Saturday, September 12, 2009

Guelph Jazz Festival 2009: Defying Borders with The Ex

Guelph, Ontario is a progressive college town filled with contradictions. Healthy vegan cuisine is as readily available as a smoldering cigarette. A colloquium populated with heady, intellectuals passionate about probing the academic angles of improvisation theory along with a free, 12-hour jazz tent that brings improvisational practice literally to the street. A wall of black and white portraits - many faded to brown - of Anglican priests gazing sternly into the basement of St. George's Church as a full house dances to the infectious rhythms of Ethiopian jazz great Getatchew Mekuria playing saxophone with the left-wing Dutch punk band The Ex.

The call and response of Mekuria's war chant-laced saxophone lines against the pulsating barbs of Kat Bornefeld's drumming and Arnold De Boer's vocals delivering a late night dose of hedonism on the final day of panels, round tables and keynote addresses. The smiles beaming from long-time punk practitioners embracing all the same contradictions and juxtapositions as the large, hip crowd on their feet in rapt attention for Xavier Charles' wicked clarinet solo. The outstanding - at times acrobatic and seizure-like - dancing of Malaku Belay providing a flash of movement into the multicultural spectacle. A performance that crossed many of the boundaries and borders the Guelph Jazz Festival seeks to blur as part of its mandate delivered with an added visceral punch.

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