Wayne Shorter, June 24
It could've had something to do with the idea of playing in a tent at Nathan Phillips Square that left jazz saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter less than enthusiastic about his Downtown Jazz Festival performance. But for whatever reason, he didn't seem into it. The bored looking Shorter took his position on stage, leaning on the piano where Danilo Perez was seated, and then traded the occaisional blips and blaps with Brian Blade lightly tapping at his cymbals while John Pattitucci intermittently plucked barely audible bass notes. After 20 minutes of this low-key noodling, an elderly woman sitting across from me asked her partner, "are they still tuning up?" He shushed her saying, 'No, I think that's a song." The energy level didn't get much higher for the rest of the show leaving bodies silently slumping in plastic seats all over the tent.
Ray Charles, June 27
The promise of hearing Ray Charles sing with a horn-heavy big band was enough to pack the Hummingbird Centre tight with Downtown Jazz festers Friday night. But evidently a number of patrons had other reasons for shelling out the big bucks for Brother Ray. "I just hope he brought the Raelettes ," chortled the dude seated behind me to which his date responded with an elbow jab to the ribs. It turned out to be a very good thing Charles did have the Raelettes for vocal support because the 72 year old's singing now often comes across as unintelligble strings of grunts and whimpers often only coming into focus on the tag lines. As for this keyboard work, he still has his chops but he seemed overly preoccupied with the emulator feature on his Yamaha synth. All through the performance, Charles took great delight in showing off how he could make his keyboard sound like he was playing vibes in one part and then tubular bells the next and even like a Fender Rhodes if he so desired. Ho hum.
Jayne County, June 27
She's billed as a living punk rock legend, and tranny-trash goddess Jayne County certainly delivered a memorable performance at last Friday's insanely packed Vazaleen Shame Party . While County's epic single-note punk tunage left something to be desired, her campy banter was pretty hysterical: one-third performance art, one-third standup routine and one-third ridiculous name-dropping monologue ("I wrote this song back at Max's Kansas City, and it was inspired by something Lou Reed said to me one night...") that put Hedwig to shame. County's expertise at fellating the microphone stand almost made me forget about the painfully loud sound system - I swear my ears were ringing for the next four days.