|It is easy to have high expectations when you're going to see some big names at the mainstage of a festival. I fell into this automatic excitement when I heard that Oliver Jones and Ahmad Jamal were going to share the evening stage at Nathan Phillips Square at this year's Toronto Jazz Festival.
Ahmad Jamal was one of the first jazz pianists I knew about, as I listened to old cassettes given to me by a family friend when I was thirteen. Listening to him, I first heard "Autumn Leaves", as well as countless other standards. New to jazz, I really dug Jamal's bebop lines and the swinging band.
When I got to college, I took out an Oliver Jones recording from the school library. The album cover was yellow and had a picture of a man in a kitchen. I remember that there were some up-tempo tunes on that 1987 recording, through which the pianist blazed like a spooked horse.
Bassist Éric Lagacé and drummer Jim Doxas, Montréal natives, came onstage first and started a vamp so that the 74 year old pianist could make his entrance more effective. He acknowledged the crowd, then sat down at the Yahama piano and joined in with the band.
Much of what happened for the rest of the set is a bit of a blur. There is no doubt that Jones is a fine bebop piano player. There is no doubt that he hired excellent fellow Montréal jazz musicians to be his trio. But an hour of two-five ones later, I was anxious to hear something fresh.