Culture & Conversation

All-Girl Groove Beats Mould

Not all the best shows at Jazzfest are on the festival grounds or even in featured bars. The vibe of the festival rolls across the city and free shows just start showing up all over the place out of nowhere. Last night’s pick was an all-girl quartet named TAKK featuring some of Montreal’s finest hidden talent. They played for free at Vinyl bar, just outside the festival fences, not far from the huge stages and video screens.

It’s the type of place you remember from when you were fifteen and the only places you could get into didn’t prioritize décor. It smells like wood – and not in a good way. Musty furniture makes itself known to your nose before your eyes adjust to the dim, red lights. This is exactly where an all-girl band would play.

There isn’t much in the way of seating and the bar doesn’t have a piano. Settle in on a huge old couch and listen for the licks. It’s admittedly hard to hear how good they are because the acoustics are funny and the place is so small. An upscale jazz bar this ain’t; you have to walk behind the tenor and the drums to get to the washroom.

The groove comes through though, and when you’ve adjusted to the atmosphere, you can tell there’s really something happening. This is the type of place jazz comes from and the pianist, Marie-Claire Durand, makes it happen in an all new way. Her piano playing and compositions are full and classic. Not what you usually hear in a town where everyone is trying to stand out and be different, contemporary. She’s got more Tyner in her fingers than Evans, and that is worth listening to on heavy repeat.

Kathryn Palumbo on bass has an independent voice, not there to support the other sounds all the way through, but taking the lead and focusing the pieces to get where they need to go. This especially comes out in a playful arrangement of the Cure’s Close To Me, which is just whimsical enough to need a strong bass to keep it grounded.

Let’s talk about drums for a moment. Charlotte Cornfield has a controlled power in her hands and she conjures magic from her sticks and bright cymbals. Far more than simple rhythm and solos, this woman keeps everyone in line. It’s easy to follow her lead; she has a spider-like way of playing reminiscent of the commanding Brian Blade. She has several other projects and she excels in each of them.

Averil Parker, the tenor player, is comfortable in the spotlight and rocks with her girls, though at times she gets pitchy, not quite getting where she needs to be. Fingers are crossed that she’ll bring her bass clarinet one of these days and take the songs down low and smooth.

TAKK is not to be missed whenever and wherever they play next.

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