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Playing with paint 

Shan Arsenault's Great Guitars, Andy Cragg Nonet, 3pm/4pm at Main Stage Festival Tent

I'm a little confused. On the Atlantic Jazz Festival web site, the Men With Gloves Trio was listed as being accompanied by painter Holly Carr. But when Shan Arsenault's Great Guitars act was on stage, so was Carr. Though she was finishing up her scene of an ensemble playing a gig when the guitarist Arsenault and company played. So she obviously needed a bit more time. Backlit, Carr's silhouette danced - perhaps one could say interpretive-danced - against the colour-saturated canvas.

It reminds me of a time when I saw the painter William Ronald (Painters Eleven) complete a painting while a group played. This was for the 25 - or some other special number - of Exile Editions in Toronto.

Now, back to Shan Arsenault. The man rocked, especially his last song, a combination of classic soul/R&B playing (think Curtis Mayfield or Isaac Hayes) with Grateful Dead/jam band style - the two guitars represent those two poles. Chuck in a little banjo (courtesy of Scott MacMillan, I believe it was) and you have a pretty cool sound. Strings were alight today in the mist and gloom, as guitars and banjos traded off.

Arsenault repeated a lick as the backbone of that last song and it was really really cool. I'm going to check out his regular gigs in Halifax.

The Andy Cragg Nonet (that's when you have 10 members on stage) came on and played a Maynard Ferguson style sound, soulful and dramatic. Cragg is a saxophone player, while Ferguson was a trumpet player, but the comparison works because the mood - an underlying melancholy - is the same in both. Cragg mixed some of his own compositions (one based on Cuban rhythms) with those of Herbie Hancock, which he opened with, and the like. Tradesman Dave Christensen (sax, flute), who plays and adds so much to The Heavy Blinkers among other bands, was part of the Nonet. Flute is one of the great and underappreciated jazz instruments.

The free shows at the festival are a treat. The organizers have done some excellent programming here, even if it means watching a girl doing the usual 'tree dance' and freecycling beer (yep, she went around collecting last sips of other people's beers and drinking them with her friends. Cripes.)

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