2007 Guelph Jazz Festival + Colloquium
Guelph, Ontario, Canada
September 5 - 9
Back in 1705, Johan Sebastian Bach made the 290-mile trek by foot from Arnstadt to Lubeck to hear Dieterich Buxtehude play organ. Not to compare myself to the old master, but I do understand the impulse. With Anthony Braxton on the schedule for the 2007 Guelph Jazz Festival the 500-mile journey was well worth the drive. Add in Myra Melford, Charlie Haden, Mark Dresser, Curtis Fowlkes, Carla Bley, Matt Wilson, Marianne Trudel, Catherine Potter, Nels Cline, Taylor Ho Bynum - just to name an impressive sampling - and I have to wonder if Bach's return trip was as blissful.
It is a credit to the vision and ideals of artistic director Ajay Heble that this small college town in southern Ontario makes a habit of hosting such a vibrant gathering each year. It's the consistency of bringing in the brightest and most exciting talents from around the world that draws in an enthusiastic and passionate audience. Many of the big city jazz festivals should take note of this consistency. The open exchange of ideas and dialogue in the accompanying colloquium fills out the music-rich experience by providing a forum for thoughtful practitioners who have a great deal to say about their art.
There was a rare warmth from each of the performers I saw that leads me to believe they were treated well during their time in Guelph. Their "thank yous" to the festival organizers, volunteers and the audience seemed genuine. The venues were acoustically outstanding. The technical production values were excellent. And the "friendly experiencers" were engaged, informed and receptive. I'm going to miss standing at the front of the line for a 10:30am Anthony Braxton concert with people who intuitively understand the profound appeal of an early morning performance by Anthony Braxton. Even if Nels Cline kept them up until 2:00am the night before. I'm going to miss the pleasant realization that Pauline Oliveros is sitting directly behind me at a concert and Peter Brotzmann is just off to my right. I can't wait to see who they schedule next year. Until then, I'll have to submit my own papers on "improvisativity," apply for a press pass or put on J.S. Bach's walking shoes.