Monik Nordine & Departure - Feb 27 2011
Review by Maurice Boucher
The late February blues were upon us so my brother and I raided our vinyl purchasing fund (sorry Bop City Records, you lose) and hopped into his truck for a Sunday night ride down to the Elks Hall. Punxsutawney Phil and his fellow rodent prognosticators had just confabbed with the world's press the previous week but to no avail in conjuring an early spring. No matter, I was pretty sure that Departure, the new quartet featuring Monik Nordine's warm and cheerful alto sax would have a better chance at convincing the winter chill to bugger off for a while.
It was a good crowd. Not packed but hey, it was academy awards night. So I was glad for the crowd that came and was happy to see that Departure was happy to see us too.
After introductions all around they opened the first set with the standard,'I Hear a Rhapsody'. After the warmup tune Monik fiddled the mouthpiece of her sax and talked a bit of musical resume history. How these players had a past with each other that went back-a ways. With Ken Lister subbing on this night, this lineup was a reunion for her together with Lister and Allen as alumni of Naniamo-based guitarist/teacher Pat Coleman's Quartet.
For me, it was nice to see the reunited Coleman rhythm section with Ken Lister on the bass and Buff Allen on drums. Their history together showed. They quickly fell into the pocket so effortlessly that when Monik began to solo over Lister and Allen's swaying groove during the 6/8 feel of Nordine's tune 'In Step' I could have closed my eyes and almost heard Coleman's guitar comping the changes.
Iremembered I would often listen to the Coleman group on their CD, Blue Comedy (it was my introduction to Nordine's playing) and how her tone and vibrato was like a dollop of sweet cream on top of the dark confection of Coleman's mellow sounding Telecaster . On a tune like Blue Comedy's 'Déjà Vu' he would play big wide chord voicings under her slow haunting Alto vibrato. It was similar to the approach of fellow telecaster player Ed Bickert accompanying Paul Desmond way back in the Seventies only without Bickert's wool cardigan and the dry-as-a-martini West Coast alto sound of Desmond. Still I reckon that seventy-five percent of Coleman's line-up was more than enough of a selling point to pull a poor frozen soul off the cold mean streets of Courtney B.C. and into the Elk Hall's warm plush lounge.
Although you can still buy the tracks on CD Baby, those sessions for Blue Comedy were way back in '02 and the Departure project is a different stage in the evolution of Nordine's musical growth. Starting as a writing collaboration between Nordine and Phil Albert, Departure blossomed into a quartet with drummer Buff Allen and pianist Brent Jarvis. So with their début CD stacked at the Elk's Hall ticket table they took the Elks Club stage to elaborate on the Departure Jazz sessions.
Brent Jarvis, using a Fender Rhodes 73 electric piano to create the poly-tonal foundation for the group, let his small Fender amp serve double duty as a sawed off piano stool and proceeded to tuck his long legs under the keyboard as best he could. His fingers tucked into the keys comfortably however to conjure those wobbly clouds of chordal extensions and shimmering partials so reminiscent of that era before the polyphonic synthesizers (I'm looking at you Yamaha DX7) of the late Seventies and Eighties took all the personality out of fusion and jazz funk keyboard playing.
By the third tune (Keith Jarrett's Questar) it quickly became clear to me that Jarvis' role is that of a 'kind of' Keith Jarrett to Nordine's template of Jan Garbarek. Not to say that this is simply a post-bop tribute band by any means. The clue was in Monik's well researched arrangement of Questar and how the keys, bass, and drums seemed to tighten up with a higher confidence level around the song's well-defined theme. The players fearlessly walked that tightrope between a light but confident groove and that free-form non-swinging phrasing that typified the exploratory jazz of the late 1960's and 70's. Questar, composed for Jarrett's European Quartet in 1977 featured Jan Garbarek on tenor sax. The tune has a warm insistent pedal tone motif in the head that helped define that early to mid-seventies Eicher produced ECM Jazz sound, vaguely modal and slightly romantic without being too sentimental—featuring a style of arranging and writing that tended to showcase an asymmetrical melody in the head and a percolating groove in the solo section but with the possibility that the two sections would spill over ideas that cross-pollinated across the coda usually during long improvised outro's. It was a production strategy designed to increase the possibility of a fluid and dynamic performance in the somewhat sterile and rushed atmosphere of a Oslo recording studio.
