So, now it comes back to me. In the three years since I've attended the Guelph Jazz Festival—which seems to be the consensus choice among my fellow jazz critics as the best-kept-secret great festival in North America—I've forgotten how exhausting the pace is here. I began with good intentions to blog-if-not-Twitter regularly, but the combination of inconsistent Internet connections and constant musical and social stimuli derailed that plan. Now, comfortably installed in the hotel bar, where the WiFi is good and the Japanese beer very cold, I'm in a reflective mood.
First the good—and bear in mind that all will be reviewed in depth (and minus the slight Sapporo buzz) in a forthcoming issue of DownBeat: this morning's concert with Marc Ribot, Henry Grimes and Chad Taylor was the transcendent uplift I was looking for this weekend. Damn! Ribot is a terrific guitarist. No surprise, but it bears repeating. I love his ideas and his tonal choices. I'm looking forward to digging into his new solo recording for a Signal To Noise review when I get home. The same venue—a small, sharply raked, theatre at Guelph's beautiful River Run Centre—was also the site of excellent performances by Marilyns Crispell (solo) and Lerner (with her trio). I'd give the slight edge to Lerner, if only because her piano work with her trio is slightly more integrated than that of Crispell, who still seems to be wavering between the roiling waves of sound that many of us grew to love when we first encountered her and the more lyrical material she has favoured lately. This is to take nothing away from either of these approaches—I love both—but they do occasionally seem at odds.
Much less compelling was a disastrous afternoon outing by the Ratchet Orchestra, which despite boasting some of the best players in Quebec sounded like a train wreck that wouldn't stop.
In the coulda-been/shoulda-been column, a late-night performance by Jane Bunnett, Grimes and Andrew Cyrille leads. Despite Bunnett's best efforts, Grimes and—to a lesser extent—Cyrille weren't compelled to communicate broadly. Too bad, because one gets to hear Bunnett in this kind of setting too seldom. I just kept reflecting on how utterly fearless she is, and how great her early recordings with Don Pullen were. Go, Jane! More gigs like this.