Live blogging Jazz Festival 5

Ilona and I saw a terrific performance on Friday night. It was a quartet led by bassist Charlie Haden, who performed on some of the paradigm-shifting records of Ornette Coleman back in 1959 (The Shape of Jazz to Come) and years following.

Haden’s fellow musicians — Ernie Watts on tenor saxophone, Alan Broadbent on piano, and Rodney Green on drums — are spectacularly talented. Initially I wasn’t sure what sort of evening we were in for; the quartet seemed to be holding back a little on the opening number, Charlie Parker’s “Passport”. I think it was on the fourth song that Ernie Watts really cut loose on a solo complete with Ornette-like squawks and wails.

By then, all the musicians were performing jaw-droppingly masterful solos in turn. Ilona, who knows something about playing the piano, was particularly impressed by the solo on a Coleman composition, “Lonely Woman”. Broadbent shifted effortlessly through a half dozen styles — from stride piano gone to the dark side through Rachmaninoff — without once dropping a beat as he transitioned from one genre to the next.

Tonight, we started with Nimmons ‘N’ Nine…Now! They are a ten-piece band who perform the compositions of Phil Nimmons, plus contemporary ("Now!" ) compositions by band members. Fun music, performed well, with kudos especially to the alto, tenor, and baritone sax players.

Now pianist Brad Mehldhau has taken the stage with his trio. Mehldau is reputed to be the premier pianist of his generation:  I guess I’ll have an opinion on that before the night is done.

UPDATE:
Meh. I was underwhelmed by Mehldau. He solos almost exclusively with his right hand. 90% of the time, he played simple chords with his left hand; for at least one extended stretch he played with his left hand in his lap. When he did use both hands, they tended to move in lock-step — nothing contrapuntal.

Also:  it was odd that Mehldau didn’t speak to the audience even once during the first 70 minutes of the set. He finally acknowledged our presence before the second-last song of the evening. Maybe the show would have been more inspiring if the musicians didn’t appear to be playing solely for each other’s amusement.

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McCain’s view of Church and state

John McCain has a “liberal Protestant” perspective on the compartmentalism of Church and state. This is from Francis Wilkinson, writing in the New York Times:

White evangelical and born-again Christians provided their kindred spirit, George W. Bush, with a whopping 78 percent of their votes in 2004. But Mr. McCain just doesn’t speak their language, a point that hit home when I recently reviewed transcripts and notes of interviews I did with Mr. McCain in 1996 at his home in Sedona over July 4th weekend. …

I was intrigued by a passage in which he described leading religious services in Hanoi for fellow prisoners of war. … Here’s Mr. McCain’s description of a sermon he delivered:

One day I talked about the parable of when they asked Christ whether they should pay taxes and he held up a coin and said, “Render unto Caesar, etc.” My point was and still is that when we were flying in combat, we weren’t doing God’s work. We were doing Caesar’s work. So for us to go to prison and then ask God to get us out was not fair to God, to our religion, to our beliefs and to ourselves. It wasn’t a miracle that sent a SAM [surface-to-air missile] to hit my airplane. It was a guy, a technician at a SAM site.

I think it was important, a little bit for the stability factor, that it wasn’t God who was going to perform a miracle, end the war and bring us home. It was men. It was Caesar. I think the majority of those guys felt the way I did but we just had some, just as people turn to faith healing and that kind of stuff, we had some of that. A lot of times I would pray for strength and I think sometimes I got it. Pray for patience to get through the next minute when things were bad. I just don’t think it’s fair to expect too much out of what is basically not the Lord’s business.

This is one respect in which I would prefer a President McCain to a President Bush. Despite the fact that I’m a Christian, I think great harm results when politicians start thinking of themselves in Blues Brothers, “We’re-on-a-mission-from-God” terms.

Obama sometimes talks in messianic terms, but I’m confident that it’s merely a rhetorical device. I don’t think Obama gets carried away by his own rhetoric. He knows full well the limits of what can be accomplished by a political actor — even in an office as powerful as the presidency.

On the other hand, McCain seems to share George Bush’s division of the world into godly nations and evil nations. Accordingly, McCain shares George Bush’s aggressive approach to foreign policy.

The quote from Solzhenitsyn in my sidebar is more authentically conservative:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.

Solzhenitsyn also more accurately captures the message of scripture.

[A]+[Be] Critics: WALL-E

Rating* * * * *

One of the luxuries of being off of school is that I’m able to enjoy some quality summer films. Ideally, movies offer something new and inriguing to chew on for the audience, but in the summer, often “entertaining” is enough.

Fortunately, Wall-E is of the former category.

