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A night of firsts 

Night two of the festival offered me a few first-time experiences, all linked by an exuberant energy.

Top among those, AfroMusica. I've had ample opportunity to see this band that presents a joyful pan-African sound, but didn't actually take the opportunity - for no real reason - until this year.

I shouldn't have procrastinated all these years. The band was amazing.

Ed 'Edo-King' Matwawana didn't step out until the band was good and warmed up, the dancers/back-up singers (whose names I've not located and, of course, I didn't bring pen/pad to note them) included. From the moment he stepped out in a navy and grey-pinstriped suit, unblemished white collared shirt, tinted shades and backward cap, the pace didn't let up. And the crowd stayed with them.

From the Kingdom of Kongo (now Northern Angola), Edo sang with a solid and sweet tenor.

The tone stayed on the celebratory side of life, thanks especially to the lead guitar parts - that gorgeous twinkling sound many I associate with the Soweto sound of South Africa - of Congolese native Elidjo Mpati. Playing a Gibson Les Paul, so often a rock symbol, his parts were strong and clear.

Peter Drakes, originally from Guyana, South America, provided lockstep rhythm playing, back-up vocals and between-song banter.

Silky smooth bass courtesy of Halifax native Leo Grouse joined forces with now Halifax resident (via London, England Edo pointed out) drummer Jerome Thomas.

In a strong, diverse set, the band probably won me over with a tune at the very end of the regular set. Called "Déception", it was a touch slower than much of the dance-oriented songs. An almost ominous guitar riff under the chorus made the song stand out.

Prior to AfroMusica, Montreal-based Kaba Horo set the tone for the evening. Led by Bulgarian Lubo Alexandrov, and his double-necked guitar (one neck fretless and the other fretted), this band played Gypsy (Roma), Bulgarian dance and Turkish folk songs, often ones you'd hear in weddings and other life celebrations, according to Alexandrov.

Besides Alexandrov's dexterous playing, switching quickly between note-packed passages on each neck, accordionist Emil Iliev delighted. It's such a harmonious, layered and versatile sound, the accordion.

Iliev and Alexandrov harmonized vocally well too, each taking turns urging the crowd, especially the thick band of dancers at the front of the stage (they pretty much stayed on through AfroMusica too) with 'Hup! Hup! Hup!' and other calls.

Kaba Horo plays at breakneck speed. The groove basis of the music, the jazz, blended well thanks to time and thematic changes that weren't at all jarring but easy and smooth.

Also, the sax playing of Pascal Boudreault was amazing in this regard. His solos no doubt won over the jazz aficianados in the crowd, but he blew great rhythm lines too in tandem with drummer Martin Auguste and double bass player Georgi Stankov. They all sang too, so you got that jubilant across-the-board sound, a chorus, really.

It was my first time seeing Kaba Horo and won't be my last.

Finally, the last first, so to speak, was the scrap Sue and I witnessed at the festival. Um, who gets into a fight at a jazz festival? Apparently two guys - one-wearing a sort of medieval, Robin Hood smock type shirt and the other in track pants - do. Track pants guy ended up with a nasty shot to the chin as the welt proved. We turned from the band (AfroMusica) to see the last shoves happening.

The cops showed up, questioning ensued. As we filed out from the show, a police van was, sure enough, parked by the entrance and I believe one of the fighter was, as Sue said, "getting a special ride from the show."

What could the fight have been about? Your outfit isn't jazz enough? Oh, we spied some truly inspired clothing choices of the jazz aficianado, the fedora and pork pie hat, which we dubbed "JAZZ hat." I have to admit, I had one on too. I wanted to give a salute to my brethren, which Sue devised as a flick of the index finger into a point off the brim of the hat. Perfect. We saw another character with pasty white legs sticking out of a vibrantly coloured shirt and shorts ensemble. They looked like pajamas only an old jazz fan could wear. At least he was comfortable. Free and easy in his flowing culottes. Well done, I say to you sir. Well done.

On the way out, I grabbed some CDs from the Sam's outlet. I got a two-album set of organist Jimmy Smith - the guy whose "Root Down" was so perfectly sampled by the Beastie Boys - and a Donald Byrd/Grant Green two-album combo ...not bad for $9.99 each.


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