January 2008

Clifford Brown/Stan Getz All-Stars
The New York Voices with guest: Paquito D'Rivera
The Lionel Loueke Trio
at the 35th Annual IAJE (International Association for Jazz Education) Conference
January 9, 2008 Constitution Hall Toronto
Jazz Fans, United
by David Fujino with photos by Roger Humbert
The Opening Night of the IAJE's 35th annual conference — right in Toronto! — was an extremely well-organized and warm, professional affair.

But add in the wonderful greeting and ushering staff, a good sound system, good sightlines, and no ringing cash registers, and this made the evening's listening experience near perfect.

It was — and here I'm speaking for, I'm sure, the large numbers of assembled jazz educators, musicians, managers, retailers, media, manufacturers, and general friends of jazz — a true privilege to experience and heartily applaud the extremely varied, fine music that came off the stand this kick-off evening of a 4-day conference.

First of all, the so-called younger generation, as in the Clifford Brown/Stan Getz All-Stars — they're all high school students — absolutely knocked me out with their well-grounded virtuosity and their undeniable creative drive.

Their solos, like those of the tall Jonathan Ragonese on tenor saxophone, often ranged freely at supersonic speeds over the shapes and modern harmonies of their hard bop and post-bop tunes where, for instance, the busy and intricate boppish head of Dave Liebman's "Day or Night" briefly inspired Ragonese's tenor to cry the cry of Stan Getz — hence, the Stan Getz All-Stars I assume, while the Clifford Brown part of the group's name was generally evoked by the arrangements' warm and burnished harmonies.

However, the good news is that the band wasn't re-playing the repertoire of Getz and Brown — no, these were new tunes, it was music played in the spirit of these two greats.

All six all-stars hailed from different points of the compass like Boston, Massachussets; Vancouver, British Columbia; and Vancouver, Washington — and all six were, and are, fine soloists, with trombonist Javier Nero and pianist Jake Sherman especially memorable for their consistently inventive and outward reaching solos. And Carl Allen was the replacement drummer tonight. When he soloed, Allen impressed us even further — I mean the audience and the young all-stars — with a flourishing, generous, and tasteful spirit.

Next, in a brief and sincere award ceremony, the John LaPorta Jazz Educator of the Year Award was given to Donald Cantwell. The award is presented by IAJE in partnership with Boston's world-renowned Berklee College of Music.

In an unusual yet articulate and relaxed Acceptance Speech, Mr. Cantwell spoke about surviving in life, and he quipped about writing music entitled, "Begin the Begroin by Arterial Shaw". He ended on a positive and educational note by reminding us that "music and humour are weapons of mass instruction ..."

The next group was The New York Voices. To be honest, they just might change my mind about listening to vocal jazz. I like Ella, whoa, don't get me wrong. I'm simply saying that this quartet of four singers — Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan, Darmon Meader, and Peter Eldridge — with their great chops, hip musicianship and their richly altered harmonies, not only sang in the tradition of our revered masters Bird, Basie, and Trane, they also raised vocal jazz to an immediately entertaining, populist, and altogether, high artistic level.

The singers approached tunes like instrumentalists, and I remember with pleasure their soaring voice planes in "Noticing the Moment", a broadly harmonized re-arrangement of Trane's "Moment's Notice"; I also remember the pure excitement when a singer suddenly exploded into long chained lines of singing/blowing — the jazz experience.

But things got even more interesting when Darmon Meader and Peter Eldridge also played tenor saxophone and piano, respectively, and Jay Ashby on trombone occasionally inserted his obstreperous observations into a song.

And lastly, I remember Kim Nazarian's mature and throaty interpretation of the fatalistic ballad, "For All We Know", with its killing line, "Tomorrow was made for some/tomorrow may never come/for all we know."

But boy, did it feel good when they ended the set with "Stoned Soul Picnic" — it was delivered in a style reminiscent of the all-women vocal group, Sweet Honey in the Rock — and it was a soothing sung version, one that was sociably animated by the sounding tambourine, a shaker, and hand claps.

Lauren Kinhan and Kim Nazarian
In another well-timed contrast in the programme, the second award for the evening — the IAJE Humanitarian Award — was given out to the amazing George Avakian. Among his many achievements, this pioneer produced the first jazz album (Decca, 1939) and was the first to record at jazz festivals (New Orleans in 1955, Newport in 1956). Mr. Avakian stood there — a vital human being who still looks to the future.

The headline closer for this memorable evening was Lionel Loueke and his trio.

His unusual tongue clucks and stringy, chordal guitar rhythms, quickly zeroed you in on the multicultural vibe he's been developing. His trio itself is a mix of Loueke from Benin, Swiss bassist Massimo Biolcati, and Ferenc Nemeth from Hungary on drums.

But the dominant sound and feel this night was African — African in the folk melodies, rhythms, and group tongue clucks — otherwise, the samba sounds of Brazil, jazz, classical, rock, acoustic guitar, whammy and effects pedals, and Hungarian Gypsy rhythms, equally proliferated in Loueke's body-based and vocalized music.

Also, Loueke's guitar conception shows that he was once a percussionist — there was plenty of chic-a-boom in the Portuguese-titled, "Welcome" — whereas his chording and thick chord clusters in "Light Dark" were more like a pianist's, and the frequent churning rush in his solos further confirmed a searching curiosity. In "Light Dark", bassist Biolcati took on the dramatic role of a Jimmy Garrison and tolled away on Flamenco bass as Nemeth joined in with his sympathetic and group-oriented cymbals and drums.

Lionel Loueke

When he stuck a piece of paper through his strings, Loueke got the flat sound of an African lute. When he hit an effects pedal in "17 Ages" — a piece in 17/4 — it sounded like an entire village of voices singing out to the globe on waves of liquid chordal effects.

Loueke has a new CD about to be released on Blue Note, he's recorded with Wayne Shorter, and he tours with Herbie Hancock, and he played for us at this 35th annual IAJE conference.

I'd say his world is opening up.

Clifford Brown/Stan Getz All-Stars
Eli Bennett & Jonathan Ragonese — tenor saxophone
Conrad Jones — trumpet
Javier Nero — trombone
Jake Sherman — piano
Gregory Chaplin — acoustic bass
Carl Allen — drums

~ ~ ~

The New York Voices
Kim Nazarian, Lauren Kinhan — voice
Darmon Meader — voice and tenor sax
Peter Eldridge — voice and piano
Andy Ezrin — piano
Paul Nowinski — bass
Jay Ashby — percussion and trombone
Marcello Pellitteri — drums
special guest
Paquito D'Rivera — clarinet

~ ~ ~

Lionel Loueke Trio
Lionel Loueke — electric guitar, vocals
Massimo Biolcati — acoustic bass
Ferenc Nemeth — drums
special guest
Grégoire Maret — harmonica

We welcome your comments and feedback
David Fujino
• • • • • •
Roger Humbert
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