My Club Pass is now retired. I closed the festival by checking out Andy Milne's Dapp Theory at High Fidelity -- the bar, not the movie. But in the spirit of that movie and an attempt to to answer Seth's question the other night about one's Top 3, here are my "Top" 5 of the Fest (in order of viewing):
Stephane Wrembel (Day 2)
Zanussi5 (Day 2)
Five Corners Quintet (Day 5)
Zapp String Quartet (Day 7) Granted, I have a soft spot in my heart for the violin, but I can say without bias that this is one of the best string ensembles I've had the pleasure to hear -- classical or otherwise; recorded and otherwise. Max was the perfect venue for the quartet as well. These guys played seamlessly, and it was a treat to hear the classical instruments playing contemporary pieces (many specifically written for them!). I had been looking forward to hearing these guys since Day 1 when Ken told me to check out their downloads on the RIJF page.
Soul Rebels (Day 9) I've never been to New Orleans, but this stuff sure sounds like what I imagine N'awlins music to be. These guys just rocked the tent tonight, and I let myself get rocked away with the rest of them (although I missed the reputedly stupendous Avishai Cohen Trio because I wanted to see the whole show in the Tent, I have no regrets [too bad there's no Tivo for the Jazz Fest!]. These guys know how to get people on their feet. I particularly enjoyed their rendition of Blister in the Sun.
It's impossible to rank these performers in any order since their modus operandi are so diverse and varied. As Ken and Seth have both commented throughout, and repeated in their guest appearances with the Jazz Session's Jason Crane (accompanied by their fellow blogger and podcaster Greg), it's the variety of the festival that seems to make it such a success.
This past week has been incredible. Not really sure what I'm going to do tomorrow with no Jazz Fest [actually, that's entirely false as I know exactly what I'll be doing -- shuffling off to Buffalo to spend time with my pops], but the daily attendance has become such a routine that it's hard to believe it's been only a week. It seems unnatural that there will be no more JazzFest until next year. But, as they say, c'est la vie, and la vie goes on.
Some thoughts on the shows I attended the last few days that I've been hard-pressed to find time to blog about:
Christian Scott Band -- The band is full of talent and promises to be a musical force to reckoned with in the years to come. While their age was apparent in their performance, they certainly did not lack enthusiasm. Experience should cure the nerves and the need to overplay, and I look forward to catching up with these cats at a future Jazz Fest.
Ilmiliekki Quartet -- This foursome did not disappoint in the Nordic Jazz Now series which became an automatic stop in our daily venue hopping. The introspective Finnish ensemble was a stark contrast to the youthful bouyancy and funk of Christian Scott and his mates. Their style -- contemplative; the musicality -- soothing.
Bonerama -- A powerhouse ensemble that just knows how to party. Then again, would you expect any less from an ensemble comprised of four trombones and a sousaphone? Fun, fun, fun! In my wildest dreams, they'll be playing the Chicken Inferno.
Hilario Duran Trio -- This guy can play the piano. Max resounded with rich hues of Afro-Cuban culture. The only things missing were a drink in a coconut and a conga line.
In the Country. Thanks to these Norwegians, I am now enlightened on the subject of torch fishing (as well as alligator counting and frogging, courtesy of Seth and Ken, respectively). Their style called to mind that of Badly Drawn Boy, but with less rock (i.e. more jazz). The pieces were interspersed with bits akin to a stand-up routine, and clearly engaged the audience; yours truly was no exception.
Corey Harris. Muddy Waters meets Bob Marley. What a great juxtaposition.
Jason Moran & The Bandwagon. My JazzFest companions loved this act. I will at least agree with them that Jason Moran is a tremendous pianist. The drummer, also of high caliber. The performance as a whole however, gets merely an "S," in my book. I was particularly annoyed by the inexplicably loud bass line, which should have been turned down a notch or three. Louder is not always better, especially at the acoustically challenged Montage. Balance is key to a great musical performance, and I found this lacking in this show.
Don Byron's Ivey Dyvey Trio -- Unfortunately due to timing issues, I only managed to catch about five minutes of these guys. Those 5 minutes were fantastic, and Jason Moran again delighted by moonlighting (eve-lighting?) as the pianist.
Omar Sosa -- This trio was just on the cusp of my Top 5. These guys were clearly having a fun time playing their Afro-Caribbean tunes. That kind of energy just infects an audience -- at least, it infected me.
Andreas Petterson Quartet -- Ever heard Gershwin? Not like this you haven't. I never would have pegged an acoustic guitar to be a conduit for swing. These guys gave yet another stellar performance at the Church. We had the added pleasure of catching the band at the after-hours, despite my inadvertent bullying past them to get to the bar (hey, they were in my way, and I wasn't paying attention to who was actually blocking my path).
Toots & The Maytals -- Not sure which was more entertaining -- the reggae act on the stage, or Seth's giddiness at being there.
Day 9, a.k.a., Day Last:
Layah Jane -- This chick's got a phenomenal voice -- a perfect accompaniament to a much-needed ice-coffee from Java's. I caught the tail-end of this free show on the Gibbs Street stage when I arrived too late [from an extremely satisfying outlet mall shopping spree] to catch the highly regarded Bill Frisell Trio.
Jens Winther European Quartet -- Another tight, solid performance fronted by a Swedish trumpeter, in what I've been calling the "classic" jazz style. If only it weren't so hot in that Church! What a great series -- I'm looking forward to what they'll bring next year.
Andy Milne's Dapp Theory -- A good club show. Ran into friends Binet and Paul who aptly characterized these guys as stereotypical "Eastman Jazz" types. These guys played what I'd describe as "intellectual jazz" -- thoughtful, multilayered compositions that kept one's mind constantly thinking (reminds me of Mozart). I'm not sure how I feel about the "percussive poet" though. He had great delivery and rhythm, and those characteristics made me think of De La Soul's Tread Water, but the lyrics left me a bit wanting. Still, an enjoyable performance to end my Jazz Fest run.
So ends a great week:
(Clockwise from top:
Trusty Program Guide: Well, this was a replacement I picked up the second day due to my careless misplacement of the first. This one though made it through the week as is evidenced by its well-worn look.
Silk sleeves: So much more convenient to cart around than a sweater, these beauties came in handy for the unexpected cooler summer nights and air-conditioned venues. How lucky was I to have been drawn by Kate in the Chicks' holiday gift exchange?!
Club Pass: The thing speaks for itself.
Monkey Sock No. 2: Perfect break-time knitting!