come late March early April, both hope and music spring eternal.
Ushering in the long awaited vernal equinox is Montreal’s
first jazz festival of the year, Jazz
En Rafale. This year’s 6-day mini fest, celebrating
its 10th anniversary, played in an unprecedentedly snowless city.
It featured Cuba’s amazing composer, arranger, pianist,
percussionist Omar Sosa, and the always engaging Jupiter-Vandoren
competition, that after a tough selection process, showcased five
of the very best up-and-coming jazz combos vying for the precious
first prize: a first album recording contract with Effendi.
look forward to this competition as much as the main events because
I always hold out hope that the new generation will correct what
I don’t like in jazz: directionless solos that brilliantly
succeed in saying nothing, and over-reliance on improvisation
at the expense of composition. For the most part, the youngsters
didn’t disappoint because while in awe of their iconic elders
and demonstratively familiar with the music of the past, they
are brash enough to show polite contempt for what has been said
and said well -- so irrepressibly eager are they to share their
fecund inner visions and inspiration. They made a convincing case,
set and point that without youthful fervor and innocent conceit
-- the food upon which the imagination thrives -- there would
be no ‘new directions’ in jazz.
inventive intervals from this year’s competition were supplied
by the Syzygy Quintet -- the daring and brilliantly conceived
mixing and harmonizing of sax (Ted Crosby) and voice (Isis Giraldo).
Giraldo was able to shape and sound her voice so that it sounded
like an instrument, and in the context of separate but wonderfully
composed harmonic lines, the effect was magical. It’s only
a question of time and exposure before uptown jazz incorporates
this very effective pairing into its lexicon.
competition revelations included the mature, considerate and conceptual
sax playing of Philippe Poirier from Les Associés; and
the development and architecture that distinguished the compositions
of the opening group, Atomic
5 -- my unsolicited first choice. The winner, last
year’s runner up, was the Rafael Zaldivar Trio.
to the hard work of Effendi
founders, Alain Bédard and Carole Therrien, and the ubiquitous,
Auxéméry, this year’s Jazz
En Rafale was an unqualified success. The enigmatic, charismatic
pianist Omar Sosa delivered a rousing set of Cuban influenced
jazz inflected with contrapuntal rhythms that never fail to betray
his small island’s large influence on
western music. France’s Anne
Paceo made the case that you don’t need testosterone
to excel on the drums, and guitarist Carl Naud showed that fusion
need not sound like a has-been genre in need of life support.
His song writing showed craft, and his invited guest guitarist,
Provost, demonstrated why his soon to be released
CD, Désirs Démodés, will be one
of the year’s musical talking points.
the Jazz En Rafale juggernaut is getting bigger and better y-ear
after y-ear, it would be strategically hip if it were to stage
its concerts in a downtown venue, giving walk-ins the opportunity
to discover why Montreal jazz and its jazz festivals, both large
and small, are lessons on how it gets done. Stay tuned for 2010.
FILED BY ROBERT LEWIS
PHOTOS © MARCEL DUBOIS