June 2008

Renaud Garcia-Fons Trio
at the TD Canada Trust Toronto Jazz Festival
June 22, 2008 Enwave Theatre Toronto
The Beloved Renaud Garcia-Fons
by Zoë Guigueno
The three musicians walked casually onstage and nodded to the audience. After such a hearty applause, it was a bit awkward waiting for them to plug in and get settled. Renaud Garcia-Fons, bassist and leader of the group, carefully unfolded his glasses and pushed them up his nose, then took some time adjusting the microphone stand and at last, greeting the audience. But, stronger than any moments of awkwardness, their relaxed attitude carried through to the audience and made for a very comfortable performance.

In his thick French accent, Garcia-Fons introduced his bandmates and explained that he was going to do a solo introduction, then move into a piece called "Veremos", or in English, "We Will See". He tried to give us an explanation for every piece, which I appreciated, even though I couldn't always understand him. Born near Paris, Garcia-Fons studied at the Conservatoire de Paris with Jean-Pierre Logerrot, and privately with François Rabbath.

He picked up his bow and began playing, using the 'ricochet' technique of letting the bow bounce rapidly on the strings, so that each note shattered into many beats. As he played, gliding all over the neck up to the highest possible note, he developed his solo melodically and rhythmically until he was playing arpeggios in thumb position as quickly and easily as a violinist. Although his dexterity made my jaw drop, he did give it all away within that first ten minutes, which left me unsatisfied throughout the concert as I waited for him to exhibit that kind of playing again.

When the rest of the band entered, they locked in right away. Not once did I have any doubts about the time or form of any of the tunes; these are solid players, with big ears. Pascal Rolando sat on his cajon and did his thing, a shaker egg tied to a bass drum pedal and an array of percussion instruments encircling him. Kiko Ruiz, his flamenco guitar on his knee and his foot on a stool, was relaxed and focused throughout the whole performance. Every tune flowed through different sections, sometimes urgent, driving, syncopated sixteenth notes, then through a smooth transition to a lilting chanson. Most of the tunes had well-arranged endings, usually tight unison lines ending suddenly on an offbeat.They played mostly flamenco music, with Garcia-Fons always taking the melody and then long, gorgeous solos. When he played using artificial harmonics, I was taken aback at how convincingly it sounded like a flute. He hit the notes right down the middle and let them sing out, loud and clear through the theatre. Everything he played was lyrical and precise. However, much of it was wasted because he didn't leave enough space for his musical statements to be fully absorbed.

Renaud Garcia-Fons
At one point I had to lean down and attend to some mosquito bites on my ankle, and I found myself scratching in time to the music.I suddenly had an urge to leap up and dance, though the Enwave Theatre isn't really that kind of venue. I would love to see this trio play an outdoor show in some village in Catalonia, where Garcia-Fons' family is from, where everyone could dance and shout.

What tickled me most was how the crowd adored Garcia-Fons. After every tune, the applause was so lengthy that I kept thinking the concert was over. Whenever he quietly thanked the crowd, they would laugh. It was like being in an audience full of bubbly, proud parents at an elementary school play. When he apologized for his English, they cheered.

I'm glad I checked out this concert, even though I began to get a ittle bored near the end of it. The music eventually began to sound all the same, which I know could have been avoided if the trio mixed up their set a bit more with some different styles of music — after all, every biography I've read about Garcia-Fons emphasizes his broad range of influences. The trio will hit Vancouver, Calgary, Montréal and Québec before leaving the country.

The Musicians
Renaud Garcia Fons – bass
Kiko Ruiz – acoustic guitar
Pascal Rolando – percussion
We welcome your comments and feedback
Zoë Guigueno
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