Technical glitches created a minor hurdle of opening set jitters as Monik, trying to break in a new reed on the alto, struggled a bit on certain notes early on. She handled it like a pro. Keeping her cool throughout. Just more of the stuff in the 'shit happens' category of life but all the same, technical problems are very frustrating to the performer and are an issue that is quite apart from an 'incorrect' musical choice or two. You can laugh off a musical miscue as part of the human comedy known as improvisation but as for worn out reeds and music stands with movable parts that won't move, you feel like calling out to the Deity of your choice, “Hey, l'il help here? This stuff is hard enough.”
That's why I remember not being surprised when I read in a bio that Coltrane would give up his first-born child (practically) rather than abandon a reed he was happy with. But these minor issues were barely noticeable as Monik played effortlessly throughout the evening and especially shone on the upper register of her soprano sax for tender tunes like the Jarvis penned 'Waltz' .
Listening to the Departure CD confirms to me that Brent Jarvis' songwriting is a strong component of this revisiting of, and in a modest sense, re-inventing the exploratory mood of the music associated with Garbarek, Jarrett and others in the ECM catalogue during the mid-Seventies. The dynamics and bell-like colour of the Rhodes electric piano is so iconic of that era and it is well executed and recorded as a featured instrument on Departure's debut CD. On tunes like Questar, as well as the Jarvis penned Waltz and Ballad, hearing that Rhodes sound again in this musical context also reminds me of Jarrett's tempestuous relationship with electric instruments to the point that he pretty much disavowed them by the time he was recording tracks like this with ECM.
I suspect that Jarrett's objections had as much to do with the technological limitations of the amplification for the instruments in that time. The Fender Rhodes needs almost as much care to amplify properly as any purely acoustic instrument and is almost as susceptible to issues with climate and humidity plus its harder to individualize your sound upon than an acoustic piano. Combine those factors with all the terrible PAs of outdoor festival gigs in the 70's and add in the factor of sharing a festival crowd with acts like Grand Funk Railroad and y'know. . . who can blame Jarrett for going purely acoustic. In retrospect, a pro acoustic stance was probably a strategy that made for less touring headaches.
That said, focusing these arrangements around the luscious qualities of the Rhodes piano sound is a good strategy for Departure. Brent Jarvis is well-known in west coast jazz circles as a piano player with depth, subtly and supreme ability. I had heard him on his acoustic piano recordings previously. His electric piano work on the Departure CD was equally impressive. Unfortunately the small amp that he brought to this Courtney gig (a Fender Blues Junior I believe) didn't convey the subtleties of his role to the extent that a keyboard amp or even a Roland JC-series would have done.
This is the first time I've seen Buff Allen play drums live and it's like a splash of cold water to the face when you hear recordings of certain players forever and then you see them live and you think you know what they are capable of. Then you realize you've glossed over the main feature that makes them a great musician in the first place, the fact that they hold back so much of what they are capable of because it's always about what is appropriate for that moment in time, not about what they can do and then doing it whenever there is an opportunity just to prove that they can. Case in point, his cymbal work on Questar was subtly different than the work on the ECM original. It was more energetic, nailing more triplets on the ride cymbal and creating a more defined ahead-of-the-beat feel that created more needed tension than is evident on the Jarrett recording (mon dieu, you blasphemer you). This mild increase in tension enhances the compositional structure providing a bigger payoff as you approach the chordal resolution of the head. It's a detail that's not going to win Buff any downbeat awards but it's going to make the arrangement work so it's worth doing even if nobody ever picks up on it. C'est Le guerre. It's the same in art as it is in war. They call some people heroes and give them medals but everybody in the battle campaign knows surviving and helping your comrades to survive is the only truly heroic act.
It's too bad Phil Albert couldn't make the gig but if you need to fill the bass chair on short notice and you had the budget to fly in any bassist you wanted from anywhere on the west coast I would still roll down the old island highway (remember to always take that increasingly patchy 'scenic' route) and knock on Ken Lister's door. Lister's bass playing never lacks for confidence and this is a very good thing because ALL the bass solos throughout the evening were on the money and that's no small feat to come in cold when a combo is playing these kind of arrangements. It helps that Ken has such a good musical rapport with Buff Allen. Buff showed why he has a reputation for big ears as he accompanied Ken's solos with the lightest touch I've ever heard from a drummer while playing a kit with regular sticks. At times he sounded like he was laying out entirely during the bass solos and Ken was just 'raking' the strings a la Christian McBride to get a more percussive sound but I had a close enough seat to the stage to know better.
