Toronto Jazz Festival – Renaud Garcia-Fons, Enwave Theatre, June 22 2008

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival | 3 Comments

Renaud Garcia-Fons (Picture by Mark)

TorontoRenaud Garcia-Fons hails from a small Parisian suburb and is a double-bassist par excellence who fuses the very best elements of jazz, flamenco, and classical music. He played last Sunday at the Enwave Theatre (Harbourfront). It was a perfect combination of venue and performer; the end-result was nothing short of enchanting.

The Enwave Theatre has a maximum capacity of 420 people and has now become one of my favourite concert halls for live music. The acoustics are absolutely fantastic. In short, a great place for a vivid music listening experience. I’ve heard good things about this hall before, but after hearing some top brass musicians stretch their legs there, I now understand what the buzz is about. I can only struggle to describe how good they sounded in this hall.

Renaud Garcia-Fons was accompanied by flamenco guitarist Antonio Ruiz and percussionist Pascal Rollando. Together, they produced a well-rounded sound that was meticulously assembled. Renaud is a virtuoso and I mean this in the best meaning of the term. Sometimes “virtuoso” is synonym for “technical mastery”. That is to say the ability to play really technically challenging things effortlessly, but robotically. Renaud has the chops, but he’s a consummate musician capable of playing with feeling. He’s got full command of his instrument, and uses it to effortlessly fuse musical styles.

This was a perfect combination of beautiful music in a venue where listeners could really appreciate how damn good this trio sounds. A highlight of the jazz festival for me this year.

Renaud Garcia-Fons: 4.8/5.0

Note: The attached song (from his latest CD Arcoluz) is an instrumental that fuses jazz and flamenco.

Toronto Jazz Festival – Maceo Parker, Sound Academy, June 20

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival | 3 Comments

Maceo Parker funking it up - picture by Mark

Mark’s Review

Toronto – What more can be said of Mr. Maceo Parker, the funktastic sax who played with James Brown for so many years? To say that this show was dripping with sweet funk would be an understatement. This show was pure dance party funk from start to finish, and the crowd couldn’t get enough of it.

As one friend stated, “there was a lot of confidence on that stage”. This was certainly the case. Maceo has assembled himself a super tight funk orchestra that knows how to rock like nobody’s business. It’s a very well put together sound, and you know that they know that they know it. They wore suits, and they came, and they threw down, and there was merriment.

It’s too bad that such a great show had to happen at the Docks (sorry, the Sound Academy). The sound was a little muddy at the beginning. Fortunately adjustments were made and the band came into balance after a few songs. Then it was just pure funk energy for two solid hours. I was hoping for a couple more Ray Charles tunes, but I was really glad to hear a bit of “Georgia on My Mind” on flute, and “You Don’t Know Me” during the encore.

The Sound Academy still sucks though. The acoustics are still bad. There are TV’s showing live feeds of the show all around the room. I suppose you can make an argument that then people who are farther from the stage can see what’s going on, but in my opinion it takes away from the actual musicians on stage. Who is going to face away from the band and watch the TV’s at the back of the room?

Sound issues aside, I don’t think the Docks/Sound Academy can ever really truly succeed as a great venue because of its location. It’s just too much of a hassle to get way out there, and then getting back is always difficult as cab’s take advantage of the location to extort the concert goers.

So all in all, this show unfolded as I expected. A fantastic band, and a fantastic show, just too bad it had to be at the Docks.

Maceo Parker: 4.8/5 Sound Academy: 3/5

Ricky’s Review
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The Bad Plus – June 13, 2008 – Glenn Gould Studio

Posted on by Mark in Concerts | 1 Comment

Toronto – The Bad Plus is a contemporary jazz trio comprised of classically trained pianist Ethan Iverson, straight-up jazz bassist Reid Anderson, and rock drummer David King. They hail from the Midwest of America and formed in late 2000.

Although The Bad Plus plays a lot of great fresh, material, what have really put them on the jazz-map have been their covers. Taking popular music of the time and re-interpreting them as jazz songs has been standard technique in the jazz lexicon. But what makes The Bad Plus stand out is their ability to re-interpret a song, as opposed to just shoehorning it into a jazz vocabulary.

For their part, The Bad Plus certainly met my expectations of seeing a jazz band of the highest caliber playing together and having fun. This was my first time at the Glenn Gould studio, and I was very impressed with the acoustics. One of my favourite moments was when they played a rendition of Neil Young’s Heart of Gold and all stopped playing their instruments and sang in unison using very quiet indoor voices. The best part was that even at the back of the room, I could hear it perfectly.


NXNE – We Are Wolves, El Mocambo, June 14

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, North By Northeast | 5 Comments

Toronto – We Are Wolves are a 3 piece rock n roll band from Montreal. Another CBC Radio 3 endorsed band, it was no surprise when we arrived to a packed house at the El Mo. I think CBC Radio 3 is like the Pitchfork Media of Canada, and Pitchfork Media is the NME of the US, and the NME is the Panic Manual of England, meaning, if they are endorsed by these media outlets, a crowd is guaranteed.

We Are Wolves took the small El Mo stage at 1. Bassist/Vocalist Alex Ortiz came out in some pseudo military garb and keyboardist Vincent Levesque was dressed in Miami Vice-ish attire. I don’t know what the drummer looked like, but I think he stood the whole time. Anyways, right away, they ripped into some song that got the crowd rocking. Alex Ortiz did his best rock star moves, including playing on his knees, jumping up and down, lookin real intense and everything. He has learned much.

The set was delayed early by some (a lot) of technical issues involving the monitor. After ten minutes or so, that problem got solved and the show went on. Normally this is not an issue, but given the 40 minute time slot, you have to wonder if some WAW fans felt shafted at the ten minutes of not music playing these guys did. I didn’t really care, cos they were just keepin it real. Either way, the show went on. I am not familiar with We Are Wolves, but they definitely know how to rock it. Pulsating bass lines followed by a flurry of drums and a layer of synth at just the appropriate time. I didn’t really get a chance to pick up any of the lyrics, but it was something like “ARRrrgh Blughar ROOOOOOOOCK”. Maybe not. I would say they remind me a lot of Death From Above 1979, only French, and with a keyboarder person. A mosh pit developed halfway thru the show and was sustained for the rest of the set, there was multiple drumming, and in general, everyone had a really good rockin time.

In conclusion, life, is sometimes like the We Are Wolves concert. It’s too short, there can be unexpected technical delays at times, but in the end, when it’s all said and done, you can go for chinese food down the street and be like ‘well, that was all good innit?’