Following the opening street party, Saturday’s lineup was really in full swing (no pun intended). Free “lunchtime” and and “afterwork” concerts are a fixture for the duration of the festival where it’s helpful to bring your own lawn chair to sit comfortably and enjoy the music.
The Dave Holland Quintet kicked off the “Jazz By The Lake” series over at the Enwave Theatre for an early evening show. Holland, a frequent visitor to Toronto, is one of those busy musicians who has accomplished greatly to date yet continues to devote a considerable amount of time to composition for various band formations. All the members of his standard quintet bring their technical adeptness and individuality to form the whole. This performance clearly demonstrated the collective personality that fans were expecting. The band leader assumed the centre of the formation and acted as a cheerleader for his relaxed fellow musicians. A brief issue with feedback had Eubanks commenting jokingly: “Hey, that’s in the key of the song!”
On the post-boppish tune with a fast vibrant swing, “Cosmosis,” Chris Potter switched from the tenor to the soprano sax in order to push the high notes. Robin Eubanks, in his trombone solo, added a quick Miles Davis reference that did not go unnoticed by Holland who visibly enjoyed the improvisational ideas. “The Sum Of All Parts,” showcased the trombonist’s engaging style as well as his double voicings used during more intense measures.
Drummer Nate Smith, exhibited impeccable timing as he navigated through varying time signatures within the same tune. On “Lucky Seven,” he used shakers in his right hand while having his other hand and both feet busy without needing to pushing volume….a real clinic in itself.
The unassuming Steve Nelson brought precise flair on vibes and marimba. Such a delicate touch came out for the beautiful melodic line on “Go Fly A Kite,” a tune that he wrote and that the quintet used as a fitting encore following a well deserved standing ovation.
The Average White Band were not white and were certainly not average (blatant rip-off from Globe and Mail music writer Brad Wheeler). The new incarnation of this funk ensemble combined with a set by Stax Records stalwarts Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn and Eddie Floyd pulled up a lot of cellular memories for the audience. AWB played the first part and gave a terrific performance – very tight. The Stax guys were looser, but that’s because the only rehearsal they got was at the sound check and that was sans-drummer since drum hero Anton Fig was waiting around a New York airport since 7 in the morning until 2 hours before showtime. He was amazing but the drummer for AWB just seemed to make more of it. The night ended on a very uplifting note when Eddie pulled up to the stage local music icon Eric Mercury, (who was also with Stax for many years). Apparently Eric rarely performs these days but with a little prodding he was singing his heart his heart out on “Soul Man” with Eddie Floyd. There was a lot of music history on that stage all at once. (Brian Blain)