When the Clifton Anderson Quintet took the stage at Kilbourn Hall Saturday night, it was a gathering of veteran players. Five of the men had earned their strips with greats like Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Milt Jackson, and others. Only one, pianist Tadataka Unno, was in a younger, 30-something, generation. That made for a fairly old-school approach to the music, and no one was complaining.
Trombonist Anderson shared the front line with saxophonist Eric Wyatt. They played the heads of tunes in harmony or in counterpoint with each other and both had plenty of solos. Anderson’s trombone ranged from the sort of gruff sound normally associated with the instrument to the beautiful French horn-like tone the trombone is capable of.
He employs a particularly rich rhythm section with Essiet Okon Essiet on bass, Steve Williams on drums and Victor See Yuen on a world of percussion from Conga drums to chimes.
The strongest performance of the night came on Anderson’s “Remember This.” But a close second was the final tune of the night, a jazz treatment of “Tomorrow” from the Broadway show, “Annie.”
This year’s XRIJF featured no shortage of excavators, musicians who dug deep into the history of jazz and came up with some all-but-forgotten classics. Pianist and singer Champian Fulton resurrected some fine tunes to the delight of the audience at Hatch Hall.
For her first several selections she displayed her prowess on the piano. Since there was no microphone, and since Hatch is known as the piano venue, I didn’t expect her to sing. But she did, with a distinctive voice that carried nicely in the acoustically perfect hall.
My favorite of the songs was Eubie Blake and Andy Razaf’s “I’d Give A Dollar For A Dime,” a great tune about a juke box and how much music can mean to people. Instrumentally, Fulton channeled the great Errol Garner, playing wonderful renditions of “Moonglow,” “Indiana,” and “Misty.”
I ended the evening, and the festival, at Xerox Auditorium with the Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra featuring Ingrid Jensen on trumpet. This sister act was unique, considering the fact that the band has 17 regular members, all men. Christine conducted the group in her own gorgeous arrangements of her own compositions. She is superb at all three jobs.
Christine’s compositions, for this concert, were mostly about journeys, allowing her to paint aural pictures of dramatic voyages. She did so with a full palette of musical colors using distinctive voicings.
In most cases Ingrid took extended excursions on her trumpet, sounding a lot like Miles Davis when the mute was in. But, as Christine pointed out, this band is full of leaders (some of the top musicians in Canada) and everyone who stood up to take a solo was a formidable player.