Acclaimed jazz bassist Christian McBride and his quintet Inside Straight played Thursday to an eager crowd of about 350 at the Alix Goolden Hall. McBride, who isn’t even 40 yet, was a teenage prodigy in New York as a teenager at Juliard, when he started being a hired gun in New York’s jazz world. He has played with the best of the best over his 20+ year career, including Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Diana Krall, James Brown and the Roots just to name a few. Both his father and uncle were also both bassists who mentored McBride.
Early in the band’s set McBride joked about the fact that he had played in Victoria several times in the early to mid nineties but the festival hadn’t had him back since 1998. He wondered what it would take for the Jazzfest get him back. During the band’s intial set, the band played several songs from their 2009 debut Kind of Brown, including Brother Mister and Theme for Kareem. The first two songs featured incredible dueling vibes and drums and bass/drums. But this was nothing like a rap battle. The guys kept it clean and in good fun, demonstrated by the huge grins on their faces, especially from McBride and drummer Ulysses Owens Jr., which remained for the entire evening.
The performance of the night was McBride’s self described “greasy” composition Used ‘Ta Could, in which McBride competed with Bootsy Collins for one of the funkiest basslines I have ever heard. The track was influences by summer barbecues in the ghetto, which McBride proclaimed could never happen in Manhattan. Drummer Owens Jr. solo showed incredible versatility and energy, obviously loving what he does immensely.
Vibraphonist Warren Wulf, to whom McBride attributed the forming of Inside Straight, was a phenomenal sight and sound for fans of the instrument such as myself. He is now in demand as one of the most talented vibraphonists in the world.
Following the incredibly funky Used ‘Ta Could, the band downsized to a trio and performed Where Are You, a mellow, piano led number seemingly opposite in tone, but the quality of musicianship was so good, no one in the audience minded and listened attentively to the mellow, contemplative vibe.
Note to Darryl Mar and the VJS: Please bring this band back very soon! One of my favorite shows of the festival without question…
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue were one of Jazzfest‘s most anticipated performances. Led by 25 year old wunderkind Troy “Trombone Shorty”Andrews on trombone and trumpet, the band’s first widely released album Backatown (2010) is an innovative mix of funk, rock, jazz and r&b that garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz album earlier this year. Andrews has been playing for close to 20 years already and is as close to a rock star as you can get for a man playing brass these days, having toured and shared stages with the likes of Lenny Kravitz, U2, Wynton Marsalis, Dave Matthews and the list goes on. Andrews has also co-starred as himself in the critically acclaimed HBO series Treme, about post-Katrina New Orleans and focusing on a group of musicians and how they deal with their lives following the hurricane. The show is named after and set in Treme, the neighborhood where Andrews grew up, and has just begun season two on HBO.
Trombone Shorty and Orleans Ave’s Victoria debut Saturday would be relatively low key compared to closing the Montreal Jazz Festival last year with the Mardi Gras Spectacular featuring Allen Toussaint and the Rebirth Brass Band, along with many thousands of music fans. Tell that to those in the audience at Centennial Square Saturday night though. It makes no difference whatsoever to this band what the size of the stage or audience is. They come to bring the funk, night in night out.
They performed many songs from the stellar debut Backatown including Right to Complain, Something Beautiful, Backatown, and the Allen Toussaint cover On Your Way Down. It was evident that this was Shorty’s band yet he was always shouting out band members for their stellar solos and work as his rhythm and horns sections. They were also clearly enjoying themselves just as much as TS for the entirety of their set.
In what was no doubt the highlight of the performance, TS dedicated the Louis Armstrong cover The Sunny Side of the Street to Armstrong himself, the godfather of New Orleans jazz. I don’t know how long Armstrong could hold a note on the trumpet back in his day, but Trombone Shorty certainly gave him a run for his money, holding the note for what seemed like an eternity. Several minutes anyway. His technique of taking air in back through his nose was phenomenal, something that needed to be witnessed at the front of the stage.
Halfway into the band’s set TS’s James Brown impression, certainly unexpected, and especially his footwork garnered cheers and much respect from the crowd, considering he had just previously covered the sweet soul of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On.