Ken returned the favour by adding lightly plucked fundamental tones at times during Allens' short combustive solo breaks, infusing a tonality to Buff's kick drum that gave the drum solos the slightest added flavour of melodic-ism. Granted, this is all subtle stuff but that is what makes good jazz as deep as it is wide and what makes viewing these masters up close in an intimate club environment so much fun.
And that's how a small group of us North Islanders' managed to spend a Sunday night shaking off the chill of February. By the time Departure plays its next gig on the West Coast it will be late March and the traditional pineapple express will probably bring buckets of rain and warmish spring-scented ocean winds to Vancouver Island and the mainland. The rich shades of greens will return together with dabbles of yellows and reds to the pleasant gardens and small seaside parks of Kitsilano/Point Grey. Departure will be taking a Thursday night stand at the Cellar Jazz club on West Broadway. If your feeling shut in on the lower mainland in late March then turn off the TV, put on your galoshes and puddle-jump your way down to Broadway and Alma to check out Departure.
Bill Coon Trio - October 25 2009
Review by Maurice Boucher
A week or so after attending the Sunday night concert at the Elk's Hall featuring an impressive set by Guitarist Bill Coon with Darren Radtke on bass and Bernie Arai on drums, I'm left with Bill Coon's opening remarks before he launched into the second song of the night. The comment was in reference to the influence of of his teacher, guitarist Jim Hall.
“I think you'll find that through the evening, one of the things you'll notice is the importance to us of honoring the melody.”
This stuck with me through the night as Coon not only honored the melody, but engaged it as his veritable dance partner, swerving and spinning his guitar lines around the framework of the melody with deft grace. I began to understand the subtle meaning of the phrase 'honor the melody'.
It seems honoring the melody is not a question of playing your instrument in a straight-ahead style so that the crowd can hum along to a well-remembered tune, and on the other extreme it's certainly not a case of deliberate avoidance of certain phrases in attempt to play 'outside'.
If jazz is a musical conversation then the melody acts as an aesthetic context for the exchange of ideas about the melody; always referenced but almost never implicitly stated without some sort of nuance such as irony or pathos.
This is a conversation not only for the musicians on the stage but also for the audience as they re-imagine the verse and chorus of a 'standard' ballad like M.F.V. while listening to the superimposed musical clues being offered in the improvised lines of, in this case: a guitar haltingly teasing out the first two notes of the tune at an un-ballad-like tempo, a slowly droning arco upright bass barely suggesting the chromaticisms in the progression, and a drum set lightly stepping through the spaces left by the guitar to sketch out an uptempo rhythm that acts like a magician's misdirection - throwing you off long enough to set you up for the big reveal.
What we were hearing was an arrangement straight from the opening track of Undercurrents, the duet album by Jim Hall and Pianist Bill Evans. The trio of Coon, Radtke and Arai conjured the same coy feeling of non-commitment to the progression that opens that famous arrangement; it has a vague keep-em-guessing quality to the playing – like a bird searching for a place to land.
After about 48 bars the trio snapped into a solid 4/4 groove and the guitar swung with a straight-ahead quotation of the verse to an expectant crowd that clapped with appreciation like they had just witnessed a clever card trick.
Throughout the night we saw the same top level interplay from the trio with the added depth of seasoned musicians who have a sixth sense about playing just slightly with an audience's expectations and idiosyncrasies. The fact that the room was full of musicians made it even more fun in the give and take, quick-change interplay between the straight-up familiar verses and the re-harmonized re-imagined melodic improvisations. The audience was subdued and focused and very much in the moment. The exact opposite of an indifferent supper club crowd you might find in other venues – no tinkling of glasses and cutlery or din of conversation to fight against on this night.
For me, some of the other highlights of the evening really had to do with the trio's willingness to usurp the conventional roles of guitar, bass and drums and tackle the tunes as if each player could cover any aspect of an arrangement; whether it be melody, harmony, or rhythm at any point in the song and the other two players would give him all the room he needed to explore the possibilities.
For example, the excellent, Coon self-penned 'Fred's Bossa' had a 'slowly falling' harmonization reminiscent of Green Dolphin Street that was excellently exploited by Radtke's droning octaves on the upright bass and showcased just right by the light, sensitive interplay of Coon and Arai.
