Bio Reviews - One Final Note
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Review of performance at Guelph Jazz Festival

As is quickly becoming known worldwide, the Guelph Jazz Festival has emerged as a stellar late summer event consistently featuring a high level of creative improvised music. Ajay Heble is the Artistic Director of the festival. As a fund-raising event for the 2002 fest, he joined with Guelph's abundantly talented percussionist Jesse Stewart to produce an exciting session of instantly composed music. While Heble has put together supercharged festivals dating back to 1994, to my knowledge he has not exposed the festival crowd to his playing ability. This session, while coming as somewhat of a surprise, is certainly of the caliber that could be a featured event. Heble is a percussive pianist who makes extensive use of the left hand. He periodically moves out of the fully unstructured mode and exposes a rich lyrical side where ethnic cultural influences permeate his playing. He also shows tinges of a classical background, which surface ever so subtly between the more galloping sectors. At one moment, he is freely expounding in the most liberal terms, and then he picks up a certain phrase, twists and turns it into a tangible language. Monk even enters into the conversation. It is as though he is leaving signposts along the way to ensure one follows him.

Jesse Stewart is one of the finest young drummers and percussionists on the scene today. I have seen him perform on several occasions over the last five years, and he has always excelled at his craft, particularly when playing with touring world-class musicians. Stewart is also a composer of note, having written and performed a jazz opera with a band stacked with big names. He has an ear for providing the right textural supplement to this music, whether it is soft underpinnings or rampaging incentives that push the action forward. Stewart uses a wealth of percussion instruments and makes excellent use of gongs, chimes, and bells in his shading capacity. Then he springs loose with rapid freelance work to match the alternating moods being established by Heble. He can be flamboyant or he can be unassuming, but his impact is felt throughout the recording.

As an encore, the two play Don Cherry's “Roland Alphonso” in a melodic fashion. Stewart stirs the action while Heble repeatedly states the theme on melodica. The sleeve notes indicate they marched out of the church playing the famous tune, which accounts for the way the song seems to fade away. I do not know how successful the performance was as a fundraiser, but as an example of creative artistry, it hits the mark. It gives Stewart a shot at exposure he richly deserves. As for Heble, his secret love's no secret anymore.

Reviewed by Frank Rubolino