Orleans Avenue were certainly no musical slouches, providing the back bone to their bandleader’s antics on the trombone, trumpet and even tambourine. At the end of the band’s set, every member of the band played a game of musical chairs, taking on a different instrument, including Trombone Shorty on drums. They showed the musical talent and showmanship of a veteran band
At the end of their set, Trombone Shorty conveyed his thanks to the energetic Victoria crowd of 500+. He promised “I’ll be back”. We’ll hold you to that Trombone Shorty, no doubt about it…
by: Nathan Ambrose
It was the second full day of Jazzfest here in Victoria and it would be one for the ages. It began with some clouds and rain and unpredictable weather.
Having spent many years attending the Saskatchewan Jazzfest in my hometown of Saskatoon, I became used to some phenomenal outdoor performances in the Bessborough Gardens on the banks of the south Saskatchewan River. In Victoria, there are much fewer outdoor performances with the majority of events taking place indoors. The free stage in Centennial Square is the spot of all of the outdoor shows, however lacks the natural beauty of the Bessborough . That being said, the local artists playing on Saturday came to play and bring the funk yesterday. Local soul and funk band Groove Kitchen played a mix of soul, funk and reggae hits and also more obscure songs from the likes of Bajka. Local favorite and Monday Mag award winner Maureen Washington, Daniel Cook and their band played a mix of soul, blues and even reggae. Washington has an incredibly powerful voice that echoes some of the greats including Etta James and Carmen McRae. She played tunes from Washington and Cook’s newest release Here We Go Again and more.
My evening began as emcee at Hermann’s for the jazz quartet Koptor, made up of some fine musicians from Canada and Denmark, who played a lively set mostly made up of compositions from drummer and bandleader Kevin Brow. Brow’s drumming was the cohesive glue to this band, that featured some fine soprano sax from Rob Mosher.
Next it was over to Victoria Events Centre for Rupa and the April Fishes. The group formed in San Francisco in 2006, a meeting of a plurality of different ethnicities, languages and cultures to create a magical musical stew. All of this multiplicity of musical styles is shared by the group. A quote for their website reveals that “Their music is strictly organic, nuclear-free, post-nation, many-headed and decidedly unclean.” Although I could only stay for their first set, it was a high energy show featuring a mix of tunes from the band’s catalogue and a rollicking version of the Clash’s The Guns of Brixton. Bandleader Rupa sings mostly in French which adds another dimension to the mix of gypsy and Balkan rhythms, Indian ragas, reggae and more.
Earlier in the evening I had been tipped off by some Jazzfest employees that legendary jazz trumpeter and bandleader Wynton Marsalis and some of the members of Jazz @ Lincoln Centre Orchestra might be stopping by the Office for an impromptu jam session with the Damian Graham Trio. I headed south from the Events Centre over to the Office on Yates. Luckily it wasn’t packed yet, and I was allowed easy entry. I spotted Marsalis immediately posing for photos with fans at the bar. The Damian Graham Trio finished their excellent set and Marsalis along with Lincoln Centre bassist and pianist joined Graham for a jam session.Graham played like a man possessed, hitting the kit with his eyes closed for most of the session, clearly in an elevated state of consciousness. Marsalis, clearly enjoying the atmosphere in the informal setting, away from the Royal Theatre, played fabulously as one might expect but also giving the spotlight to other bandmembers and clearly digging Graham’s impeccable grooves. He was truly a class act and may he return to Victoria again soon. Time to catch my breath as Trombone Shorty hits the stage tonight at Centenninal Square.
Many thanks to Ron Sherring at Bulldog Images for these great photos from the Office last night.
The countdown to Victoria International Jazzfest 2011 is on. With just 10 days left before the festival kick off on Friday June 24, the Music of My Mind on CFUV 101.9FM brings you our annual Jazzfest special this Thursday. New Jazzfest Communications Coordinator Kendra Martin will join me in studio for a chat about what we can expect from this year’s festival, her picks and great music from the likes of international stars Trombone Shorty and Robert Glasper as well as homegrown BC performers such as Adonis Puentes, Five Alarm Funk, Skyla J and the Vibes and much more. Follow the Victoria Jazz Society on Facebook for further festival updates.