Edmonton Journal -Roger Levesque

Festival preview: Mike Rud returns home for Yardbird jazz festival

By Roger Levesque, Edmonton Journal November 5, 2014


EDMONTON – Mike Rud could be an ambassador for jazz in Canada.

On top of his army kid upbringing, this star guitarist has lived, worked and taught the jazz vernacular in Montreal, Ottawa, Victoria and Vancouver since he left hometown Edmonton in the 1990s to augment his education and career. Now he’s got a Juno Award too.

Still, he’s weary of drawing any sweeping insights about the sound of Canadian jazz.

“The art form was cooked up in America and because most of our cities are spread out but close to the border, it’s difficult to identify what makes a jazz player from Victoria more like one in Montreal or Halifax. I can credit certain personalities — like Sonny Greenwich, Fraser MacPherson, Tommy Banks or P.J. Perry — who help to keep it alive, creating the idea that it can be done here.

He does allow that the jazz community is strong, the scenes in most cities are competitive, and regular gigs and paycheques are hard to find. He also notes the quality of players keeps getting better and better.

Rud spoke earlier this week as he was preparing for another tour, including a date at the eighth annual Yardbird Festival of Canadian Jazz.

He leads a quintet here Nov. 15 to feature his latest album, Notes On Montreal, a four-year project that won the Juno for Best Jazz Vocal Album earlier this year. Not bad considering it’s his first album of all-original jazz and pop songs (fourth CD), inspired by stories and poems by famous Montreal writers from Mordecai Richler to Leonard Cohen. Sienna Dahlen sings all the lyrics with pianist Chad Linsley, bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer David Laing. Rud’s guitar shines.

You don’t have to know the writers or Montreal to appreciate the songs, an unusual homage to the city he calls “a hodgepodge of micro-cultures.” Most of the musicians are friends he’s made over the 25 years since he first went there to attend McGill University.

It turns out Rud has been a closet songwriter for many years. He just never had the confidence to put his material out there. He’s already planning his next album to feature more songs, just solo guitar and his own voice this time.

Festival highlights

Imagine 13 notable acts over nine nights. You’ll want to check the Yardbird website for details of the Festival of Canadian Jazz. All shows start at 8 p.m., with tickets (most in the $20 to $24 range) from Tix On The Square. The spotlight has never been stronger on Canadians now living in New York.

It all starts Thursday with revered New York trumpeter Dave Douglas, who co-leads Riverside: A Tribute to Jimmy Giuffre, with Canadian reedman Chet Doxas, now a New Yorker too. Joe Grass plays bass and Jim Doxas, drums. Influential American reedman Giuffre helped pioneer interactive trio jazz in the 1960s.

Ontario native Brenda Earle Stokes sings and plays piano Friday in a trio with Kodi Hutchinson and Karl Schwonik. She reframes songs by Joe Jackson and Pete Townshend with more originals on the recent disc Right About Now. A second set of jazz influenced by southern blues from reedman Peter Cancura makes this a double bill night.

Allison Au’s Toronto quartet and Emie Roussel’s Montreal trio make for another double bill night Saturday.

Edmonton’s drum ace Sandro Dominelli leads a trio Sunday, this time featuring bassist Chris Tarry and guitarist Pete McCann. Edmonton’s unsung bass hero Thom Golub and his quartet lead the venue’s regular Tuesday jam session.

Vancouver guitarist Tony Wilson plays guest in Pugs & Crows Wednesday. The sextet with two guitars, piano, violin, bass and drums won the 2013 Juno for Best Instrumental Album.

Myriad3 (on Thursday, Nov. 13) features composer-players Chris Donnelly, piano, Dan Fortin, bass, and Ernesto Cervini, drums, currently touring with their second impressive album The Where.

Montreal’s Effendi Records plays host to many of the finest jazz talents in Quebec. Their Effendi Jazzlab Orchestra is an eight-member all-star force of the label’s best composer-players, co-led by bassist Alain Bedard. With pianist John Roney and reed players Erik Hove, André Leroux and Samuel Blais, they promise to be a thrilling show Friday, Nov. 14.

Edmonton pianist Stefan Kijek’s trio opens for Mike Rud’s quintet, Saturday, Nov. 15.

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