by Robert J. Lewis

Featured artist: FLORENCE K

© Victor Diaz Lamich



Florence K comes by her abundant gifts honestly. Both her parents were musicians: her mother, Natalie Choquette, a celebrated opera singer, her father, Hany Khoriaty, a guitarist and composer.

© Victor Diaz LamichOn stage, Florence has all the trappings that make her a joy to watch and listen to. She wins over her audience by investing her all in her music, and despite a sensuality around which religions are founded she refuses to play the pandering pop diva game. For her 2011 Montreal International Jazz Festival concert, she wore form fitting jeans and a simple, sleeveless top.

Florence possesses a strong and sure, if not unique and memorable voice. It’s actually better than Norah Jones’s, for example, who, in point of fact, does not have a good voice, but it is the only voice millions of us want to hear because it perfectly reveals the person that is Norah no less than the memorable music she chooses to record. However, Florence is a classically trained pianist and has a more complex musical mind than Miss Jones.

So despite her bona fides, why was I vaguely disappointed after her Club Soda concert where there wasn’t an empty seat to be had? Why isn’t this manifestly talented singer- songwriter an international star?

Florence is all over the map musically and linguistically. She can seamlessly hop step and jump from one genre and culture to another; her Cuban, her Brazilian, her French, her blues, her contemporary are nothing less than over the top. But that might be the reason why the sum of her gifts don’t add up, meaning audiences are wowed by Florence performing Cuban and Brazilian but not Florence herself. If she’s to take her already considerable game to the next level, she might have to stop doing what she loves to do and does so well, much like Miles Davis said the most difficult musical challenge of his life was to force himself not to play the ballads that he couldn’t get enough of. If and when Florence comes to realize that her lack of musical identity is a burning issue that deserves all of her attention, she might consider the example of Paco de Lucia.

As a flamenco guitarist, Paco is without equal, now and forever. His technique (his finger work) is so mind-blowingly clean and under control it forces the conclusion that there are higher forces at play and that the guitarist is merely a vessel. But in two hundred years from now, when history examines his accomplishments, Paco will be cited only for his inimitable technique and interpretations within the ‘pure’ flamenco genre. His vast output of original material will not survive because the composer could not make a clean break from flamenco; the structure was a drug he couldn’t wean himself off. When composing, he invariably defaults to the traditional flamenco interval such that all of his original work sounds faint hearted and derivative, leaving us to wonder if there isn't an inner mounting flame to be found and fanned. As a writer, Florence is in a similar rut in respect to her especially Cuban calling (cronica de un carril anunciado).

Piano and vocals are her strongest suit at this still early stage of her career. This came to the fore very late in the concert during a blues number where she showed astonishing orginality in a genre suffocating under the weight of a century’s worth of clichés. She also was highly original on the keyboards when performing a couple of standards.

Writing for solo piano might be the place to begin looking for herself in song, for when you take away all of the embellishments and her Cuba habit, what remains is the Florence that reminds us of someone else's music. Especially live, she is attracted to a large sound which puts her voice and piano at a competitive disadvantage. Since she is responsible for the sound she projects, she is not helping herself by indulging her love of hyper-ventilating brass and multilayered, highly complex, contrapuntal percussion. I’ve heard “Hija de Cuba” with a full band and also for solo piano and voice; the latter wins hands down, and it is there the Florence fragments are to be found.

Since Florence K continues to play more at home (Province of Quebec) than abroad, it could very well be that she is suffering under the stress of incompetent management, Yes-people self-dedicated to being liked but derelict when it comes to making those tough decisions upon which careers either break down or break out.

I’m convinced Florence should be a lot farther afield than she is presently, and there are reasons for it. Her challenge is to make these reasons work to her advantage. Her pedigree and natural gifts are formidable, her training and background give her a huge advantage over the competition. A few adjustments and compromises here and there and there’s no telling how far she can go, how deep is the ocean, how high is the moon.

Photos © Victor Diaz Lamich



(1) Dave Holland and Kenny Barron. In a word, exquisite. Kenny’s "Lullaby” is for the ages.

(2) Jill Barber. The top rankin’ had better make place for Jill; she can write, arrange and cozy up to a lyric with the best of them.

(3) Eivind Aarest. Il y avait un moment très tôt dans le concert lorsque je me suis demandé: ou sont passées les traces de LSD et mescaline que j'ai ingurgitées pendant les années 70? La réponse: nulle part. Elles sont toujours la, attendant le moment propice pour resurgir. Eivind Aarest était ce moment. La musique coulait plus agréable qu’un bain chaud au milieu d’un hiver brutal Saskatchewanais. Si vous lisez ca, Laurent Saulnier, il faut mettre Eivent Aarest sur la grand scene l’année prochaine: on peut pas sousestimer l’importance de la musique transitional pour les jazzfests.

(4) Michel Donato’s final bass solo in the Terez Montcalm concert at Club Soda. Donato had nothing to do with it. God decided to visit earth, took up residence in Donato and produced a solo that was so lyrically and rhythmically inventive it seemed to come out of nowhere. Without doubt, the best bass solo of the new decade so far. Unfortunately, the Big Guy didn't stay around for very long; I guess he couldn’t hack the pollution.

(5) Anat Cohen and guitarist Howard Alden playing Django’s “Nuages.”

(6) Guest appearance for two standards @Florence K concert by Molly Johnson, whose voice is now so rich and resonant it invites comparison with the incomparable Carmen McCrea's. Bringing Molly on stage was a huge strategic gaff by Florence and Company, a gaff equal to Sylvain Provost agreeing to play with Sylvain Luc (Jazz en Rafale, 2010) without a game plan.



John Coltrane
Miles Davis
Thelonius Monk
Charlie Mingus
Oscar Peterson
Charlie Parker
Dizzy Gillespie
Wes Montgomery
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