Later in the same tune I thought I heard a Latin-like subtle modulation in the bridge that was largely suggested by Arai with a shift from side-stick snare to ride cymbal. Normally, players hit a modulation hard with some sort of ostinato repetition so everybody stays on the same page. However, the way the Bill Coon trio played it, almost lazily, the modulation sneaks up on you almost sub-consciously, very effective.
Later on a boppin' version of organist Jimmy Smith's “Ready and Able” the band showcased another weapon in their arsenal; an ability to start swinging in unison through the changes with just a look to each other or a short musical que, and then to step out of it together just as easily. Heading out to explore parts unknown before the audience even knows what's happening. This is something Smith used in his arrangements many times, a trademark of his Philly soul-jazz roots combined with a whimsical nonchalant way of playing the head of tune with standard blues changes that made listeners think they knew what was coming next (not!). All of these facets were expertly exploited by the Bill Coon Trio.
The final set ended with a smooth reading of Joe Pass's “Minor Detail”. The crowd erupted with a standing O and Coon ended the evening with a solo piece, returning full circle to his Jim Hall influences and a very wistful impressionistic chord/melody style with wide, sweeping arpeggios, dark volume swells and dense but clear chord voicings emanating from his Kinal Mini Voyager arch-top guitar. True to his words from earlier in the evening about 'honoring the melody', I felt I had a better understanding of both Coon's and Hall's musical goals by the end of the evening.
All in all, it was an excellent lesson in small combo interplay and a feast of jazz guitar. Here's to hoping the Bill Coon trio makes its way back to the North Island soon.
Wire Choir - Sept 17 2009
Review by Maurice Boucher
“The summer wind came rolling in from across the sea, It lingered there, so warm and fair - to walk with me ” -Frank Sinatra (The Summer Wind)
I'll admit I always liked the song The Summer Wind more than the actual season it praised. Ol' Blue Eyes was wise to approach the song with the weary nostalgia of one who realizes his memories of summers spent on the Jersey shore are probably better than the reality.
Truth is, summer never quite lives up to its rep. I always preferred the Fall. That's the time for jazz. So as I walked down 5th street on a mildly drizzly mid-September-in-Courtney night I was in an upbeat mood due to the slightest nip in the air foretelling a change in the seasons and the anticipation of attending the first Thursday night jam after the summer hiatus for the Society. But as I turned the corner onto Cliffe Avenue I was a little dismayed to hear the roar of heavy equipment and see clouds of dust being kicked up by work crews. Oddly enough, they were working in almost complete darkness behind Highways Department barriers blocking off any road traffic access to Cliffe and 6th and the entrance to the Elk's Hall. “Jeez,” I thought to myself while tipping around the barricades, “The government really will do anything it can to stop people from playing Jazz.”
Thankfully the crews were just finishing up and once I got into the Elk's Hall the heavy machinery could not be heard at all. Wire Choir had come down from the wilds of Black Creek/Campbell River/Quadra to kick things off for the season. I had heard all the players in one capacity or another over the past few years so I knew the level of chops would be high and I was looking forward to seeing them in this permutation.
It was a pleasant surprise when I saw they had added drummer, Greg Hill to the line up. This would free up Grahame Edwards' upright bass, adding extra personality to the bottom end with the occasional reach up the neck for some quick fluid stabs and down again for momentary growls--not merely sticking inside the pocket and minding the meter (although that approach can be an art in its own right).
Wire Choir opened their set with Grant McClellans guitar chiming out the horn part that opens Miles Davis' All Blues. Then David Blinzinger Jr. joined in on tenor sax with that famous long languid melody at the head of the tune. While the rhythm section got down to slicing and dicing that 6/4 triplet groove like two highly experienced sushi chefs.
All Blues is always a good warmup tune. So by the time they started in on the tricky original composition, Benny's Bounce--a hybrid piece by Grahame Edwards, they were clearly ready to both challenge and be challenged. At times the tune was pure bop, but in the choruses the bass and drums would switch to a loping 3/4 pulse reminding me of the German cabaret music of Kurt Weill. Over top the slightly mad waltz, David Blinzinger Jr.'s saxophone solo covered a lot of ground with swooping comic opera melodies, and low growling riffs that reminded me of Tom Waits doing one of his vocal meltdowns. Grant got all spooky with the deranged sound of broken chords slightly de-tuned as he wrung the neck of his stratocaster with homicidal glee. Finally, Graham displayed a puckish wit as he briefly quoted nursery rhythm melodies in his bass solo.
