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2010 TD Toronto Jazz Festival

The TD Toronto Jazz Festival and the Association of Improvising Musicians came together and formed a Next Wave Series. The concerts were performed at the Music Gallery in downtown Toronto, an intimate setting with spiritual overtones. The Music Gallery is a small church St. George The Martyr Church with seating for about 150 people.

Artists performing as part of the series included Kyle Benders Quartet, Eric Boeren Quartet, Random Access Unplugged, The Swyves, Element Choir, Octopus, Fred Frith, NKLS Quartet, Doran-Stucky-Studer & Tacuma. I caught the groups Octopus, Fred Firth, NKLS Quartet and Doran-Stucky-Studer & Tacuma play the music of Jimi Hendrix.

Octopus made up of two drummers, Germaine Liu and Mark Zurawinski as well as guitarist Ken Aldcroft, performed on July 2, they were opening for the headliner, British guitarist Fred Frith. Octopus set up with the two drummers facing each other. The guitarist in the centre of the stage, surrounded by special effects. The drummers shared the bass drum and each drummer had their own snare, toms, one ride cymbal and a hi-hat. Guitar starts with a single note strummed and picked with a rigid twang. The drums enter with brushes on snare, they play along with rhythmic accompaniment. The guitar gets trippy with harmony plucked about and effects of sampling repeating. The drummers start to add their percussive sounds all these sounds are coming together as one. With dark and eerie tones. This could be the soundtrack for a horror movie or a soundscape from a nightmare.

I had no idea of what to expect from Fred Frith, a guitarist of new wave renown. Frith was by himself, solo guitar, accompanied only by a myriad of special effects and a table full of items ranging from toys to aligator clips. The floor was covered in pedals of all shapes and sizes.

He only played one composition, a long one. It started as a special effect and continued on for approximately an hour. He turned his guitar into a lap steel guitar. He played the guitar col arco - bowing the strings, tapping the strings, pouring sand on the pickups and all manner of eccentric methods of producing strange percussive and synthetic sounds, he has succeeded in creating an entirely new sound.

After much prodding, poking and pitch modulation with strange black boxes, Frith got down to actually playing the guitar in a standardized fashion. He ended with a final flurry of notes sounding similar to a Flamenco guitarist. Albeit with a mystical flair, a sitar like undercurrent and plenty of interesting harmonics.

The next day I ventured back to the Music Gallery for more of the Next Wave of music. The opening act a local group, the NKLS4tet comprised of Karen Ng, alto sax; Nicolas Bulligan, trumpet; Scott McCannell, bass; and Lowell Whitty, drums. They had a guest drummer in Joe Sorbara as Whitty was on tour. The opening song started with bass and drums. As bass strummed the strings in a manner invoking memories of nails on chalkboard the trumpet and alto sax join in. An off kilter tune materializes. The tune continues in this manner until its ending. The following tune has a swing feel. The trumpet and alto show off some nice tones and good feel for the groove. The band would end with a Latin inspired composition.

The headline act Doran-Stucky-Studer & Tacuma play the music of Jimi Hendrix. The band is based in Switzerland except for Tacuma an American bassist. Last time I heard him he was involved in another Hendrix project. The Saxophone Quartet plays the music of Hendrix, performed at the Guelph Jazz Festival last year. Doran-Stucky-Studer & Tacuma took to the stage and laid down some mind bending acid jazz. Voodoo Chile came crashing down with all the power that two double stacks of Marshals can deliver in a wood post and beam 100 year old church. The stained glass windows were streaked with tears. The Wind Cries Mary, Izabella, Purple Haze, Hey Joe, Angel, Castles Made of Sand were all played with passion and sophistication.

The singer Erika Stucky is a performance artist. A good singer, with a magnetic stage personality. She prances around on stage carrying and playing farm implements. At this evenings performance she had the look of a dominatrix. She utilizes vast amounts of dramatic energy as well as some well timed special effects. The most interesting of these, a tape recorder with recorded songs, concerts and messages from another era that are allowed to peek through. Woodstock re-invented, a nostalgic performance with an improvisational edge.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Doran-Stucky-Studer-Tacuma
  • Concert Date: 7/3/2010
  • Subtitle: Next Wave Series
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