Okay - here's my review, a few weeks to a month in advance (and I am going to give you mutherfuckers every little tidbit of my day! : D
I was walking around Portland, kind of sick - which is why I was able to come, actually - helped get me out of work. Didn't even really know about the festival - or hadn't thought about it, rather. I walked up to see Joe Harrington, the guy who wrote the article on me in the weekly paper, 'cause I was gonna borrow some more of his discs (which I have three of right now) and he reminds me that there's a thing going on at the church about 100 ft from his place.
"what kind of thing?"
"A jazz thing - that jazz festival thing"
It was about 2:30 - the day's events were going on from 1-5pm or noon-5pm...I see the usual young crowd outside the door - they had played there earlier - and I find out that two of my friends and bandmates are here too - just around the corner getting pizza between shows. they're all either playing or volunteering at the event - so they all get in for free - Me - not getting in for free - and not happy about putting down $20 for 2 more performances at this point. So I hang out side on the steps just chatting and hearing the music from outside.
I lost a $2 bet that it was a guitar playing at the moment - I said it sounded like a soprano saxophone...I guess the tone of the guitar mixed with the church's very-high-ceiling-reverberating-acoustic and the fact that I had two doors blocking the sound...damnit! of course, right after I gave Tweedie the $2 he said "Oh - you didn't have to really give me the money - I was just-" and I swiped back the two bucks! BWAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!
Talked with a sax player who's now at the New School, and actually - he's playing in a combo with my boy Travis Laplante! We were discussing the whole school thing - and the good things about them and the bad things about them, and this other conversation that had been started up with this other kid (who I didn't know) earlier who felt that to make good music you needed to know how to play bebop - and if you could learn the style of bebop, you could play with anyone - which I argued against. The problem in this conversation was that the kid didn't know any of my examples of musicians who someone with a bebop-only background wouldn't be able to play with...Just rolled his eyes at me a few times, which sort of pissed me off...I said "Well, the same might be true of those guys coming into a bebop situation, which isn't a judgement of their talent, but I wouldn't try to say that they could fit into any situation nor would I say that someone with a bebop-only background could play with them..."
More eye rolling - moved on.
I'd been asking people who worked the show if they knew if Phil Grenadier was playing today - and if so - with what group (hoping I hadn't missed him) and no one seemed to know...so it was great when this guy carrying a trumpet case and a folder saying "Phil Grenadier" on it showed up!
"Erik Lund" and then Phil just reached forward and *DECKED* me across the jaw (yes - the big unbreakable jaw!) I took it in stride, and we did our secret handshake we taught each other since we were little kids, and everyone around us had al ook on their face like "What just happened?!"
Phil was playing with Bergonzi and Thompson Kneeland (a bassist I did a trio thing with Trav over in Vermont about a year and a half ago) and some people who I can't remember...It was the drummer's group and I can never remember his name.
Phil made up some cheesey excuse to get out of hanging out after the show...something about having a gig back in Mass that night, and had to split pretty soon. I think not having seen me in a few years had softened Phil up a bit, and he's not quite ready to hang with me after-hours anymore...Maybe next time Phil ; )
well - my luck had it that this senior in high school, who was talking with me and the New School sax player had an extra weekend pass which he passed along to me.
"Are you sure? Why'd you buy two tickets?"
"well - I figured I'd take a friend, or a girl, but it turns out that no one likes jazz..." *small smile*
Vardan Ovsepian's (sp?!?!) trio with the van Voorst van Beest brothers - Chris and Jan - bass and drums respectively - were up next - so in I went!
I knew Vardan's playing from the Interplay jazz camp in New Hampshire - Travis had gone to it - since Fred Haas put it on and was Trav's first sax teacher. Cool camp - Matt Wilson is the drummer for it!
