I N - T H I S - I S S U E :


2002 Edgefest One of the Best


This year's Edgefest was probably the very best I have attended. There was a variety of music of very high quality on and close to the edge, the venues were congenial, and the audiences were plentiful and enthusiastic. I was able to attend most of the performances which started on October 3rd and lasted through the 5th.

Jewels & Binoculars and the music of Bob Dylan started things off at Kerrytown Concert House. The group is the brainchild of two American expatriates in Europe, reedman Michael Moore and bassist Lindsey Horner. The third wheel is another expatriate, drummer Michael Vatcher. Their music was very accessible with short and (not surprisingly) folksy pieces played in a mellow mode. The group was a true collective, but Moore stood out. His tone on both the clarinet and alto makes other players green with envy and his sense of composition is uncanny. This was a mellow, yet exciting beginning to the festival.

Day Two's name performer was veteran Roscoe Mitchell and his quintet. A second concert had been added to accommodate all listeners. Mitchell's music was the closest to the traditional (sixties) avant garde at the festival, alternating between abstraction and high energy. I found the group most inspired when it went all out in free blowing. The young trumpeter Corey Wilkes and drummer Vincent Davis were very impressive players. After walking over to the Firefly Club later that night, I had the privilege to hear the most exciting performance of the festival: Tim Berne's Hard Cell. It was a pleasant surprise for me since I always respected Berne's technical prowess on the alto from previous encounters, but this time he reached me at the emotional level as well. It could be that Berne's hard hitting approach his instrument alto was suited perfectly for the imaginative mesh of keyboard sounds from Craig Taborn and the percussive kicks from the phenomenal Tom Rainey. On one of their last songs, "Manitou Woman," the group raised the intensity to unprecedented levels.

From Top: Craig Taborn, keyboards, at the Firefly;
Tim Bern, tenor sax, at the Firefly;
Corey Wilkes, trumpet, at the Kerrytown Concert House;
Matt Darian, tenor sax, and Andy Laster, baritone sax, at Workbench Furniture

photographs by Lars Bjorn

On Day Three, the String Trio of New York delighted their audience at Kerrytown Concert House. Chamber jazz like theirs works great at KCH, as did Jewels & Binoculars. The trio's set was nicely paced with tunes by Coltrane, Monk, and originals by co-leaders bassist John Lindberg and guitarist James Emery. Montreal altoist Jean Derome gave his second performance of the festival at Workbench Furniture. By the end of his set he had expanded his trio to the quintet (Les Dangereux Zhoms) he showcased at the Firefly the day before. Derome is a very interesting and arresting saxophonist, particularly on the alto and his compositions show his many talents.

The highlight of the day was the set by the Ballin' the Jack septet from New York, led by saxophonist Matt Darriau. He has written many creative re-arrangements of classic pieces by Ellington and other swing era writers. What really put the icing on the cake was the inspired and exciting playing of all of the members of the band. Their blend of avant-garde and swing was so well concocted that a wholly new music emerged. Like with Ellington, the balance between solos and ensembles was ingenious, and the band swung in a turn of the twenty-first century fashion. It is unfair to single out individual performances from this tight collective, but I was struck by the nice tone of Peck Allmond's trumpet, Steve Swell's verve on the trombone, Darriau's powerful tenor, Ben Sher's articulate guitar, and the wonderful team of Joe Fitzgerald on bass and George Schuller on drums. Ballin' the Jack represented the best of the 2002 Edgefest: avant garde with edge as well as humor.

I N - T H I S - I S S U E :