Jazzfest Reviewed #3: Donato, Dwyer and More
Jazz fans could be excused for thinking they died and went to heaven last night at Alix Goolden Hall.
Two groups took us there in totally different ways.
First up was Montreal’s DBLT, performing a tribute to Bill Evans of such range and beauty that to describe it seems ridiculous. How do you explain perfection?
Volumes could be devoted to the impossible bass playing of Michel Donato, the sublime piano work of Francois Bourassa, the transformative tenor saxophone of Frank Lozano, and the dynamic drumming of Pierre Tanguay.
A few words come to mind – space, light and fire – but the truth is you had to be there, and if you weren’t, the best you can do is sample their musicianship through this clip which will give you a small taste of the sonic banquet they gave us:
Phil Dwyer Sextet featuring Laila Biali
Next up was Vancouver Island’s own Phil Dwyer and his breathtaking compositional tribute to classic Canadian composers like Leonard Cohen, Gordon Lightfoot, and Joni Mitchell.
On the magical Canadian mystery tour with Dwyer were Jodi Proznick on bass, Rob Piltch on guitar, Vince Mai on trumpet and Davide Direnzo on drums, as well as special guest Laila Biali who, as Sting has recognized, plays piano like a demon and has a voice from the gods.
In an Ottawa Citizen review of this show, Peter Hum suggested that in a fair world Dwyer and Biali would be as famous as the musicians behind the popular songs they were performing.
He’s right, particularly when we’re talking about Dwyer, who last night demonstrated that he is one of our great Canadian composers, albeit in a vein that the majority of music fans will likely never approach or recognize.
Those looking for the familiar melodies and simple chords of the original tunes would be disappointed since Dwyer transformed the songs – among them Robbie Robertson’s Down By the Lazy River, Gordon Lightfoot’s Beautiful and Ian Tyson’s Four Strong Winds – into sonic landscapes of such beauty and chaos that it was like hearing The Group of Seven transfigured through the musical imaginations of Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett and Ornette Coleman.
Crazy, I know, but that’s what heaven sounded like.
Here are some samples, albeit with a septet and slightly different personnel. Make sure you listen to Lightfoot’s Beautiful: Phil Dwyer