“We like to challenge the perception of what people think jazz is .” said Grahame into his microphone as they paused before the next tune. “We feel jazz has to move forward or it'll just be y'know . . . tin pan alley forever.” Nobody in the audience challenged Grahame Edwards' assertion, The crowd was in a good mood, just glad to mellow out to some sincere playing after the dry, dog days of the silly summer season. Grahams point of view was echoed by David after the first set when we talked briefly. I brought up the Kurt Weill influence in the original tune.
“We want to educate as well as entertain.” said David who is becoming somewhat of a viral artist among other sax players on YouTube as 'saxophonedave' not the least for solo video pieces featuring his prized 1948 Conn 10M Tenor Saxophone. In those clips David goes into great detail about factors such as reed type and mouthpieces that go into his lauded tone. He shares it all freely with other players, which is not necessarily a common trait among players who have worked for years developing a unique sound.
The next set contained even more surprises such as a instrumental cover of The Police's Walking on the Moon. Dave brought to mind the work of Branford Marsalis--the lead instrumental voice in Sting's early solo records, as he brought out his soprano saxophone to embellish the light, naive melody of the tune. Greg Hill playfully danced around the repetitive bass line with off beat triplets on the high hat and cymbals adding a lot of color and dynamics to the dub-inspired rhythm.
The highlight of the set was John Coltrane's Equinox. Part of it was the obvious respect the band had for Coltrane and part of it was the way the head of the tune, with its insistent three note pulse seemed to hypnotize all. David clearly loved playing those long simple lines that open the tune and are so effective in building that air of anticipation that Coltrane would use as a 'bait and switch'; starting a tune off with simple blues changes and then later exploding into twisting, turning lines up and down the tenor's range. Greg Hill focused the mood of the piece further with off-beat shots and cymbal-plus-bass-drum bombs after the first solo and a reprise of the three note pulse of the head. Then the band took off on an extended trip that featured dense interplay between David's sax and Grant McClellands black Strat. All this culminated in the rest of the band fading out behind David as he played out the tune on his own with extended circular arpeggios in the lower range that seem to hang in the air like a musical question waiting for an answer. It was classic Coltrane.
Having got my fix of hard bop for the night, I hit the streets; shiny black and slick with the drizzling rain. The noise, confusion, and the highways department road barriers were all gone as if going into the Elk's Hall and exiting a few hours later had pushed the reset button. Somehow the world outside the Elk's Hall seemed more . . . (alright, I'll say it) copacetic. As I drove home the sound of the band playing Equinox echoed in my mind, creating my own personal film noire soundtrack.
The Mix with 16 Strings - May 27 2007
Review by Dave Harvey
On May 27 2007, Comox Valley jazz lovers were once again treated to a memorable performance by a regional vocal ensemble and a local combo. The Georgia Straight Jazz Society presented “The Mix” with special guests “16 Strings” at the Elks’ Home.
“The Mix” is the creation of musician, educator, composer and arranger Peter Taylor. For people unfamiliar with Mr. Taylor’s vast contributions to the world of vocal jazz, he was the very first public school teacher to have started a jazz Choir in Canada!
This male vocal quartet was completely self-sufficient on stage performing the majority of their beautifully arranged pieces a capella. The group did not require Peter to conduct, although Peter did accompany the vocalists on piano for a few tunes. Their varied, highly entertaining repertoire, included exceptional arrangements of jazz standards like Fly Me to the Moon, pop classic This Boy by Lennon and McCartney and even Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria.
“The Mix” singers are bassist Paul Cummings, baritone Gary Vanderhoeven, and tenors Roy Carson and Richard Olfert. Each singer demonstrated superb harmonizing as well as captivating solo work. Carson’s slightly raspy voice created an alluring Moon Dance, while Vanderhoeven thoroughly connected with audience members when delivering George Michael’s hit song Faith.
