September 2005

The 12th Annual Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium
September 7 – 11, 2005Guelph, Ontario
Guelph Jazz — True to its tenets
by Joyce Corbett
The Guelph Jazz Festival (GJF) is a jewel. Founded twelve years ago to celebrate “creative improvised music” (Coltrane’s definition of jazz), the GJF offers a satisfying experience for anyone seeking musical, spiritual and intellectual refreshment. Quite surprising for a jazz festival in a city of only 94,000, even if it is a University town.

The 2005 program covered five days of concerts at various venues including that mainstay of jazz festivals, a tent. There was also a three day colloquium schedule with panels, presentations and workshops featuring topics such as Tensions and Transformations, Utopias and Dystopias: Improvisation and Social Orders and Jazz Will Set You Free plus a Roundtable on Listening: The Audience Speaks Out. The speakers were musicians and professors from universities all over Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Europe. All colloquium events and most of the concerts were free.

This year’s festival chose two points of special focus. One was the Chicago-based AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians). They presented a panel discussion entitled “Ancient to the Future: Celebrating 40 Years of the AACM”. The four panel members of that association were: Douglas Ewart, Wadada Leo Smith, Nicole Mitchell and Matana Roberts. The concerts by AACM members culminated in a Saturday night performance by the legendary Art Ensemble of Chicago at the River Run Centre.

Fanfare Pourpour

The other area given special attention was the ‘musique actuelle’ scene in Québec, represented at the festival by over 50 established and emerging artists, many of whom are affiliated with the Ambiances Magnétiques label. Fittingly, Fanfare Pourpour led the annual parade to the Carden Street Jazz Tent. They are a folkish and celebratory jazz band that grew from the smaller L’Enfant Fort, formed thirty years ago. L’Enfant Fort used to parade through Montréal on Sundays, making a joyful noise and dodging into side streets when police cruisers approached.

Add to this other musicians and installation artists from Canada and the U.S., from Europe, Japan, Indonesia and the U.K., and you have a jazz festival with a unique flavour in this small city an hour’s drive from Toronto. Guelph may look green and pastoral, but it is a wide awake town.

We welcome your comments and feedback
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Joyce Corbett
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The Live Music Report

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