Though not a film that will “revolutionize” the industry or anything, Wall-E was easily my favorite Pixar/Disney film in ages… probably since the much-vaunted Finding Nemo, in fact.

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Live blogging Jazz Festival 4

This is my sixth consecutive night attending the Ottawa International Jazz Festival 2008. I’m getting seriously sleep deprived!

Since I last live-blogged, I’ve seen:

  • Corkestra: an avant-garde nonet (i.e., 9 performers) who skillfully painted soundscapes rather than, you know, music;
     
  • Madeleine Peyroux: light jazz, performed by a singer whose unorthodox phrasing reminds me of Billie Holiday. Perfect ambience for a romantic dinner — in that respect, she reminds me of Norah Jones, but personally I would prefer Peyroux;
     
  • Oliver Jones: a very talented Canadian pianist who achieved international recognition (though not so much in the USA) in the 1980s. The trio devoted part of the evening to paying homage to Oscar Peterson (who died in 2007), which was an audience favourite. Jones grew up in Peterson’s neighbourhood in Montreal; indeed, he took piano lessons from Peterson’s sister. But he’s an artist in his own right.

I enjoyed all three of those groups, although they each offered a very distinctive experience. That’s the beauty of a festival:  it’s a smorgasbord of music!

The most newsworthy development this week is that I received a comment (on this post) from Bernie Senensky. Bernie is the outstanding pianist in Buddy DeFranco’s band. He asked if I would share my recording of the DeFranco concert with him.

Tonight, my son and I set out on our bicycles to see Amir Amiri, an Iranian duo. They play violin and santour — a 72-string instrument that is played by striking it with hammers.

I was curious to see that, but events conspired against us. Isaac’s bike broke down about a third of the way downtown, and we had to walk the bikes back home. That was actually the third setback of the evening. I won’t bore you with the details; the point is, it precluded my first exposure to the wonders of a santour and violin duet.

Instead, we’re seeing an African singer, Salif Keita, with his group. They started late, just about five minutes ago. Complete with two dancers in African dress.

Both the outfits and the music are colourful. But I may be too tired to appreciate it.

Clean sources of energy and more drilling, too

Andrew Sullivan catches this. Is McCain unable to see the utter incoherence of this ad?

McCain promises to move to clean energy sources, in part because of the “threat to our climate”. And then he commits to end the moratorium on drilling for oil!

It’s kind of like treehugger, brought to you by Chevy trucks! (See previous post.) Honestly! — have people lost the ability to think logically?

Treehugger: brought to you by …

WTF?! Treehugger, brought to you by Chevy trucks. But be sure to buy your jeans green.

Screenshot, June 24 10:20 a.m.; click to enlarge.

treehugger brought to you by ...

Live blogging Jazz Festival 3

Tonight’s news:

  1. The opening act, the Alexis Baro Sextet, was the best of the three opening acts I’ve seen thus far. Baro is originally from Cuba but he has been living in Toronto since 2001. Lots of Latin-inflected energy supplied by both a congo drummer and a regular drummer. All band members were very good — well worth the price of admission if I didn’t already have a pass!
     
  2. We got caught in a heavy rain that lasted 6-8 minutes before tapering off and then stopping. Not only that, but there was some pretty impressive lightning not far to the north of us. You’re thinking, “It’s not good to be in an open area during a thunderstorm.” And, “It’s particularly ungood if you’re one of those people who are seated under the tree.” But approximately 9,000 people gathered in a park don’t have anywhere to go very readily.

    Anyway, the sextet turned up the energy another notch, got us up onto our feet (tough to do with these reserved Ottawa crowds), and we danced or at least swayed our way to our deaths. Or, until the rain ended, which happily is how things actually turned out.
     

  3. And now Herbie Hancock is taking the stage. He’s touring a disc of Joni Mitchell songs, which might suggest we’re in for an evening of jazzified pop. But he’s got Dave Holland on bass, which makes me hope we’ll hear some pure jazz, too. And then he’s got Lionel Loueke on guitar. Loueke hails from West Africa; I heard him play with Terence Blanchard a couple of years ago. He brings a distinctive African sensibility to the guitar, which portends a little world music to spice up the show.

Anyway, here we go! Lots of power right from the opening note:  and yes, this is authentic jazz.

UPDATE:
All of the above. Jazz, pop, blues, funk, world music, even some classical inflections — Hancock and Co. served up a generous helping of each. The evening ended with an extended, improvisational version of Chameleon.

We got a small taste of what it was like in the 60s, when Hancock, Williams, and Carter were improvising with George Coleman and Miles Davis. The band was clearly having a blast, too.

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