The MIJF kicked off this weekend with a performance by the Charles Lloyd Sky Trio that lived up to its hype. Lloyd’s prestigious history, apart from working with many of the legends of jazz also includes the formation of his own quartet, which introduced the jazz world to Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette and Cecil McBee.
The Sky trio consists of Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. They were a joy to watch, with their intensity, humour and feeling of being totally in the moment. The music at times caressed the ears with Lloyd’s subtle mellow tones, but there was no holding back when in full charge.
As Peter Watrous noted, "Lloyd has come up with a strange and beautiful distillation of the American experience, part abandoned and wild, part immensely controlled and sophisticated."
Lloyd has pursued Eastern spiritual paths for many years. At times leaving behind the performing world for nature and a desire for harmony. This was evident when we took a musical journey with Tagi moving us through to an era of beat poetry, hued with an aura of peace and love.
Throughout the evening there was an elegance of playing with each note effortless but beautifully crafted.
During the performance there was no banter from Lloyd, the only words spoken being in Tagi. The eloquence of the music was more than enough.
In contrast, Lloyd spoke about music and the importance of education with feeling, at the Monash University Jazz Futures performance. For me, the chance to see and hear this trio sharing their knowledge with Monash students was a treat.
On the Saturday night, we were back at the Recital Hall to hear Jorge Pardos. In comparison to the intensity and unity of the previous night, this performance was a tad disappointing.
However, there was a silver lining with the opportunity to glimpse a too short extract from Chris Hale’s Sylvain Coda project. A melding of Flamenco and jazz. Johnny Tedesco’s dancing was both physical and an integrated percussive element of the music.
The Melbourne program has a range of offerings and catering to the kids on a rainy Sunday was Ali McGregor’s Jazzamatazz. Hopefully inspiring a future generation of jazz fans, this was a room full of dancing tots and adults with an excuse to get their groove happening, not to mention red shoes to die for.
There were all day free programs in Fed Square showcasing international artists and performers from around the country. On Saturday, the weather was perfect, but on Sunday, it was definitely for the more hardy with umbrellas up.
It was interesting to experience how the sum of the parts did not exceed the greatness of the individuals with the Greek Project. Charles Lloyd Trio with Maria Fantouri and musicians charmed at the Melbourne Town Hall.
In stark contrast, the air was crackling with expectation for the final sold out performance of Chris Dave and the Drumhedz. This was an exciting, tight knit crew. The set was epic as we twisted and turned through myriad musical paths.
The Chris Dave formula is a fluid band lineup which may consist of a combination of any of the following: saxophonist, key player, bassist, guitarist and drummer (Chris Dave). On this particular night it was Isaiah Sharkey on guitar, Marcus Strickland on sax and Nick McNack on bass.
At times the sounds emitting from Chris were akin to someone having a kick ass drum machine and randomly pressing the different program buttons. The guitarist, Isaiah Sharkey had the crowd in the palm of his hands as he toyed with Hendrix, Jackson and more. There was light and shade, humour and intensity not to mention the incredible grooves underpinning it all.
A fantastic finish to my Melbourne Festival experience.
Melbourne International Jazz Festival runs to the 8th June. With another week to run, there is certainly more great music ahead.