by James Halecopyright © 1999 James Hale
I got back from Guelph Monday night. The festival was even better than last year, and has now surpassed Victoriaville in my mind as the best place to hear improvised music in Canada. As one fellow JJAer quipped, the Guelph Festival is like Victoriaville but with better food. If you don't know, Guelph is about an hour's drive west of Toronto. It's a university town, full of terrific little cafes, bookstores and bars.
Highlight of the weekend for me was Susie Ibarra, both in (her last) performance with In Order To Survive and in duet with Canadian cellist/vocalist Ann Bourne. I sat up close to Susie in both shows and was just floored by how seamless her work is . . . not to mention how much power she can play with.
Han Bennink was lots of fun, but seriously out-hammed himself in the much-anticipated trio with Misha Mengelberg and Dave Douglas. We were on Han's side of the band (in a large church) and couldn't hear Mengelberg at all. I could barely hear Dave, which tells you how loud Han was.
The double bill of Gerry Hemingway/David Mott/Mark Dresser and the Francois Houle 5 (in tribute to John Carter) was also first rate throughout. Mengelberg's solo show was a disappointment, as was the cello/drums duet of Vancouverites Peggy Lee and husband Dylan van der Schyff.
As usual, some of the best things in Guelph are the workshops or unusual solo showcases, and there was a great, rollicking percussion display called "garbage jazz" with Bennink, Hemingway, Eddie Prevost and John Heward, as well as emotional -- if overly discursive -- solo performances by William Parker and Dominic Duval. Duval performed his electro-acoustic showcase piece Nightbird Inventions for the first time outside the studio. He was nervous beforehand, but it was gorgeous. William played solo for about 75 minutes! And told jokes!
Anyway, those are my first blush impressions, taken from my notebook. My full eport on the Guelph Festival will run in Coda in early 2000.