Bourne's Montreal: Ambrose And Tigran
July 20, 2014. Posted by Tim Wilkins.
I've never actually been Upstairs. That's the nightclub where the best of jazz from New York plays in Montreal. This year including one or two nights with the Heath Brothers, Fred Hersch, Sheila Jordan, Bob Mover, Ben Sidran, and Peter Bernstein. Upstairs is officially part of the jazz festival, but is far from the jazz festival.
When I'm in Montreal, I stay within walking-ish distance of the 40 or so gigs happening every day around Place des Arts -- and, as I've often observed, it's a testament of how great is a jazzfest that one will actually miss more great performances than one can get to.
Some of the best concerts (for me) happen at the Gesu, the Jesuit church on a nearby block. When not functioning as a church, it's also an active arts center, and in the intimate concert hall, Salle de Gesu -- literally "Room of Jesus" -- some of the festival's best music is played.
I missed - while judging the TD band contest - the 6 p.m. "Invitation" gigs of trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire - one with his quintet, one with guitarist Bill Frisell.
Akinmusire and the pianist Tigran were this year's Invitees — invited to play several concerts with different (sometimes dream) groups. And once in a while, the Invitees play together, like this year's mid-series duets of Ambrose and Tigran.
What first compelled me about Ambrose several years ago with his quintet at the Gesu was that the very sound of his trumpet is so… different. As if he's breathing some other oxygen through his trumpet. As if he's fluttering notes like a butterfly's wings.
I looked at my scribbles in the dark, and writ large was the word blissful.
What first compelled me about Tigran several years ago with a quartet called Punk Bop at the Gesu was his quickness on the keys, especially when playing sparklingly the higher keys. Also, that he looks quite physically small but plays with gigantic passion.
Together, Akinmusire and Tigran played mostly lyrical originals, but the highlights for me were when they were spotlighted solo on standards. Ambrose playing "All The Things You Are." Tigran playing "Someday My Prince Will Come."
It's the true delight of jazz that the best of jazz play songs we've heard a thousand times (sometimes literally, like these two songs) but have never heard before played so freshly, so unusually, so beautifully.
I was happily free of judging and able to enjoy Tigran's two other concerts, happily and luckily able to get tickets to his sold-out shows - one of duets with pianist Brad Mehldau, one with his "Shadow Theater" group.
Tigran showed his musical roots in Armenia with his group, especially with a singer and/or himself chanting Armenian folk songs. Tigran and the singer also played electronics, generating pulses of rhythms and loops of melodies.
Again, his piano sounded now gentle, now fierce — especially when his drummer blew the roof off the Gesu.
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