The Guelph Jazz Festival Guelph ON - September 7 to 11, 2005

Community-based music organisations were the theme of this year's Guelph Jazz Festival. Featured were Chicago's Association of the Advancement of Creative Musicians and the Quebecois musique actuelle scene. The AACM was represented by its old guard, with the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Douglas Ewart and Wadada Leo Smith, while its younger generation was represented by Sticks and Stones, and Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble. While the Smith/Ewart group seemed a bit scattered, the Art Ensemble managed to affirm their place as leaders despite the death of two of their key members. Nicole Mitchell's group reaffirmed the continuum without drifting into nostalgia. The real excitement was generated by Sticks and Stones, who blazed with skill, passion and creativity. As for the Quebecois groups, they displayed a wealth of variety. Andre Duchesne's trio played a beautiful and mysterious set, while Evidence played on the endless inventiveness of Thelonious Monk's music. Prog rock, much beloved in Quebec, was referenced by Pierre Labbe's ensemble, and was the main emphasis of Miriodor's set. Cosmologic raised the bar for musical strength early in the festival. Fire Into Music brought Hamid Drake and William Parker together with trombonist Steve Swell and saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc in an old school but potent free-jazz meltdown. Follow Follow burned Afrobeat in a stunning display of groove. Rob Clutton and Lori Freedman each gave stirring solo performances that made one wonder just how much music can come out of solitary instruments. Supersilent's drum/trumpet/keyboard/noise set was simply amazing, especially considering that the venue was a mall that doubled as a reverb chamber. Gordon Monahan's dripping water installation performance had me shaking my head in disbelief. There were disappointments, though, such as Sakoto Fujii's ensemble, which never really coalesced musically as a group despite the blistering virtuosity of Mark Dresser and Jim Black. Overall, the majority of the concerts were great, and the festival reaffirmed itself amongst the best creative music festivals in the world.