Jazz Fest review: Felix Stussi 5 with Ray Anderson

Stussi pleases crowd with wittily shaped cinematic soundscapes and sonic character sketches.

Swiss-born composer/bandleader/pianist Felix Stussi took the Delta Halifax's Baronet Ballroom bandstand last night accompanied by a crack cadre of exceptional young Quebec musicians: Alexandre Cote and Bruno Lamarche on saxes, Clinton Ryder on double bass and drummer Isaiah Ceccarelli. Slide trombonist Ray Anderson was in from NYC. In a quote, Stussi said: "I have always liked juxtaposing the traditional and the modern." With a particular affinity for pivotal jazz giant Charles Mingus's big little big bands. This Stussi proved empirically over the span of a well-planned, propulsively (often blindingly so) executed crowd-pleasing concert. Stussi's brainy arrangements, like those crafted by Mingus, enabled a six-piece group to sound like 18. With quirky stylist Ray Anderson setting the soloing tone with wittily shaped cinematic soundscapes and sonic character sketches (even conversations), the others followed suit with inspired pyrotechnics of their own. For me it took a Stussi composition, "Lazybones," to get a bead on this guy. To my ears, "Lazybones" was a clever, affectionate, humourous reimagining of Hoagy Carmichael's classic by the same name. As if orchestrated by none other than, you guessed it, Charles Mingus. Another Stussi original, "Make It Reel (in 7/4 time)," jogged my memory to Nate and Cannonball Adderly's rendition of Hair composer Galt McDermott's "African Waltz." "Give Me Five," I suspect, sprung from Paul Desmond's evergreen, "Take Five." No matter. For the large audience, unencumbered by playing, "Isn't that such and such?", the hoarse whoops and delighted applause following the Ellington-esque concert closer, "Hit It With Rhythm," expressed all that needed to be said. For those lucky to have caught Stussi and company, it was a fine night of jazz.

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