Monday at JazzFest I took in two shows. Despite having really enjoyed the Fred Hersch Q & A at the Jazz Lab, I decided to go a different direction and go with the Aaron Shorr quartet for the second show. Yesterday I doubled my attendance, taking in four shows. Although there were twice as many shows, I still only listening to two bands.
Despite there only being two bands, yesterday was still an interesting experience. One thing that made it so, was each of the bands played in disparate settings. The first of the two bands I took in was Gypsophilia. They are a hot jazz/klezmer band, with an indie vibe, as a review on their site reads, out of Halifax.
Two Bands: Gypsophilia
Gypsophilia features six members ( Gina Burgess on violin; Nick Wilkinson on guitar; Sageev Oore on piano, accordion and keys;(not on the tour), Alec Frith and Ross Burns on guitar and percussion; Matt Myer on trumpet and organ; Adam Fine on double bass). Burgess’s violin playing is the engine that drives the band. However, each member brings a unique sound and style to the group. In the style category Adam Fine is a standout, with a suit that Spike Jones would have been proud of and a general look that makes you wonder if he is the love child of Disco Stu and Artie Ziff.
The above comment is in fun. Which is also a great description of the way Gypsophilia approaches their music. Below is a brief bit of video I shot with my phone during their lunchtime set at The Cube in Old Market Square.
Most of the material they were playing was from their new release Night Swimming. As they were introducing the songs, they made one or two comments as how this album had a darker and more mysterious feel to it. Standing out in the sun of Old Market Square I found it difficult to get this sense. I wasn’t really bothered by that, because I was having a real great time listening to them. However, when I took in their evening show at Maw’s Garage, those darker and mysterious tones started to stand out. This was particularly true of Burgess’s violin playing.
Two songs that really displayed this in the evening set were Insomniac’s Dream and Deep Water. One can only imagine that an insomniac would be tossing and turning and unsatisfied with their dreams. Perhaps even a waking nightmare. Deep Water on the other hand displays the indie chops mentioned above. It is haunting and melancholy capturing well the vastness and stark beauty of much of the Canadian landscape.
There were two other things in the evening performance that really stood out. First, the venue itself helped to concentrate the sound. Second, the stage was smaller and brought the band members into closer proximity to each other. Most notable was how this configuration put Fine’s bass playing literally in the middle of the group.
Two Bands: MonkeyJunk
The second of the two bands I took in yesterday was MonkeyJunk. Having my first trip to the Jazz Lab being a little short on the music end, I thought I’d give it a second try. I knew nothing of MonkeyJunk before I went . MonkeyJunk consists of: Steve Marriner on vocals, baritone guitar, harmonica, Hammond organ; Tony D on lead guitar; and Matt Sobb on drums and percussion.The band is out of Ottawa and according to their Wikipedia page their style is “rock and roll/swamp/blues.”
For the Jazz Lab show they had their guitars, but drummer Sobb was playing a Cajon. This led to a stripped down “Behind the Music” kind of sound to the band. Throughout the session the band talked about the various influences on their musical styles. With the introduction of each influence we were treated to a small snippet of that style.
The band started out playing what is called shuffle style blues and has also been very influenced by the New Orleans sound in Rock N Roll. In fact the band believes that New Orleans has as much right to the title of birthplace of Rock N Roll as Memphis does.
An interesting aspect of their development that all three discussed, was the fact that they were self taught. They all said they had learned by taking is as much live music as possible. This involved watching performers as well as listening to them. This struck me in relationship to Fred Hersch’s comments the previous day about how the presence of Jazz programs had to a degree hurt young performers, because they were less likely to be out in the clubs learning on the fly.
Although they are often called a blues band, MonkeyJunk says that the groove is what is important to them. This led into a real interesting discussion about the differences between groove and funk. As a demonstration of this they choose to play a bit of and then discuss James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” They particularly feel that Brown’s contributions to the development of Funk have been overlooked. All in all the their session in the Jazz Lab was highly entertaining and informative.
One thing I like about the JazzFest is that almost all the club shows are close together. This made it quite easy to take in two bands in one easy. After the Gysophilia set at Maw’s I headed over to the King’s Head to catch MonkeyJunk’s club set. Unlike the Gypsophilia show, here it was more the instrumentation as opposed to the venue that made the biggest difference.
MonkeyJunk was definitely more amped up at the King’s Head. The presence of the drum kit brought a great deal of intensity and drive to their playing. Here, you got the sense that you had taken in shows by two bands instead of one. This show was much more of the get you up out of your seat show. I really noticed this in the song Gonna Put a Tiger in Your Tank, which they played in both shows. In the Jazz Lab show the tiger seemed more of the stuffed variety, while in the club shows it was all dangerous tooth and claw.
Both of the two bands are ones that I would recommend. Unfortunately Gyposphilia have already left the city. MonkeyJunk is again at the King’s Head tonight starting at 9 pm. If you have a chance get their and take in their show.
I’m planning on watching two bands again today. Luke Sellick expedition and Heavyweights Brass Band.