September 2008

Matana Roberts, Rich Marsella and KidsAbility Youth Ensemble
Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People
Bernardo Padrón Group
Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber
L'Orkestre des Pas Perdus
Jane Bunnett's Carnavalissimo

at the Guelph Jazz Festival & Colloquium
September 6, 2008 Upper Wyndham Street Jazz Tent Guelph
Music Loving Cats and Dogs Whip Up-per Wyndham Street
by Laila Boulos with photos by Roger Humbert

For the first time in the fifteen-year history of the Guelph Jazz Festival & Colloquium, the musical entertainment would continue after 6 p.m. in the tent. The slowly changing ambiance in the tent reflected the day's progression, from a morning of strollers and toddlers, to adults and children dancing around on the sidewalk in the afternoon, to adults dancing more... gregariously in the evening. The Seeds of Change food tent offered refreshments from independent restaurants in Guelph such as Artisanale, Magnolia Catering, Meals that Heal and Wellington Brewery reflecting the home-cooked feel of the community in Guelph.

The day's performances began with a concert by the KidsAbility Youth Ensemble. This group was led by Matana Roberts, a renowned saxophonist and activist known for encouraging connections between music creation and community and Rich Marsella, of the Lollipop People, who is well known for his Music Roots Seminars with the Peel Board of Education out of which grew Brampton's Parade of Noises. KidsAbility is an organization operating in Cambridge, Fergus, Guelph and Waterloo to assist children up to the age of 18 experiencing developmental, physical and communication challenges. The program offers services in schools, homes and through community organizations such as childcare centres.

As the band Burrows took to the stage, their loose performance had a garage-rock inspired feel interspersed with the occasional country-ish and free jazz piece. This contingent of sound-blasters used a lot of pulsing imagery in their music giving their performance an intravenous Red Bull feel.

As Friendly Rich and the Lollipop People took to the stage, the organizers should have handed out a disclaimer — but it was too late. Friendly Rich's vaudeville, burlesque and carny inspired performance left the crowd laughing and wondering what was coming next. The very talented musicians combined with Marsella's I'm-your-worst-nightmare performance in which his band incorporates Klezmer, Oom oom pah pah (Volkstümliche Musik) festooned with Marsella's Tom Waits vocals converted the tent to a beer tavern on a pirate's ship.

His social commentary mentioned "the old mayor who sold Guelph a Wal-Mart", the war in Iraq, calling Ajay Heble (the Festival's Artistic Director) "a weapon of mass destruction" and encouraged the crowd to join in "Just like [at a] Bon Jovi [concert]". He also sang a sinister version of "Row, row, row your boat" that had the children seated in front of the stage and the adults laughing from shock and disbelief. His petrified forest, occurring mid-song as everyone on stage froze; his trek into the audience to hang his microphone over the wires and sing backwards; and, his further trek into the tent to hug male audience members in his ode to gay marriage were some of the many highlights of this wacky performance.

(Friendly) Rich Marsella

Bravely, the Bernardo Padrón Group then arrived on stage to clear the dust. Their breezy Latin jazz flavours blending folk influences with more high voltage jazz strains provided some much needed cooling down. Saxophonist and composer Bernardo Padrón’s all-star group includes Andrew Downing (acoustic bass), Justin Haynes (guitar), Ian Hetherington (drums, maracas, percussion), Marilyn Lerner (piano, accordion) and Daniel Stone (percussion).

New York's Burnt Sugar The Arkestra Chamber oozed cool from the minute they took over the stage, treating the audience to Afrobeat, a searing horn section and haunting, otherworldly vocals. At one point, a dog unable to contain his excitement, began barking and running in and out of the crowd and under the stage to the amusement of the players and the audience. Although amused and distracted, these players did not miss a beat during the fracas and continued their groovy don't-even-think-of-trying-to-sit-still vibes.
Micah Gaugh & Paula Henderson (of Burnt Sugar)

L'Orkestre des Pas Perdus' brass band, from Québec, transported the tent to another era. Throughout their time on stage, the polished brass contrasted with the antioxidant-injected sharp drumming. Their engaging headmaster of brass, Claude St. Jean, kept a running commentary with the audience, explaining his creations "Dieu est une machine que tout necessitent" "Mécanique Populaire" and the ear-popping "Gastro Funk" giving the performance a cozy feel. On one piece, the band began together, then creative solos suddenly flew around the stage giving each musician a chance to individually shine, and ended with everyone joining in to land together.

Tallboys showcased Kevin Breit's chameleonic guitar spirit, especially on his slow cooking version of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Three Hours Past Midnight" as he was aided by Jesse Stewart's heady drumming. The trio's sultry Latin jazz version of Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "Loco-Motion" with Matt Brubeck's cello caresses had bobby socks being exchanged for fishnets for miles around.

Beginning at the River Run Centre, a parade by Jane Bunnett's Carnavalissimo signaled the final performance. The dancers, musicians, human puppets and singers, in a mobile fiesta, traveled from the Eramosa River through the streets to continue the performance in the tent. Although it was dark and cold outside, as the gigantic puppets (constructed by Jerrard Smith and Natalie Axon) entered the tent accompanied by musicians, dancers and various and sundry individuals they picked up en route, the tent was on fire with sound, colour and action. LOTS of action. It was a testament to the tent company that it withstood the catapulting dancers, where-did-I-put-my-sunglasses costumes, explosive-volumed musicians and singers with volcano-sized vocals. And, adding to the musical storm, the previously staunch members of the community who were now gyrating with abandon inside the tent assisted the party to continue itself into the early morning hours.

Yes, the tent was smaller this year, but the 15th Annual Guelph Jazz Festival & Colloquium proved that size really does not matter!

The performances in the tent were being recorded by JazzFM91.1 and CIUT89.5FM

Tallboy's performance was also recorded for future broadcast on The Signal which airs nightly at 10 p.m. on CBC Radio 2 with hosts Laurie Brown and Pat Carrabre.

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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