Friday, June 25, 2010

Steve Hudson & The Outer Bridge Ensemble

Last night I caught pianist Steve Hudson and The Outer Bridge Ensemble at the Cantos music foundation in what's now being now referred to as the "left-over" Calgary Jazz Festival : )

We are very lucky to still have so much great live jazz happening this week !

I was hoping to catch Montreal saxophonist Andre Leroux and his group at the Beatniq on Wednesday night, but I ended up hanging out with Outer Bridge drummer Jerome Jennings and talking drums with him for the better part of the afternoon and evening. Sorry Andre, there just wasn't enough time...I also caught the very tail end of Rich Brown's band Rinsethealgorhythm last night after Steve's gig was finished. Drummer Larnell Lewis was givin' it !!! (as he always does)

Oh yeah, our Jazz Lives parade that found it's way down the Stephan Avenue Mall yesterday afternoon was a success. Everyone had a great time as it was a sunny day and people lined the street to cheer us on and clap along. Maybe we'll have at least converted a few new Jazz fans along the way...Props to Cindy McLeod for organizing this, CBC Jazz radio personality Tim Tamishiro for coming out to support us and the talented band of musicians including Al Muirhead, Allistair Elliott, Brent Mah, John Reid and the many others who contributed their talents to the cause (we also had TWO tuba players and an accordion player!)

Anyhow....The Outer Bridge Ensemble featuring pianist Steve Hudson, Mark DeJong on saxophones, percussionist David Freeman, local Calgary bassist Simon Fisk and James Zollar on trumpet was outstanding. This band, a collective that performs compositions composed by all members of the group, has been together for nearly ten years now having first started playing together during their studies at Rutgers University.

The overall vibe covered an ecclectic mix of grooves and original compositions with a real nice mix of free'ish and loose improvisation based over inventive modern melodies and grooves.

To me, the overall music was very reminiscient of bassist Ben Allison's music and, on some of the more groove based tunes, I heard some similarities to the Miles Davis groups of the late 60s and earl 70s. Great stuff.

A few thoughts about some moments that stood out for me:

- James Zollar on trumpet !!! Wow...what a great musician. I first heard James play with Matt Wilson's Arts & Crafts band about six years ago and then subsequently as a sideman with both the Count Basie and Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra's. He's a very creative and inventive improviser with a great sound. Every solo was a joy to listen to.

- Mark and Steve's duet on a tune which title I can't remember (sorry - boy am I ever a lousy Jazz critic!) was a very nice feature for Mark on the soprano saxophone and a nice contrast.

- Drummer Jerome Jennings has a great touch on the drums and can really groove hard and play with a deep intensity all while burning at a low dynamic level.

- Percussionist David Freeman played exactly what was needed and he and Jerome really complement each other as a drummer/percussionist team. Often percussionists in musical situation's such as this feel compelled to play ALL the time and play too much.....but Freeman chose his notes carefully and it really worked.

- Freeman is also an accomplished composer....his composition (another which I didn't catch the title of!) that used a Fela Kuti type of Afro-Beat was the highlight of the evening for me.

Make sure you catch this great band the next time they are in your neighborhood. Saskatoon....you are next !

Here's some footage of the band from a tour of Italy a few summers ago:

Still plenty of great music to check out tonight and this weekend. Please support live Jazz in Calgary.

Drummer Sandro Dominelli has a great band down at the Beatniq this evening with bassist Chris Tarry and guitarist Rez Abassi.
This should be good.

edit: btw - if anyone's interested....I am playing at Giuseppe's Italian Market (1207 1st Street SW) this evening with bassist John Gray and Keith Smith on guitar starting at 7pm. Will be a swingin' affair (with good pizza!)

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