August 2007

Jazz by Genre Summerfest 2007 day 2 Latin / Brazilian Jazz

Son Ido Cubano Hilario Duran Quartet Batucada Carioca Spin

August 10, 2007 The Docks Toronto
The Drum/The Song/The Dance/The Inner World/Jazz/Who I Heard – part 1
by David Fujino with photos by Roger Humbert
On a lovely summer weekend already crowded with big events — among them, Taste of the Danforth, Summerworks Theatre Festival, Hot & Spicy Food Festival, the Oshawa Jazz Festival, Festival of Beer, and The Chinatown Foodies Walk Tour of Chinatown, to name just a few — Jazz by Genre drew (disturbingly) tiny crowds to its somewhat inaccessible location in Toronto's portlands, charged prohibitively high ticket prices, and ended up by providing a smoggy, sound-challenged venue for the music.

It was a pity, because this ambitious 4-day feast of jazz and jazz-influenced music sent out that all-important message about African retentions — specifically the ritualistic, drum-centric message that was sent out long ago from Mother Africa to the diverse musical cultures of Cuba, Brazil, the Indian diaspora, the Caribbean, and Black America.

Although unlisted in the programme, the 6-member group, Son Ido Cubano, stepped up and immediately identified themselves as deft and clever purveyors of the art and the craft of Cuban son (song).

In one case, pulled forward by the male vocalist/6-string bass guitarist — his voice a thin mezzo which frequently rose into a declamatory upper register — the percussion-heavy group followed his lead and thrashed the steady beat into a quicker moving bolero. The group's breathtaking ability to lift their tunes, section by section, into an even higher state of tension and strength was, quite simply, remarkable, and fully deserving of the audience's swift and enthusiastic applause.

Also notable were the insistent melodies of the flute, the electric piano's thickening jazz chords, the guitarist's masterful soloing, and Piccolino's driving congas; they elevated the folkloric songs of Son Ido Cubano to an impressive and, yes, more sophisticated musical level.

In matters of sophistication and virtuosity, the Hilario Duran Quartet was, for me, the most satisfying, and whether they played "The Peanut Vendor", or a Bird tune, their use of dissonance, inner rhythm, and dense harmonies, made for a full jazz experience.

I came to hear Hilario Duran, Mark Kelso, and Roberto Occhipinti again, but on this occasion I was also happy to receive the added and hard-hitting sounds of the guest conguero, Joaquin Hidalgo. The passion on his face matched the raw beat of his hands.

Throughout their set, Duran and his players consistently expressed themselves in clear structures. (I kept thinking of Duke Ellington.) Working from a firm melodic and rhythmic basis, the quartet's music, at will, changed shape and time and speed and harmonic density — seamlessly.

With Duran's quote from "Stormy Weather" in the fourth tune, everything slowed down and this prepared the way for Duran's soloing, a burst of fast sparkling high notes counter-balanced by the deep chording grooves in his left hand. Duran's consciousness — at times, a streaming split consciousness — was conveyed by his independent left and right hands. Drummer Kelso adroitly sketched out the textures and directions of the music, while Roberto Occhipinti, with various ground bass lines, kept it all on an even keel.

Hilario Duran

Mark Kelso, Roberto Occhipinti & Joaquin Hidalgo
I continue to be moved and deeply 'impressed' by Hilario Duran's music. I'm glad he's in Toronto.

The next genre stop was Batucada Carioca and their full-on street parade — it was Carnival in Brazil.

This 10-member group really pounded out a tribal mass of drum-dominated samba sound. The lead male singer played snare drum and sang in mournful/optimistic Portuguese over a heart-beat of electric bass and two large tub-like drums regularly hit with soft mallets. An electric bass, ukelele, and rhythm guitar, a squealing lead electric guitar, two snare drums, and a talking cuica drum also took part in this air-pounding and steady chugging performance.

The social meaning of this music — with its strong mix of African/Portuguese anima — was right in your face; sensual, loud, and danceable. At times monotony would set in, but the constant, thick drum rhythm eventually became a steady launching pad for ecstasy. That's pretty good.

Batucada Carioca
Next up on stage was a young (big) Latino rap artist — Spin — who brought it all back down to earth and mentioned a couple of times how glad he was to be on the bill — not beside Hilario Duran and "his sophistication" — but beside people more similar, he felt, like the Brazilian samba players.

In any case, Spin held up Che (Guevara) as a hero and role model for young Latinos and — despite the commodification of Che (all those Che t-shirts and purses) — Spin asserted that "His blood was not shed in vain".

For him, life is a learning experience, and working in rap music can actually lead you to a more positive outlook on life as you learn to believe that "Dreams were meant to come true."

Most importantly, Spin said he's learned to refine his thinking and has arrived at a feminist perspective on the equal and essential role that women play in society.

"The woman is the backbone of the family tree, The woman is the backbone of the family tree", the rapster repeated.

Guatemalan-born Spin was offering what he is, and how far he's come, and how we have to remain vigilant in life — all in his own words.

Originally on the bill, Hendrik Meurkins & The New York Samba Jazz Quartet never made it to the concert. He was the guy many of us had come to hear. Meurkins was unable to catch a flight out of security-conscious New York.
We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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