June 2008

Jean-Luc Ponty, Béla Fleck and Attila Darvas
June 29, 2005Star StageToronto
Report and photos by Stanley Fefferman
Shit happens. Last year, Wynton Marsalis blew his lip out jamming away the small hours of morning with the locals after his Toronto Jazz Festival show, so he wasn’t up for his gig at the Montreal Jazz Festival the next night. This year, bass legend Stanley Clarke didn’t show for his gig in Toronto a few nights ago, so his partners in “Trio”, Jean-Luc Ponty and Béla Fleck invited Attila Darvas to stand in for Stanley, and ‘jamming with the locals’ worked out all right. Since “Trio” didn’t really happen, let me offer a few reflections on the musical styles of Ponty and Fleck as they appear in these photographs.
Ponty, as you can see, generates a lot of intensity. He’s tough, wiry, and full of Gallic attitude, which is three parts ‘look at me’ and one part ‘shrug’ if you don’t. Ponty's playing is overlain with colours. It's like he knows his virtuosity will blow you away. He keeps an ear locked onto the signal of the fiddle as if it’s his will as much as his bow that is filling the space with volleys of sonic arrows.
Jean-Luc Ponty

Béla Fleck
Béla plays as if his banjo is playing itself. He has almost no attitude except a smiling, soft, relaxed demeanor. Typically, Béla sees his current association with “Trio” as an opportunity to work with a couple of ‘legends’: This from a musician whose total Grammy count is 8 Grammys won, and 20 nominations. He has been nominated in more different categories than anyone in Grammy history. The playing of Earl Scruggs on the Beverley Hillbillies inspired Béla to develop this bluegrass instrument into a cutting edge jazz axe. He makes brilliant, far out improvising look like he’s playing choruses of “The Blue Tail Fly”.
Attila Darvas, called in at the last moment to play with these giants, right after playing the opening gig with the wonderful Robi Botos Trio, took the pressure, kept the pace, and stayed the course. Not pictured here is Frank Botos, who also sat in with “Trio” and enjoyed looking good during the frequent short drum breaks the soloists gave him. Also not pictured here is the talented pianist Robi Botos, a hip Hungarian Gypsy with a huge heart, an effortless technique and barrels of juicy music in him that flow in a humorous way. His trio lives in Toronto, so not much can ‘happen’ if you see their name on a local billing. If you go to hear them, they’ll probably be there, and you won’t be sorry.
Attila Darvas
We welcome your comments and feedback
• • • • • •
Report and Photographs
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by Stanley Fefferman

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