Players from far and wide came to the Youth Jazz Showcase. Opening the set was the National Youth Jazz Combo, directed by Kirk MacDonald and featuring some hometown jazzers. Petros Anagnostakos played drums, Carter Brodkorb was on piano and Anson Cai was on saxophone. The only out-of-town player was Evan Gratham on bass, who hails from Vancouver and is in his second year of the NYJC. They played a swinging set which was met favourably by the audience. Brodkorb introduced the players and the tunes from the piano. A tight, cohesive performance was expected from these talented players, and they certainly delivered.
After the NYJC, a Japanese group called North Pandemic Groove Quartet kept things rocking. A good blend of traditional jazz and funk/fusion playing anchored their set and ensured that their sound stayed fresh and unique. The rhythm section tied it all together while soloists explored unique and distinctive melody lines. Their time was right on and the captivating music netted them a standing ovation when they finished.
Last up was the Berklee Global Jazz Institute Quartet, joined by guitarist David Gilmore. Their set also incorporated vocals and a clarinet – the first one I have seen so far this festival. Just like the two before them, the band was extremely well-assembled and worked great together. Everyone from the drummer to the clarinetist bopped along to the tunes with a masterful style and precise playing. The addition of master guitarist David Gilmore inspired all the performers to strive for excellence and play their hearts out.
A major theme of this jazz fest, as far as I have seen, has been the contrast between the old and the young generation of jazzers. Traditional players like Oliver Jones and Ramsey Lewis incorporated a sort of “passing of the torch” into their sets through their musical choices or speeches they made. Musicians like Gregory Porter and Robert Glasper bridged the lines between traditional jazz and more modern sounds. With events like this Youth Jazz Showcase, the next generation was given opportunities to perform on a world stage.
It is very refreshing to see the jazz players of old allowing the future stars to take their places. It certainly gives me hope that the future of jazz will look just as good as it has in decades past. Someday, these young players will be in the same situation of letting the next generation take over. And as long as there is a willingness to continue passing along the tradition, jazz will manage to stay fresh and relevant for decades to come.