While “The Mix” has only been in existence a short while they are receiving accolades. They have been guest artists at The Pender Harbour Jazz Festival, Jazz on the Rocks, Vocal Summit XII and many other regional and local events. They recently were honored to share the stage with Dee Daniels and were equally honored to share the stage with “Vocal Jazz I” from Central Washington University, under the direction of Vijay Singh. The Georgia Straight Jazz Society was also honored to have the Mix perform in the Valley.
Opening for “The Mix” was special guest “16 Strings” featuring the beautiful voices of Dale Graham and Charlotte Harvey accompanied by the superlative guitar work of Rick Husband and Doug Anderson. Charlotte performed a thought provoking rendition of a Nat King Cole lost standard A Blossom Fell while Graham hypnotized the audience with Blame It on My Youth.
Jodi Proznick Trio with PJ Perry - April 1 2007
Review by Rhonda Krabbe
Is there anything better to do on a rainy Sunday evening than go out and enjoy some live jazz? That is exactly what the jazz community of the Comox Valley did Sunday April 1st and it was no April fools joke, but rather a night to be remembered when Canadian saxophone legend P.J. Perry accompanied by the Jodi Proznick Trio, performed at the Elks’.
Mr. Perry has shared the stage with giants of jazz such as Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Shaw, Michel LeGrand, Pepper Adams, Kenny Wheeler, Tom Harrell and The Boss Brass. He has also played with countless Symphonies and has performed his own show ‘the Joy of Sax’ with Orchestras across Canada. In 1993 P.J. Perry won a Juno award for his album ‘My Ideal’ and was honored as the critics’ choice for Best Alto Saxophonist for 7 years straight by the Jazz Report magazine. After listening to his performance, the Elks’ audience heartily concurred with previous critics, musical colleagues and listeners that Perry is one of North America’s premier saxophonists.
This evening, P.J. Perry was supported by the Jodi Proznick Trio. Jodi Proznick is one of the finest female bassists in Canada. She won the General Motors Award of Excellence in 1993, was awarded a Performance Scholarship in 1997 as a member of the McGill Big Band and gained international recognition as a member of the IAJE Sisters in Jazz Quintet. Ever since, she has played with numerous jazz stars such as George Coleman, David Fathead Newman, Ed Thigpen and Charles McPherson. A highlight was opening for Oscar Peterson in the summer of 2004. And with concerts like these, she just keeps adding to that list.
Pianist Tilden Webb and drummer Jesse Cahill rounded out the trio, by perfectly complementing Jodi. Being a ‘family-affair’ (Tilden is Jodi’s husband and Jesse is her sister’s partner) the chemistry in this group is unique.
As soon as the trio was set and Perry walked on stage, the group took off transporting the audience, from Latin to swingers, from blues to waltzes and back again. On ‘Green Dolphin Street’, Perry demonstrated his chops at lightning speed, while his melodic approach still gave the song a laid-back feel. Every note issuing forth from his alto sax was crystal clear, displaying his incredible control over the instrument. In ‘Salute to the Bandbox’ (a song P.J. wrote to the chord changes of ‘I’ll Remember April’) sax and piano were challenging each other by trading 8’s. Tilden Webb clearly enjoyed playing the brand new Roland digital piano provided by Richard Thompson from Sound Advice. With only the energetic drum-fills of Jesse Cahill keeping them apart, they played around the melody and chords to end the first set leaving the audience anxious to hear more.
And more is not the only thing the audience was given in the next set. The second set started off with ‘It’s Like Old Times’, a song P.J. played for his friend Art Ellefson (another Canadian saxophone legend) who attended the concert. In this song, Jodi amazed not only the audience, but also her fellow musicians with a stunning bass solo. From that moment on the band played with renewed energy and it was all sparks. The saxophone and bass solos on ‘Nica’s Dream’ were out of this world and reminded us what jazz is all about - the freedom of expression. After a speedy Latin tune called ‘Tico Tico’, Perry ended the performance by going back to the roots of jazz and playing a 12 bar blues.
Set 1: Prince Albert (to chord changes of All the Things You Are); The Gypsy; Green Dolphin Street; What’ll I Do; Salute to the Bandbox (to chord changes of I’ll Remember April)
photo by Kornelis Kuiper www.kkuiper.com
Cure All Dance Band - March 29 2007
Review by Dave Harvey
The Georgia Straight Jazz Society presented The Cure-All Dance Band on Thursday March 29th, 2007 at the Elks’ Jazz Club.
