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Everything’s Great in Guelph — Unless You Ask Sainkho Namtchylak

Word has it, and sales figures show, that vocalists have secured a newfound clout in the jazz world. The branches of the vocal arts heard recently at the Guelph Jazz Festival, covering the avant-end of jazz, improvisational and other contemporary music turfs, offered some kind of antidote to the mainstream jazz vocal parade. Then again, we’d expect nothing less in Guelph, Ontario, a northern outpost of outness.

Blissfully free of commercial potential and ambition, the festival’s focus on singers was manifested in the presence of several vocal envelope-pushers, among other musical offerings. The list included the experimental Tuvan-bred Sainkho Namtchylak (who had a onstage meltdown), the Native American singer Mary Redhouse (with Oliver Lake’s Quartet), the inside-outside instincts of Canadians Kate Hammett-Vaughan, Christine Duncan and Jeane Hetu and the iconoclastic New Yorker Theo Bleckmann. From another corner, the captivating German singer Gabriela Hasler seized the vortex of Ursel Schlicht’s Ex Tempore Project.

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