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Shlomo Enkin Lewis Reviews Winnipeg Jazz Festival

By Shlomo Enkin Lewis, June 29th, 2012

 The 2012 Winnipeg Jazz Festival was a great week of musical  entertainment. I only had the time to go to four of the events, but all of them were extremely good. Here are my impressions of all of 
these concerts:
Delfeayo Marsalis Jazz Lab:

 This educational session with world-renowned trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis taught me valuable lessons about playing and understanding music. Delfeayo, together with the tenor and alto sax players from his 
sextet, talked, told stories, and argued about how to find your musical voice, how to compose jazz music, and about the benefits of competition. For a jazz band student like me, it was very inspirational and also provided very good advice. Although the majority of the lab consisted of discussion, I also caught a glimpse 
of Delfeayo’s brilliant playing ability. He and the two saxophonists improvised a few short pieces, including an improvisation off the melody of happy birthday. Although I was hoping to see him play more, this session with Delfeayo Marsalis proved very rewarding.
Heavyweights Brass Band:

 This amazing band from Toronto, Ontario gave a brilliant concert on Tuesday. The group’s unique style takes tunes from pop, latin, rock, and traditional jazz sources and re-imagines them with a distinctive 
New Orleans jazz flavor. All members of the group presented brilliantly improvised solos, and the group also displayed a great cohesion when playing together. Jonathan Challoner on trumpet, Chris Butcher on trombone, Paul Metcalfe on saxophone, Lowell Whitty on drums, and Rob Teehan on sousaphone all collaborated beautifully to present a wide range of musical genres, making each song distinctively 
their own. They played both classic jazz numbers like St. James Infirmary, and pop hits like Justin Bieber’s Baby (which they impressively made sound like a decent song), as well as original compositions by band members. One particularly distinctive part of their sound was the use of the sousaphone for basslines instead of the bass, which gave them a unusual brass sound. Another great thing was the band’s energy. They were fun to watch, and had people in the audience dancing and clapping. For the last number, they paraded  through the audience and out the front door, and ended up dancing on the tables. I also liked  the interspersion of instrumental with vocal music, and the seamless flows between solos, harmony, and unison 
sections. This concert was a very fun and fascinating evening of jazz.
Presslaff and Bonnes Duo:

 Local pianists Jeff Presslaff and Will Bonness presented a beautiful selection of tunes on Wednesday. They played through their entire new CD, which is a collection of originals and covers of both well known 
and obscure smooth jazz. The setup of a piano duo, coupled with the obvious skill of the players, produced a beautiful and intertwining sound. The complexity of the pieces impressed me deeply. They flowed smoothly through changes in time signature, rhythm, and key, while keeping up a beautiful continuity of sound. The two pianists played these complex pieces with an effortlessness that astonished me. I also enjoyed their choice of having an electric keyboard and a piano, as it showed off the subtle differences between those two instruments. While Jeff and Will are clearly masters of their slow jazz style, I would have liked to see the evening punctuated by more upbeat pieces. However, overall this was a very enjoyable concert to have seen.
Lucas Sader Project: Tribute to the Miles Davis Quintet:

This tribute to jazz icon Miles Davis was literally amazing from start to finish. I have never taken much of an interest in the work of Miles Davis before, and this presentation by such highly talented musicians opened my mind to whole new forms of technique and musical sound. The solos and unison parts were complex, rapid, and not at all formulaic. This unexpectedness made the entire concert fascinating to listen to. The songs also combined a variety of different tempos, keys, and time signatures. Furthermore, there was no disparity in the 
skill levels of the band members. Derrick Gardner on trumpet, Paul Balcain on tenor saxophone, Paul De Gurse on piano, Karl Kohut on bass, and Lucas Sader on drums all presented complex, intricate, surprising solos, showing off very well what their instruments can do.  The band also showed a beautiful cohesion when playing together. While the concert was modeled on the work of Miles Davis, with each band  member taking on the role of one of the members of his second famous quintet, the Lucas Sader project clearly expands on that original sound, adding several of Sader’s own compositions to the program, and newly improvising on many of Davis’s works. I look forward very much to the release of their first CD this fall. The energy, complexity, and brilliance of this concert last Friday made it a great finale to the Jazz Festival for me.
The Winnipeg Jazz Festival was a very enjoyable musical experience, and I am very much looking forward to next year’s festival.

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