Monday, September 21, 2009

Don't Fence Me In...

My first memory of seeing Steve Tibbetts in concert occurred during an early edition of the Ottawa International Jazz Festival. He was touring with his musical accomplice, Marc Anderson in support of his ECM recording Safe Journey (still my favourite of them all). The crowd had assembled on the side of the hill beside the National Art Centre and was settling in for an evening of "jazz". Steve came on the stage, plugged in his electric guitar, pressed a few buttons with his foot as Marc fine tuned his assorted percussion instruments. The sun was setting and the stage lights were on. Then they began to play...

They began, appropriately, with the first piece from the aforementioned album - "Test". It's an infectious piece that slowly builds to a climax after five minutes of effects-laden guitar and powerful, rhythmic drumming. To my ears, it's a cross between Jimi Hendrix and early Carlos Santana. During the performance I felt like the guy in the easy chair in the Maxell ad.

When the piece had ended I realized to my horror that half the crowd had gotten up and left.

Steve walked up to the microphone and simply stated, "It's really not jazz, is it."

I'm sure he fully expected that to happen because his music has always been hard to pigeon-hole. He's probably the artist most poorly served by genre labeling. I'm sure the simple fact that he records for the ECM label has caused a great amount of misunderstanding about his music. Most people think of Manfred Eicher's label as a "jazz" label so must immediately assume Tibbetts is a "jazz" artist. But labels can be deceiving. In fact, in interview, he's stated that he'd rather go to a Motorhead concert than a Wynton Marsalis concert. That, in itself, speaks volumes.

The third time I saw him live (in Montreal, this time) I had a chance to actually chat with him and Marc as they were packing up after a show. I found him to be genuinely humble and friendly. I'd brought all his CDs that I owned (all but one - his first- that had yet to be reissued on CD) and asked him to sign them for me. A couple of my buddies had come to the show with me and were present during the conversation. One of them likes to tell the story of how when I gave him all the CDs to sign, Steve came to one as he was writing, stopped, looked up at me and said, "So you're guy who bought this one."

He asked me for my address and promised to send me the album I did not own. He said he had several copies left in his basement. He said, "It's really not that good but if you'd like to hear it, I'll send it to you." He did.

The offering we have today is the first and second set of a concert in Philadelphia. I'm not sure of the date and not completely sure of the composition list either but the music is great! There is also a rendition of one of Marc's compositions from Timefish, one of his solo recordings.

Sorry for the sketchy nature of this offering but please don't let that deter you from checking this out. It's fine music!


1 comment:

  1. I wonder if this is a show I have dated 1988 (I forget the location) - I'll download and see. Thanks forputting ST up - he really IS overlooked. And 'Safe Journey' is my fave too, esp the awesome closing piece 'Going Somewhere', one of the most stunning & poetic bits of electro-acoustic music I've heard.