The 11 piece Cure-All Dance Band played original 1920's and early 30's stock arrangements from Tin Pan Alley plus some swing tunes from the 40's. They have over 2,000 original orchestrations to choose from and at the Jazz Club they delighted the enthusiastic audience with "Sweet and Hot" tunes of the era - not as Dixieland Jazz, but authentic dance music as played in hotels and roadhouses, on steamships and on "The Wireless." As per usual the band dressed in period attire, using many instruments from the era and recreated what would have been heard during that spiffy age. The repertoire included great standards like ‘Mood Indigo’, ‘Lulu is Back in Town’ and ‘Egyptian Ella’.
After the performance, vocalist, coronet, banjo player and founder Doc Sumner reflected, “I felt like Louie was in the room on ‘Wild Man’, Jimmy Cagney was wryly smiling on ‘Shanghai Lil’ and all the novelties were appreciated by the crowd.”
The highly entertaining show engaged the audience throughout, while the front men rapporrt between Doc Sumner and Dennis "Wrong-Way" Flint filled time between the beats with humour, history and anecdotes. Two performance sets completely held the audience till 9:45. A brief jam ensued for 7-8 songs with some of the usual jazz club members joining “Cure All” players Jim “Growler” Grinder and Mike “Ramses” Schwarz on saxophones and Brent “Hits Man” Hart tinkling the piano keys. All three expressed interest in jamming again and hopefully hosting in the near future.
We anticipate the return of the Cure-All Dance Band next fall to the Jazz Club, so keep your ears and eyes open for their encore performance. And remember the ambience at the Elks’ is all about playing and listening to jazz.
photo by Kornelis Kuiper www.kkuiper.com
Phil Dwyer Quartet - March 4 2007
Review by Rhonda Krabbe
On March 4th, 2007, Comox Valley jazz lovers were treated to an exceptional performance. The Georgia Straight Jazz Society presented the Phil Dwyer Quartet at the Elks Home.
The quartet, consisting of Phil Dwyer on tenor sax, Pat Coleman on guitar, Ken Lister on bass and Kelby MacNayr on drums, performed two vibrant acoustic sets. After kicking their first set off with ‘Almost Like Being In Love’, these men proved not only to be outstanding musicians, but delightful entertainers as well. The young MacNayr kept the tempo up while he looked into the audience with the biggest grin on his face, Coleman voiced his solos, Lister made playing bass look so easy and Dwyer bounced his sax around and connected with the audience in between songs. The laid-back attitude of the musicians and the intimate setting of the Elks Home made this performance feel like it took place in your own living room. It was a pleasure to see these four talented musicians interact, interpret, quote and play around in their improvisations.
The combo’s catalyst, Phil Dwyer, is a big fan of the great tenor saxophone player Sonny Rollins, who, like Dwyer, started his musical career off as a pianist. Rollins’ influence on Dwyer was not only manifested in Dwyer’s playing, but also in the way he spoke about the man and his choice of music (the band performed several tunes - ‘Where Are You?’, ‘The Bridge’ and ‘Without a Song’ - from Sonny Rollins’ album ‘The Bridge’).
For their second to last song, Dwyer gave people goose bumps playing some of his sweetest licks using his warmest sound at the end of Ellington’s ‘In A Sentimental Mood’. This multi-talented (saxophonist, pianist, composer and arranger) “monster of musicianship” (Winnipeg Free Press) and his three companions had everyone on the edge of their seats from start to end.
We are blessed to have incredible players like these live in such close proximity and even more fortunate to have them come out and play for us here in the Valley. Supporting the Georgia Straight Jazz Society will make having more events like these possible.!
Like Someone in Love;
The Night has a Thousand Eyes;
Where are You?;
photo by Kornelis Kuiper www.kkuiper.com
Review from the prestigious Global Jazz Express
As jazz generally struggles to find listening enthusiasts outside the die-hard audiences, my chance visit to Courtenay, BC was a delight. I was only in this small Vancouver Island middle class town a few hours when I chanced upon an open-air concert in a small park with a glorious timber structured bandstand being put to very good use.
A local band called Jazz Noir was on stage. I took my seat with anticipation as to what I might hear in a region where one is surprised to hear jazz at all. Was I indeed surprised? This band knew its stuff. The horn section comprised of two young people...very young impressed me greatly. Trumpeter Niall Harvey, just 16, and a dishy blond tenorist Rhonda Krabbe blew a mix of standards and bossas as if they had been hard at it for a dozen years.
