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Pioneering performers push the envelope

June 2009

Anyone with open ears growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s knows the innovative pianist Dave Brubeck.

His LP on Columbia, Time Out, featured two compositions in odd time signatures – Take Five and Blue Rondo à la Turk – that presaged the freedom explosion in music that was to follow. Take Five, written by the lyrical alto saxophoinist Paul Desmond, was in 5/4 time, while most jazz pieces at the time were written in common, or 4/4 time, or in 3/4 or waltz time. Brubeck’s classic quartet, with which he turned Take Five into a pop hit, included Desmond, the drummer Joe Morello and bassist Gene Wright.

Dave Brubeck

The band stayed together until 1967, when Brubeck called it quits to focus on his first love – composing. The fact that at 88 he is writing new material and performing is extraordinary and his every appearance at this stage should be regarded as historic. Brubeck’s wife, Lola, recently said Dave used to make love to her counting these very odd time signatures. Four of his six children are jazz musicians, including cellist Matt Brubeck who plays avant music with Marilyn Lerner and drummer Nick Fraser, son of Graham Fraser, the Commissioner of Official Languages. Dave Brubeck’s 50-year tribute to Time Out is at Salle Wilfid Pelletier of Place des Arts at 7:30 pm, July 4 and tickets cost $49.50 to $79.50.

Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Queens, N.Y., Tony Bennett at 82 is widely regarded as on of the best singer of standards the U.S. has produced. He has a superb voice, great control, and a way of turning every song into his own.

His route to the top was not an easy one, and his style fell out of favour in the rock-heavy 1960s. But jazz lovers recall his marvellous recordings with Bill Evans, in particular his rendition of Waltz for Debby, that helped propel him back into the picture in the late 1970s. The Boulevard of Broken Dreams was his first hit, but his signature tune became his unique reading of I Left My Heart in San Francisco. His vocal chords are not what they used to be, but he he remains a delightful and entertaining icon. Tony Bennett performs at Salle Wilfrid Pelletier of Place des Arts, July 3, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $74.50 to $124.50.

Ornette Coleman

Texas-born Ornette Coleman, 79, taught himself to play alto sax, moved to Los Angeles and while working as an elevator operator developed his own harmonic concepts. His idea was that an improvisation could develop independent of a tune’s chord structure. He tried it out at the Hillcrest Club in L.A. in a band with Montreal pianist Paul Bley and they all got fired. But history was made. Ornette remains a pioneer and hero to those who enjoy the outer edges of jazz. He played here in the 1980s with his harmelodic group, featuring a double rhythm sections and his session is a must. The Ornette Coleman Quartet plays at 9:30 p.m. July 9 at Théâtre Maisonneuve of Place des Arts. Tickets cost $49.50 to $69.50.

Lee Konitz, 81, rose to prominence as part of the Miles Davis nonet and the famous Birth of the Cool recordings that ushered in a new age.

In contrast to the hot passions of bebop, where Charlie Parker’s alto sax was seen as the ultimate, Konitz became the chief exponent of the cool school. His lean tone, dedication to the essence of a tune and pared down expansion has stood the test of time in more than half a century as a performer.

Lee Konitz

But Konitz never stands still, never repeats standard tunes ad nauseum and fits easily into modal playing rather than depending on chord changes. And he constantly challenges himself by playing with people who could be his grandchildren. His gig here is with American bassist Jeff Denson, German pianist Florian Weber, and Israeli drummer Ziv Ravetz.

Lee Konitz and Minsarah perform on July 3 at 10:30 p.m. the Gesù, Centre de Créativité. Tickets cost $36.50.

George Wein, 83, began his career as a jazz pianist but achieved his greatest fame as founder of the Storeyville jazz club in Boston and in 1954 the Newport Jazz Festival. It was the grandaddy of all jazz festivals and the one around which all others are modeled. Some of the great recordings of post-war jazz were made there.

Wein in 1960 created the Newport Folk Festival, which became a mecca for the burgeoning folk and youth culture, featured such giants as Pete Seeger and Bill Munroe and showcased emerging stars Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. In 1982, Wein reunited some of the jazz greats who played at Newport in its heyday, performing here and at other festivals.

He’s back this year playing straight ahead music with the so called Newport All-Stars, featuring the great tenor sax player, Lew Tabackin, the only other senior in the group. Wein, by the way, is also famous for his wine cellar.

George Wein and the new All-Stars perform July 10 at 8pm at the Théâtre Jean Duceppe for Place des Arts. Tickets cost $38.50.



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