June 05, 2007
Comments on Miguel Zenon Concert
Ah! Beckett has stolen my thunder. Well, that won't keep me quite for long. This performance is the highlight of the festival for me so far. The whole ensemble was excellent. I can add nothing to Beckett's comments about their musicianship other than to tell you that Aaron Parks (piano) had never played with this group before and with just Miguel and himself, they went over the music for an hour and a half yesterday afternoon.
I think most of the music were original compositions by Miguel with exception of a bolero and the final song of the night which was Monk's "Rhythm 'A' Ning." Here, Miguel was outstanding in his "Bird-like" interpretation of the great jazz standard.
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I'm never quite certain where to place these posts on this site, but since L.J. posted remarks on a Flynnspace show above - here are some thoughts on The Montreal Double Bill.
Due to family commitments, I missed all but half an hour of Christine Jensen's set. But I've never heard a group assembled by either of The Sisters Jensen that sounded better. Ingrid Jensen, Christine's older sister, and a genuine marquee name in the Jazz world herself, uncorked a riveting solo at one point, and Christine followed suit. The interplay and ensemble feel during the finale, (which included guest Joel Miller on Tenor) made me feel that much worse for missing the bulk of the show. I'm told it was all delightful, which would surprise nobody familiar with Christine or the players in her orbit.
Fortunately, I was able to see all of the trio set which followed.
I've been a fascinated fan of Jean Derome's for a long time now. He strikes me as the very model of a committed artist: resourceful, (a conservatory trained flutist, he now plays several saxophones and some other instruments) independent, (having helped start the utterly fascinating record label Ambiences Magnetiques, with some 160 titles in it's catalogue)
and just the sort of catalyst capable of drawing a vibrant circle of creative improvisers around him.
I'd also seen and enjoyed drummer Pierre Tanguay on previous occasions. But until just last night hadn't understood what a terrific communicator he is. Several times during the short set on Tuesday night, Tanguay either stood and spoke a few words to great effect, (often, but not exclusively, between pieces) or made just the perfect musical gesture with his trap set. I felt spoken to (in both the metaphorical and the literal sense) directly in a rare and profound way - for example, after the first number Tanguay said (I attempt a quote) "That's not so great, but pretty exciting!". The audience roared laughter.
I feel I know pianist Francois Bourassa less well than his trio partners, but based on last night's performance I'm looking forward to hearing more of him.
Having heard Trio Bourassa / Tanguay / Derome on only one previous occasion, I was not quite prepared to be completely charmed in the way I was by the marvelous performance last night. I'd be very happy to see them return to Burlington in this or any other combination of collaborators. Quebec is full of fine players they could return to play with in any number of combinations.
Posted by: David Beckett | Jun 6, 2007 3:40:23 PM
Holy Bass clef, Batman!
Even having heard her with Joe Lovano's band in Montreal last year, I wasn't prepared for the XXL talent of Esperanza Spalding leading her own trio.
Evidently Pat Metheny took her aside when she participated in a student recording ensemble a (very) few years ago (she's barely old enough to drink) and asked her "what she wanted to do." Not sure what he was asking, she asked what he meant. "Do with your life." said Metheny. The guitarist with 17 Grammy's went on to explain that he constantly met young musicians in his travels, many of them very good - but that she had an "x factor" that would set her apart. If she wanted a career in music she shouldn't look back, he said.
On last night's evidence I'm guessing the young bassist is poised to rise to star status in (at least) the Jazz world in the next few years: as a bassist she has the time, intonation and note selection of a veteran player. And she sings, seemingly effortlessly, as she plays. Let's stop there for a moment. There are no frets or keys or valves on a string bass. The player has to find the note on a smooth neck, accurately, every single time. The human voice is the same way. Failing to find the desired note, produces a note that really sounds wrong. So to be able to play bass OR sing is a demanding task. To do them both (think about a bluegrass bassist, playing polka-style bass lines and singing a fairly simple harmony) is difficult. But in the case of Esperanza Spalding, she's producing a very complex bass line, interacting polyrhythmically with a world class drummer and pianist. And she's singing an often entirely wordless voice part - at the same time.
To my delight Fransisco Mela, from Bayamo Cuba, - often seen in Jane Bunnett's ensembles (and also an instructor at Berklee College of Music - as is Spalding herself) was the bassist. Leonardo Geonvese, a pianist unfamiliar to me, not only played piano, but squeezed out a couple of countermelodies on a Melodica, while comping with his left hand.
A sophisticated yet seemingly offhand singing style, near-virtuosic bass playing and a charismatic presence, all at the same time. Esperanza Spalding actually IS "all that", as they say. You won't have to follow her career - if you're following the music scene, she'll find you.
Posted by: David Beckett | Jun 7, 2007 11:07:16 AM