September 2007


Saturday In The Tent at the Guelph Jazz Festival

Jah Youssouf Damian Nisenson Trio Jayme Stone Quartet
Lubo Alexandrov & Kaba Horo Ensemble

September 8, 2007 Upper Wyndham Street TentGuelph
People Get Ready: The Future Of Jazz Is Now
by Laila Boulos with photos by Roger Humbert & Laila Boulos
Guelph, a primarily artistic hub, is known for shunning big box retailers and being very environmentally and socially aware. On the one hand, the Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium (thanks to the vision of Artistic Director, Ajay Heble) is well known for providing jazz programming that is very adventurous in its scope, immersing audiences in genres of jazz that stretch the boundaries. On the other, there is the quaint small-town feel of the tent set up on the main street filled with families.

True to the Guelph sensibility, food available for purchase in the tent is organized by Seeds of Change while the Red Papaya caters to the artists. Definitely no consumerism here! There are spots for composting and recycling readily available. Raffles either support the Guelph Jazz Festival or some of the social programs within the city. And, over the years, companies such as wind power providers, microbreweries and credit unions have set up display tables in the tent.

Many of the performances are recorded by two community radio stations, one from Guelph (CFRU 93.3FM), one from Toronto (CIUT 89.5FM) and the national broadcaster (CBC Radio 2 94.1FM) was recording portions of the Festival for later broadcast on The Signal, a program hosted by Laurie Brown and Pat Carrabre.

Making the Festival accessible to the public, there are many free workshops, presentations and performances around town, including the all day performances in the Upper Wyndham Street Tent on the Saturday of the Festival. Providing a microcosm of the Festival, the lineup in the tent is always surprising in its scope, diverse and enlightening, running from one end to another of the stretched boundaries of jazz.

In the Upper Wyndham Street Tent, the first performer of the day, Jah Youssouf, ngoni player extraordinaire, began with an intricately played solo. He was later joined by: Dave Clark, drums; Colin Fisher (AIM orchestra member), sax; Michael Herring, bass; Jason Kenemy, rhodes, steel pan, accordion, percussion; Lewis Melville, guitar; and Jayme Stone, banjo. A number of these players are avid participants in the Woodchopper's Association (*see note at bottom).

Together, they continued playing their intoxicating grooves interlaced with stripped vocals. The addictive rolling rhythms were the underlying force of the performance, at times laced with heavy, draggy beats, at others, lightly dusted with instrumentals and front-of-stage vocals.

"Pardon", a crowd favourite, was introduced by Jah, who cautioned, "We have to ask God to forgive us for all the damage we are bringing to the world." For a town known for 'harbouring' tree-huggers, with this statement, Jah became a confirmed member of Guelph, a community that definitely appreciated his sentiments!

The combined playing of Youssouf and his friends was smooth and mesmerizing, becoming looser as the set progressed and at times almost taking on a free-jazz feel.

Jah Youssouf
Surprisingly, for this early in the day, many people were spilling into the front of the tent and the aisles as they danced freely to the wonderful melodies, and offered whole-hearted standing ovations.

After a brief setup, Damian Nisenson's Trio arrived on the stage. Sweeping the audience away to another part of the world, Klezmer strains saturated the tent as the saxophone and bass playfully vied for the spotlight while the drums added to the competition.

Some of their pieces were hinting towards jazz while Klezmer-influenced sounds pierced with sour apple saxophone flavours appeared to periodically 'float in from the room next door'.

This talented group skillfully maintained a high energy level without ever losing that mournful sensibility. Damian Nisenson's trio is composed of Damian, multi-reedist; Jean-Félix Mailloux, bass; and Pierre Tanguay, drums.

The Guelph Jazz Festival has maintained a love affair with Eastern European music over the last few years and this year, two bands have brought that sensibility in the tent: Damian Nisenson's trio and Lubo Alexandrov's Kaba Horo, which, due to time constraints, we were sadly unable to report on for this article.

Jayme Stone was again up on the stage for the third act. This time joined by his quartet composed of himself on banjo; Paul Mathew, bass; Michael Occhipinti, guitar; and Kevin Turcotte, trumpet.

This all-star quartet was a balm to the senses with their flowing streams and rolling hills evoking melodies. Jayme's expert banjo playing was unencumbered in this setting allowing the audience to gratefully lap it up as thirsty dogs at their water dishes. A special highlight was his exquisite playing during "Locomotion".

Their performance was like the cool gelato between courses as Kevin's sharp trumpet playing contrasted effectively with the deep bass stirrings. The ongoing light cat-and-mouse playing between Occhipinti's guitar and Stone's banjo was also a treat.

Jayme Stone and Michael Occhipinti
Making a head spinning u-turn, The Inhabitants, winners of the CBC Galaxy Rising Star Award at the 2005 Vancouver International Jazz Festival, arrived on the scene. They were almost obscene in the power and volume they propelled at their audience.

Using effects liberally, they coaxed extra-terrestrial sounds from their instruments, at times reminiscent of the creativity of Bowie's "Space Oddity". Yet, in the blink of an eye, they had the tent reverberating with "Helter Skelter" craziness or spacey, trippy melodies.

On one piece, J.P. Carter bolted out of nowhere with his stop-'em-in-their-tracks endless trumpet solo which served to invigorate and perk up many ears. We wish there was time for an encore!

There is no doubt as to why they are classified as 'improvisational'. Watching the performance, they appeared to be wrapped up in their own individual worlds oblivious to the others. Yet one ear remained tilted (slightly) toward their colleagues to get a sense of direction.

A variety of influences could be heard in the music of the Inhabitants, from acid jazz, to rock, with strong leanings on heavy metal. At times, their performance could be compared to a musical riot.

The Inhabitants are composed of: Skye Brooks, drums; J.P. Carter, trumpet; Pete Schmitt, bass; and Dave Sikula, guitar.

And, back to that small town feel. At the end of the day, everyone is asked to help fold and put away the chairs in the tent.

J.P. Carter
Although bringing in many international guests, the Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium, alongside The Jazz Around Town series (although programmed independently) showcase many of their own Guelphites such as Noel Webb, Kate Schutt, (whose album, No Love Lost, is currently in the top ten Earshot! Jazz listings); eccodek (winner of the Canadian Indie 2007 Favourite World Group – rated solely through voting by the general public); John Zadro and, Brenda Lewis. Performers appear locally in cafés and restaurants during The Jazz around Town series.
* The WoodChoppers are musical & artistic friends specializing in freestyle improvisation and multi-disciplinary presentations.
We welcome your comments and feedback
Laila Boulos
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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