Chris is known as a bass-god throughout Maine and especially with the younger crowd. Jan doesn't have quite the same following, and from talking with a few of the other young drummers, it sounds like they feel they should be up there playing - hoping that Jan breaks an arm or something so they can go up their and floor the audience with their sophisticated brand of post-bop swing! Based on his performance with some sax player a few months ago, I wouldn't have minded that happening - he pounded four-on-the-floor with a huge thuddy bass drum, seemed really stiff and unsure, and was basically rough to listen to the whole time.
Not so on this day. I actually quite enjoyed his playing - and for those who have seen Jeff Ballard play - Jan has a very similar "ackwardness" in the way he moves around the kit - that somehow gets a nice sound/feel (I guess the other performance was a fluke thing...might have something to do with it being a piano trio this time, rather than the horn/guitar/bass/drum setup that other night...) Jan had a nice touch, some really nice ideas, and other than landing on the 1 almost every time, I really had no complaints...and the dynamics - but I'll get into that in a sec - as it plagued every group.
The trio played standards - with the sort of twists you expect with Brad Meldhau's group - but not so much time displacement or dynamic difference.
Both groups I saw that day had the same dynamic problem - and after talking with some of the guys who'd seen the rest of the day's events said the same was sort of true with the earlier groups. There weren't any really quiet parts, there weren't any really loud parts - and there certainly weren't any jumps between those two extremes.
dynamically - the performances went like this
I wasn't sure if it was were we were sitting (back left - about 3/5ths of the way back) or if it was the church's acoustics or the players themselves or some combination.
Vardan's group left me thinking "really nice players and everything sounded nice but only 'nice'" I certainly didn't have any or spark up any emotional connection with the music, and it made me start wondering about all sorts of things with jazz today, like attendance, and people clapping politely after solos, and a bunch of stuff like that.
nice, but not memorable.
We went to Joe's Smoke Shop around the corner and down the street a bit - me, Tweedie, and Matt (I think you guys know Tweedie by now. Matt plays alto and has a great spirit about his playing) discussing what we thought of the show. The Tweedster and Matt liked it more than I did, which they seemed to expect, but they agreed with my criticisms of the performance - and especially the dynamics.
Somehow we branched into stuff about standards, and the question "What's the point?" when involving them with clever chord subs, and some of the things that came up seemed to have to do with impressing musicians or that standards were "good" to learn for a musician - or that standards were still a place of creativity - all good points - but that didn't really answer the question. If I'm going to hear some standards being played at a concert setting (not a restaurant gig) I hope for a little more than some clever lines all being played at the same dynamic level - with the bass and drums playing along adding to the overall "cleverness". The applause between solos and at the end of the pieces seemed so polite and expected.
Once at Joe's Smoke Shop - I grabbed a StarBucks Mocha coffee drink - as did James - while Matt went for some kind of juice - even though he was the one who said he wanted to go to a coffee shop because he felt tired and a little sleepy. I made some sort of tie-in with the remark and the performance we had just witnessed - just to get the chuckles from both of them in that "Oh Erik and his contempt for all things in and he always delivers the goods" sort of way. Tweedie and Matt rock.
We chugged our drinks - since we couldn't bring them into the church (God doesn't welcome coffee franchises into his house, it seems) and sat down for the group with Bergonzi and PHIL! (YAY PHIL!)
Despite looking like an overweight Edgar Winter from my vantage point, I really liked the guitar player - and never got his name...don't know why I chose now to mention that...
We actually came in during the first tune - with Bergonzi blowin' a solo. It sounded really nice, and I hadn't been to a straight-ahead concert in a while - so it was a nice refresh for me. The drums didn't sound very tight - which the church didn't help - and at times was sort of muddy. Thompson's bass wasn't turned up nearly enough - and when Phil sort of floated into the audience and took a seat to the left of us - I was thinking about going up to him and telling him that Thompson might want to turn up - and also to throw in some of that eai influence! : D
but Phil got up pretty quickly, and Thompson remained pretty quiet - sort of how Santi Debriano plays real quiet so his notes are more felt than heard - which I don't really like - but I don't think it was intentional in this case.