The vocalist Charlotte Harvey has a voice to be reckoned with and sung an array of songs to suit every taste in at least four languages! The rhythm section of Dave Harvey on guitar, Don Mackay on bass and drummer, Bill Street, were consistently locked speaking with one voice while allowing each musician creative freedom. Even though there had been inclement weather, the night was now on fire with hard driving swing, sultry blues and passionate bossas. The evening clearly demonstrated that you do not have to go to New York to find great jazz. It is alive in the hinterland.
The band played for a good hour and a half while the audience grew. This outfit left no stone unturned and my conversations with a few locals only confirmed that these guys set the standards for swinging in the Comox Valley.
If you find yourself in the area, check out local listings....if you find where Jazz Noir is playing be sure to catch them........it is well worth it.
"The Bopster "
Marc Atkinson Trio - April 20 2006
The recently formed Georgia Straight Jazz Society proudly presented the Marc Atkinson Trio in the intimate atmosphere of the Underground. The trio has some of Canada's finest JUNO nominated musicians including Marc on lead guitar, Chris Fry on rhythm and Joey Smith on Stand up bass. For their first ever concert in the Comox Valley , the trio demonstrated their captivating melodies and sensually charged and technically perfected rhythms, throughout a warm stunning concert.
The Trio treated the audience to many of Marc's original compositions, which are considered jewels in Canadian guitar repertoire. Stolen Blues completely captivated the audience with its driving energy, while the trio's cover of Rogers ' Where or When quietly delivered the classic melody with romantic anticipation. The concert concluded with two standing ovations - a jazz experience for all!
"They're outstanding for their vitality, exuberance, elegance & melodic strength, and for the joy these three fine musicians share... Atkinson is a daring & inventive acoustic guitarist and a powerful force in the new roots/jazz movement." - Toronto Star review
Vic High R&B Band - April 6 2006
Feeling Motown with The Vic High School R & B Band
Georgia Straight Jazz Society proudly presented The Victoria High School R & B Band at the Edgewater Pub. Under the direction of Eric Emde, the Victoria School district music program has been running to great acclaim since its inception in 1992.
The group held a number of events in the valley including two mentoring performances at Highland and Isfeld Secondary Schools and an evening performance at the Edgewater.
Niall Harvey and Jazz Noir - May 25 2006
May 25, 2006 - Niall Harvey and Noir at Jazz Jam
This Thursday, May 25th at 7:30, Niall Harvey joined Jazz Noir at the Underground Jazz Jam leading "Noir" into "the birth of the cool" and Bop repertoires for the devout jazz aficionados. A few of the classics offered included Yardbird Suite, Caravan, Naima, Flamingo and A Night in Tunisia.
The band was rounded out with Adler Gross providing tenor improvisations, Dave Harvey on guitar, Don McKay laying down the bottom end on bass and Bill "Swing" Street on drums. Benson McGlashan joined the ensemble during the jam.
Gala Jazz Jam for Jodi Proznick and her Big Band Friends - May 19 2006
St. James Gait, the host rhythm section consisting of James Lithgow on bass, pianist Sean Mooney and drummer Bill Street provided a supportive foundation for many of the student musicians from the Big Band All-Stars.
Highlights included a Night in Tunisia featuring Niall Harvey on trumpet and Adler Gross on Tenor.
Larry Hale Sextet - May 18 2006
Larry Hale Sextet were swinging at the Underground with Larry Hale sax and clarinet, Nebil Emrik on trumpet, Bonnie Mayo on piano, Don MacKay on Bass and Len Wilke on drums.
The band was joined by Joanna Finch singing many of her personal favorites offereing lovely performances of Weaver of Dreams and One Note Samba, while Finch and the band created a version of My Funny Valentine that pushed the rhythm in several exciting directions. Guest appearances were made by Naill Harvey and Adler Gross.
Johneric Quartet - May 11 2006
Johneric Quartet with John Ringstead on guitar, Eric Tanen on piano, Al West on Bass and Len Wilke on drums were at the Underground. Their three sets covered a wide variety of standards including excellent rendition of Four, Girl from Ipanema, Wave, and Satin Doll.
They were accompanied in the second set by guest singer Dave Harvey on God Bless the Child, It Don't Mean A Thing and Darn That Dream.
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