The Parker Goudie Acoustic Duo opened the Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues' series of mid-day concerts at the Murray Premises on Wednesday.
The combination of a sunny afternoon and the Southern blues of Denis Parker and Scott Goudie drew in pedestrian after pedestrian off Water Street. It also had drivers on the street turning to get a look at the gathering.
The relaxed event included a performance of the "Worry, Worry Blues," that Parker dedicated "to the worry warts."
During the evening concerts, at the Masonic Temple, Tanya Tagaq (www.isuma.tv/tagaq) opened tot he audience of about a dozen people with a dramatic, unusual performance that was far from the Parker Goudie sound. Tagaq, a throat singer from Nunavut, mixes the sound with untraditional jazz instrumentals.
The result is truly indescribable - at first jarring, then drawing reactions to her transitioning appearance and sounds.
She moves from vulnerable girl to distraught young woman to angry, elemental force.
The methods and sounds she uses are not for a lack of more traditional vocal ability. Every now and then, Tagaq would let out a long, sweet note.
"I was thinking about Pocahontas-ing it up for a couple of years," Tagaq said with a laugh, hanging outside with audience members after her set. "I'd make more money, but..." she trailed off and shook her head.
Tagaq is on the road again immediately following her St. John's appearance, heading to gigs in Dublin, Ireland and Great Britain before returning to Canada for the Ottawa Folk Festival in August.
The Peter Van Huffel Quartet (www.petervanhuffel.com) followed Tagaq at the Masonic Temple, showing more boundary-pushing talents.
The quartet includes Peter Van Huffel (alto saxophone), Jesse Stacken (piano), Miles Perkin (upright bass) and Samuel Rohrer (drums). The players come from a mix of locales, from New York to Switzerland, but Berlin-based, Canadian Van Huffel takes the lead and creates the compositions.
Unusual use of instruments was key to their show at the Masonic. Van Huffel pressed his sax keys even as his breath ran out, sending out only the sound of the closing key pads and no sax at all at one point. Stacken was reaching inside the grand piano he played to pluck at the wires. Perkin was leaned over, arms wrapped around his bass or, at times, tapping the strings for a beat. Rohrer was performing a bongo-style snare at one point, scratching at his cymbal with the bottom of his drumstick the next for a high screech.
And just when it started to feel chaotic, all four would pause. Beat. Taka ta tah!
The quartet opened with a trio of album tracks blended together in a special arrangement for their live performance - including the occasionally frenzied "Beast." There was then a brief pause for Van Huffel to address the audience, of about 10 people and the band followed with a smooth piece, opening on just sounds from Stacken's piano.
Yet the draw of the day was perhaps local act and "Vampire Hotel" creator Chris Kirby and the Marquee (Craig Follett, and Mark Marshall), playing with the Horns of Justice at the Fat Cat Blues Bar.
The Fat Cat is Kirby's regular joint and his songs closer to jazz-pop but playing with the Horns of Justice was a rare booking.
The Horns of Justice - Susan Evoy (alto sax) Chris Harnett (tenor sax / flute), and John Duff (trombone) - are usually seen as part of St. John's reggae group The Idlers.
The locals were followed by Treasa Levasseur (www.treasalevasseur.com), 2010 Juno nominee for best blues album with "Low Fidelity."
Other acts on Wednesday night: Elizabeth Shepherd at Dusk Ultralounge; Funky Dory, the Jerrold Dubyck Quartet and Owen Howard's "Drum Lore" at the Martini Bar; The Forgotten Bouzouki and the Creaking Tree String Quartet at the Yellowbelly Brewery and Public House; Havana to Canada and Bill Brennan with Banda Brazil at the Majestic Theatre.