STONE ALLIANCE ~ WHAT'S NEW
Irwin Blocks review of Jean-Pierre Zanella performing at LAstral, Sunday, July 3:
It was a humble saxophonist/composer Jean Pierre Zanella who was anointed one of Canadas great jazz musicians Sunday when he accepted the coveted Oscar Peterson Award from the Montreal International Jazz Festival. It was time, jazzfest president Alain Simard said as the crowd at LAstral gave Zanella, 53, a standing ovation, and he promptly thanked his family, the public, and musicians hes played with for some 30 years. He then invited six of them on stage to pay tribute to Don Alias, the Harlem, N.Y.-born drummer/percussionist who died in March 2006 at age 66 after living and playing here for two years in the early 1980s.
Good natured, always smiling and hugely talented, Alias made a lot of friends wherever he went and spread the gospel of Afro-Cuban percussion, passing on the techniques and rhythmic patterns to countless musicians here. It was in that spirit that Zanella, playing soprano and alto sax, flute and piccolo, and led the band through tunes associated with Alias, much of the music propelled by the dancing polyrhythms of drummer Paul Brochu and conga player Alain Labrosse.
Gene Perla, Alias's friend and bandmate from Stone Alliance, seemed to summon Aliass spirit with sprightly electric bass work. They met in 1964 worked together in a Latin Group, then for Nina Simone and drummer Elvin Jones, before Alias joined Miles Davis on his Bitches Brew jazz-rock sessions. More guests kept coming to play Sunday, including bassists Michel Donato and Alain Caron, and Jean St. Jacques extracting magical chord progressions from his electronic vibraphone.
For many, the highlight came when percussionist René Lazaro began chanting Yoruba-Cuban songs associated with the Santería religion, which combines the beliefs of black slaves with Roman Catholic and aboriginal traditions and still is practiced in Cuba. For the encore, the musicians played "It Could Happen to You," all casual and hip, much like Alias, and Zanella.