I was on the radio earlier today. I spoke about my own work, music, and read part of my poem, Soundin’ Canaan. I was asked to choose two pieces of music to bookend my interview, and selected Oscar Peterson’s moving “Hymn to Freedom,” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”
Jerry Prager, a local historian spoke first about his new book, Laying the Bed: The Native Origins of the Underground Railroard. I come in around 35 minutes after the Oscar Peterson piece.
The 20th Anniversary of the Guelph Jazz Festival and Colloquium was another resounding success. Over the last twenty years the Festival has burgeoned from what Artistic Director Ajay Heble describes as “very modest origins into a vital social-purpose enterprise.” It has become an inclusive meeting place where enthusiasts of creative, innovative jazz and improvised music gather once a year to be inspired, engaged, even healed, while participating in one of the planet’s most diverse listening communities. The festival is a reminder of how you can create something from little more than a good idea and a love for the music. This year’s festival and colloquium was no exception, boasting sold out shows, packed colloquium talks, world premieres, enchanting Nuit Blanche performances, and a constellation of musical styles, with musicians and listeners in dialogue with the music in the space of the now.
In honour of the 20th Anniversary, the festival was extended by an extra day to launch a new-partnered research institute, the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation. The launch of the institute culminated in a symphony of drums with the World Percussion Summit. The improvising percussion quartet featured master drummers Jesse Stewart (Ontario), Hamid Drake (USA), Dong-Won Kim (South Korea), and Pandit Anindo Chatterjee (India).
As usual, the Colloquium (co-presented between ICASP and the Guelph Jazz Festival) was top-notch and remains one of the few events in North America to combine scholarly activity with a music festival. The talks and music performances at the Colloquium were full of academic fervor while remaining generally accessible to the larger Guelph community with a stimulating mix of panels, keynote addresses, assorted workshops, and concerts and interviews that featured festival artists.
The Colloquium was held at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, which was adorned with the jazz photography of Thomas King. King is a master storyteller who also possesses an incredible ability to tell the story of the Guelph Jazz Festival through the chronicle of his photography. King also collaborated with Guelph visual artist Nick Craine to create this year’s festival poster and logo.
The 20th Anniversary was full of amazing performances, which included Toronto based jazz upstarts BadBadNotGood, Matt Brubeck, Atomic, free shows by DRUMHAND, Jane Bunnett, Friendly Rich’s Scheherazade,Marianne Trudel, as well as the amazing double bill featuring Wadada Leo Smith’s Golden Quartet alongside Pharoah Sanders and The Underground. The festival continues to affirm that there is something special happening in Guelph. There is much more that could be said about the music, but I’ll leave that for other critics, although I do have a review of the trio Dawn of Midi coming soon. After all, in jazz there is no final chord. We can only dream what the next 20 years of the festival will manifest. For now, here are some additional pictures from this year’s anniversary celebration.