January 2008

Grégoire Maret and Andy Milne
The Arturo Stable Quintet
at the 35th Annual IAJE (International Association for Jazz Education) Conference
January 10, 2008 Constitution Hall Toronto
Decisions, Decisions
by Joyce Corbett with photos by Roger Humbert
4:10, Thursday at the IAJE — what to choose from the array of IAJE concerts, clinics and conversations?
Too late to join the in-depth analysis of Bob Brookmeyer’s arrangement of “Willow Weep for Me”, I am skipping through the programme of clinics and performances that started at 4 — “NEA Jazz in the Schools”, “Mobile Recording Devices and the School Music Ensemble”, “From 52nd Street to Carnegie Hall” (a conversation between Roy Haynes and Dr. Billy Taylor) — when I am distracted by strains of Latin Jazz from a room down the hall. Naturally, I drop in. It’s a high school band from Arizona, the 'kids' are from grades 9 and up, already testing their wings. After listening to a few favourite standards like “Tin Tin Deo” and “El Manisero”, I slip out and make my way to the Lobby Bar of the Intercontinental Hotel to hear harmonica player Grégoire Maret and pianist Andy Milne. I quietly take a seat while they weave music of incredible beauty in this room of glass ceilings and walls.

Outside, the January sun is weak and the wind is strong. Inside, it is bright and peaceful. I watch wisps of steam sweeping by overhead. Across the street a flag is whipping out, I can imagine its snapping. The lush tropical plants dotting the indoor landscape sway with the currents of ventilation. The visuals complement the music, or maybe this meditative piece is filling me with an alert calm that brings with it a state of heightened awareness. Maret’s harmonica is eloquent above the exquisite harmonies rising from Milne’s piano. I think of Debussy’s “Cathédrale Engloutie” his expressive instructions, profondement calme, dans une brume doucement sonore (profoundly calm, a soft mist of sound), peu à peu sortant de la brume (little by little coming out of the mist) and piercing the mist, the angular abstractions of Monk. I discover Maret and Milne are playing material from their new duo effort Scenarios. Aptly named.

Grégoire Maret
How can you follow that? You don’t. You meet a few people, you chat and you go for dinner.

Ready once again for musical nourishment we headed for Lula Lounge. On this Thursday night, they had a double bill of musicians in town for the IAJE, Arturo Stable and Sofia Koutsovitis (who had performed earlier that day at the Royal York hotel, a location for many IAJE concerts). Both shows proved impressive, fresh and modern. I was there to write about Arturo Stable, fellow Live Music Reporter Tova Kardonne wrote about Sofia Koutsovitis (go to that report).

With his quintet, Cuban-born, New York-based percussionist Arturo Stable plays creative contemporary jazz. For his Toronto show, he gathered together four excellent young Toronto-based musicians to play the quintet material.

Arturo Stable sat on a cajon, smiling, centre front of the stage behind four congas. He stretched his neck, breathed deeply and started to play, creating melodies with the four congas. David Virelles added arpeggiated chords from the piano as Stable worked his melodic groove. Saxophone, bass and drums entered into “The Call”. The driving bass led to an exciting solo from Luis Deniz on alto and David Virelles dishing out great (dis)chords.

The new and never-recorded “Goodbye to Eternity” followed. Featuring a bass solo start, it was intense and deliciously dissonant. The precision of Stable’s hands with his clearly defined slaps and open tones coupled with his imagination again created a clean melodic sound. “Cimarron”, from his first CD, featured piano and cajon. Stable started solo on cajon. The piece was an adventure, full of tension with powerful bass, a switch from cajon to congas, from melancholic piano to telegraphed notes, dots and dashes. Virelles travelled the keyboard picking out notes and punching chords. Stable turned his hands back to the cajon where they would strike the final knock.

Jane Bunnett joined the quintet for one number with another surprise guest, Bobby Carcasses. They played a piece in the style of a danzon, inspired by Bobby Carcasses. This night, instead of singing or playing trumpet, Carcasses stood on stage and sketched a portrait of Jane Bunnett as she played. This piece was followed by a lovely ballad entitled “Gioconda” from Stable’s new CD Notes on Canvas. The CD is a recording of nine pieces inspired by nine of his favourite paintings. The last tune featured a long conga solo that left me thinking that beyond speed and the variety of sounds he produced the most striking feature of Stable’s playing is his use of dynamics. Early the next morning at the Conference centre, Arturo Stable would be giving a clinic on the percussionist in a jazz context. After seeing him in action Thursday night, I was determined to get up in time to make it to the nine a.m. 'class' on Friday (and I did).

Arturo Stable

Luis Deniz
The Arturo Stable Quintet
Arturo Stable – congas
David Virelles – piano
Luis Deniz – alto saxophone
Devon Henderson – bass
Ethan Ardelli – drums
Special guest
Jane Bunnett – soprano saxophone
Bobby Carcasses – brushes and canvas


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

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