Friday, June 24, 2011

Calgary Jazz "Festival" Shows - Part 1

Just a few words with regards to a couple of great shows I caught yesterday in Calgary. There is no official Calgary Jazz Festival this year, but I am pretending : )

The Alex Goodman Quintet

I heard this band of fine young musicians on an outdoor free stage set up on the Stephen Avenue Walk downtown. The City of Calgary sponsors free Jazz shows during the noon hour every Thursday.

I've known guitarist Alex Goodman and played with him since my days in Toronto and he is definitely one of the countries promising and up-and-coming young Jazz artists to watch. He is an exceptional technician, a great composer and is quite active in terms of finding opportunities to record, play and tour. He's currently touring the country with his quintet just following another extensive national tour with a group co-led by himself and Calgary turned Torontonian alto saxophonist Brent Mah.

The band consisted of Alex Goodman on guitar, Nick Morgan on alto, Maxwell Roach on drums, Dan Fortin on bass and D'arcy Myronuk on piano. I really appreciated the overall band cohesiveness (no music stands or charts!) and they still played with a sense of purpose and genuine musicality despite performing on a busy street corner in downtown Calgary over lunchtime to a transient crowd. Goodman's compositions are richly melodic and the overall vibe reminded me of the ever so popular Kurt Rosenwinkel with some hints of Brian Blade's Fellowship project. Overall very impressive to hear and see and these musicians certainly have a bright future ahead of them playing the way they do. I'm sure they will turn more than a few heads by the time they reach the Montreal Jazz Festival.

Alex was also nice enough to slide me a copy of his latest album with this group entitled "Bridges". I haven't had an opportunity to listen to this yet, but I look forward to checking it out and was impressed with the apparent number of interpretations of classical music that appears on this CD.

The Francois Bourassa Quartet

Speaking of classically inspired contemporary Jazz music, I popped over to the Beatniq on Thursday evening and heard the first set of Quebec pianist Francois Bourrassa and his quartet with Andre Leroux on tenor saxophone, Guy Boisvert on bass and Phillipe Melanson on drums. The music consisted of a huge exploration of Bourassa's original compositions that featured a large influence of 20th Century classical music and techniques. The first piece, in a particular, a harmonically winding, broken swing number, reminded me a lot of the same angularity that Herbie Nichols exhibited in many of his compositions as well. Andre Leroux exhibited a technical prowess on the saxophone that reminded me of why Leroux is easily one the country's preeminent saxophonists and he should be more well-known outside of Quebec's borders. I was intrigued by the drumming of Phillipe Melanson as he exhibited a physicality and primal approach to the drums that brought Ari Hoenig to mind. His creative approach to breaking up the time and exploring different textures on the drums also reminded me of the looseness and ingenuity of other accomplished Quebec drummers such as Michel Lambert and Pierre Tanguay.

I first heard Francois Bourassa with his trio at the Regina Jazz Society in the University of Regina faculty club around 1993-94. Guy Boisvert was also playing bass at the time and was joined by his brother Yves Boisvert on the drums. This was really the first piano trio I ever heard in person and this particular gig left a deep impression on me. Boisvert's drumming was very reminiscent of Jack DeJohnette and I remember a distinct influence of the Keith Jarrett trio with regards to there approach to playing standards. Being exposed to live music like this at a young age is really important and, speaking from experience, often provides an influence and experience that resonates for years to come.

There is plenty more great Jazz music to check out this week in Calgary. Tonight I'm looking forward to hearing Seamus Blake with Chris Jennings, Dave Restivo and Polish drummer Jacek Kochan.

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