On Monday, June 29, 2015 at the 36th edition of the Montreal International Jazz Festival, I went to hear two quartets led by two of the most influential guitarists of our time: the Kurt Rosenwinkel New Quartet featuring Aaron Parks (piano and Fender Rhodes), Eric Revis (upright bass), and Allan Mednard (drums) and the John Scofield / Joe Lovano Quartet with Larry Grenadier (upright bass) and Bill Stewart (drums).
The crowd was already riled up by the time Christian Scott and his sextet stepped onto the stage of a packed Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill on June 28th. Scott, sporting colourful clothing and a thick gold chain around his neck, wasted no time launching into the second set of the evening.
The collaboration between Joshua Redman (sax), Reid Anderson (bass), Ethan Iverson (piano), and David King (drums) is one of the most musically successful enterprises in recent memory. The band has been touring together on and off since recording The Bad Plus Joshua Redman (Nonesuch) and played to a nearly sold-out crowd Sunday, June 28 at the historic Theatre Maisonneuve as part of the Montreal International Jazz Festival. The group gave a truly inspiring performance of selections taken entirely from the studio recording, which features compositions from everyone in the band. It was especially interesting to watch the interactions between various members of the group, whether it was Redman cheering on Iverson during a particularly moving melodic part of a piano solo or the musical exchanges between Redman and King, which elicited a lot of the excitement throughout the set.
Last week, DownBeat magazine released its 63rd Annual Critics' Poll. Topping the Rising Star Guitarist category is a young man named Michael Blum who seemingly topped this chart through email solicitations of all the critics voting. This caused a bit of an uproar, with many musicians, journalists, and others in the community decrying how such a thing could happen. How could such an artist be a rising star when other more deserving musicians aren't receiving their due praise. I can understand such complaints, but one must understand that situations like these, whether in music or in regard to any interaction is based on the nature of attention. To understand how Blum, a rather rudimentary, if not just plain soporifically pleasant guitar player, could top a list like this, would involve a reconciliation with the key elements of how attention works and how one must navigate it.
Attention is a gift. It is given, it is precious. It is the decision someone is making to spend time, however brief and fleeting or continuous and consistent. No matter its length, it is precious and should never be assumed, for it is a gift. It is always a gift.
What do you do when you've spent the majority of the last week playing an album, falling head over heels in love with it, but you can't let anyone listen to it (publicly, unless it's playing offhandedly in a bar somewhere where people have no idea what's playing, really, but sort of like it maybe)? You brag (subtly) about having it and try to hype everyone about it by reminding folks what's so great about the artist releasing it soon. I've been playing almost nothing but the Liberty Ellman Sextet's Radiate, so that may have shifted my focus in this week's show, particularly since I don't think I have clearance yet to play any of it on the air. I'm also fighting a cold so my voice feels weak and brittle and I'm a little loopy.
The Line-Up for 26 June 2015