As mentioned in an earlier post - I really like Phil's stage demeanor. He has this very child-like expression on his face - an innocent child-like expression on his face - and when he's not playing - just plopped down on the piano bench and just sort of floated to the mic when it was coming up to his turn to solo (i liked that everyone didn't solo on every song - but didn't like that for the most part it was head-solo-solo-head so much - there were exceptions and I'll get to those too)
As for Phil's playing - I'm glad people in the audience were onto (apparently) the same stuff that I was digging. At the end of their whole performance Phil got the loudest applause of the group - and unless he had all of his friends and family there - he totally deserved it ; )
I'm not sure if Phil's gonna take my "why" as a compliment or not but here goes:
"Risk" would be the word I would use to describe his playing - or at least - in this performance. His rhythmic stuff didn't fall where you'd expect it - and the same goes for his notes/lines - which for the first 20 seconds made me almost uncomfortable - but I quickly got into it very much. And Phil DID throw in some white-noise type stuff - very effectively I might add - especially during the ballad. Some cool sounds - rather than the standard just blowing air through the horn for a quiet swoooosh sound - more *daring* air through horn sounds! If you didn't notice Phil - You definitely got the loudest applause and I was fuckin' thrilled about that 'cause you were my favorite part of the day's events - no joke, dude.
I also really enjoyed Thompson's opening to Purple Fucking Dinosaur - or whatever it was called - but the tune didn't really seem to fit with what he just played - with a title like that - and Thompson's wonderful opening (bowed effects, put through a looping electronic thing - with two-three-four layers of looped bass with Thompson playing over all of that - all done/looped in real-time - and really dark - that was *great*! Then the song's sing-song easy nature - I was hoping for some more dark Purple Dinosaur sinister playing - maybe even getting into some rage - and would have thought it the perfect opportunity to hear Phil's extended stuff...but it wasn't to be.
I really liked the ballad the best of the songs - and that one with the cool ostinato line by Edar Winter (but didn't get a solo from Phil and it was the last song!!!!???) - and the two (or three?) times Phil and Bergonzi played off each other - I thought that brought out the best playing of both of them. They both sounded *GREAT* in those two instances!
The drums - again - not a good sound for the church - kind of muddy - and dynamically - again - the group didn't really seem to change much for each tune. The ballad was slightly quieter, but for the most part stayed there - and the up-tunes were just slightly louder - and stayed there - and all the songs sort of stayed where they were dynamically - the only real dynamic difference coming from a few times in solo spots from Phil and Jerry - and Thompson's bass solo - and the loud pop at the end of 3 of the sounds - with that abrupt end with a snare drum "POP" - but otherwise - a monotonous dynamic level for the set.
After they finished - got to talk with Phil a bit - this time it was ME throwing the punches - and one got away from me, and I hope I didn't affect your ability to have kids, Phil...sorry 'bout that...but you started it! Phil "had" to get going - that lie about having a gig somewhere else in Mass..."yeah - I couldn't find a sub blah blah blah" - so no sushi hookups for him. NEXT TIME PHIL!
Mark came up to us - JC times 3 at this point - said his hellos and went back to the behind the scene productions of the fest - talking with people, etc. - And Phil re-introduced me to Thompson - or I thought it would be a re-introduction. Thompson approached as we were coming to him with Phil's "This is Erik Lund" - but Thompson recognized me - even with this slick sexy haircut and the amount of time it had been since we last saw/played with each other. That made me happy!
Phil and I said goodbye - he gave me one last good haymaker when I turned my back, and I awoke about an hour later out on the sidewalk in front of the church - missing about $40 and one shoe...(who takes one shoe?) I appreciated the consideration in not throwing me in the two piles of dog shit nearby (Portland dog-owners REALLY need to start obeying the fucking dog-shit laws!) brushed myself off and went down to the bars, where I got shit-faced on Red Stripe and later ran into a street light pole drunk and cut my forehead open.
All in all - I give the day 4 out of 5 stars!