No need to wait for JazzFest to hear elite international musicians. Two shows at Hermann’s this week promise performances that will stand with the best.
First up is the Jennifer Scott Jazz Quartet, featuring Scott on vocals and piano, Rene Worst on bass, Monik Nordine on saxophones and James McRae on drums. Scott and Worst are both highly regarded musicians with international reputations. Worst’s performance credits are a mile long and include names like Chet Baker, Ernestine Anderson, David Bowie and Joe Pass. Scott is no slouch herself with major performance credits in the U.S. and Canada that include Clarke Terry and Kenny Wheeler.
The Tom Vickery Trio welcomes saxophonist Mark Lewis to Hermann’s on Saturday night. Lewis has authored more than 1,600 compositions and recorded and produced over 20 albums. He’s played with the likes of Bobby Hutcherson and Randy Brecker and was a regular sub for Stan Getz and John Handy when he lived in San Francisco, putting him in pretty lofty company. 8pm, $10/$15.
Both of these shows are highly recommended.
Vocalist Melinda Whitaker, who moved to the Island from Vancouver a few years ago, performs this Friday night (May 24) at Hermann’s with the Brent Jarvis Trio and guitarist Henry Young. Island Jazz posed five questions to Melinda so we could get to know her a little better. Here’s what she had to say:
1. If you could take only one jazz album with you to a desert island, which one would it be and why?
I’d take Seattle jazz vocalist Ernestine Anderson’s “Never Make Your Move Too Soon” with Monty Alexander on piano, Ray Brown on bass and Frank Gant on drums. Ernestine is my all time fave. She is soul incarnate.
2. What was your worst gig ever?
I was playing a gig with top drawer jazz players when we were confronted by inebriated, furious guests who were expecting a heavy metal band. Thankfully the piano player defused hostilities with the now legendary remark, “Don’t worry, we’ll play something with a lot of the same notes.”
3. What was your best?
That’s got to be when I was opening for The Ray Brown Trio at the Vancouver Jazz Festival, 2001.
4. How has your move to Vancouver Island worked out musically for you?
To my delight, I’ve found Vancouver Island to be a musical oasis. Some of the country’s top jazz musicians have chosen to make their homes here, and I count myself fortunate to be sharing the incredible Island vibe. Every player but one on my recently released album Lucky So-And-So!, produced by iconic jazz Islander Phil Dwyer, is from the Island and all are West Coasters. In a very real sense it’s a Pacific Northwest tour de force. So I’m happy to say that my move to Vancouver Island has, in your words Rick, given me the ‘expansive musical sandbox’ of my dreams.
5. What should Victoria fans know about guitarist Henry Young?
There is literally nothing that jazz guitarist Henry Young has not accomplished in his career. He spent decades touring with the legendary Nina Simone and has played with some of the biggest names in the industry, Ray Charles and Roberta Flack among them. Add musical director, composer, arranger and recording artist credits and he brings a brilliant depth of technique and soul rarely accessible to jazz aficionados these days.
The show gets underway at 8pm. Tickets are $25. You can read more about Melinda at melindawhitaker.com
May always seems to be a good month for jazz on the Island. Here’s a few noteworthy upcoming shows:
The Crofton Hotel Pub continues its weekly series just a stone’s throw from the Salt Spring Island ferry terminal on Sunday, May 19 with an appearance by Courtenay-Comox vocalist Dale Graham backed by a quartet featuring Rick Husband on guitar, Mike Eddy on keyboards, Don McKay on electric bass and Ron Joiner on drums. (2-5 pm, $10).
Kelby MacNayr’s Art of the Trio series welcomes Juno-winners Phil Dwyer(sax/piano) and Ken Lister (bass) to Hermann’s on Friday, May 17. The trio will explore new selections from the Great American Songbook and the legacy of great saxophone and piano performers including John Coltrane, Bill Evans and more. (8pm,$20,$18, $15)
The Barracuda Saxophone Quartet (Monik Nordine, Tom Ackerman, Chris Watt and Rainer Roth) will be joined by Pablo Cardenas on piano and Petra Kixmoller doing spoken word to perform The Threepenny Opera at Merlin’s Sun Theater, 1983 Fairfield Road on Saturday, May 18th 7:30pm. $20/$22 contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Vocalist Melinda Whitaker appears on Friday, May 24th at Hermann’s with guitarist Henry Young. Young is a Vancouver guitarist well known for his work with Nina Simone. Joining Young and Whitaker will be the Brent Jarvis Trio. (8pm, $25).
There’s lots more great jazz going on. Check the calendars and upcoming gigs page (above) for more info.
Ian McDougall Pays Tribute to Ross Taggart (1967-2013) as Remembrances Pour in from across the Country
Trombonist Ian McDougall spoke for hundreds of jazz musicians and thousands of fans on Vancouver Island and across the country this afternoon when he said, “We lost a fantastic man,” referring to the death in Vancouver early this morning of beloved saxophonist and pianist Ross Taggart.
He was speaking on CBC Victoria’s local afternoon radio show All Points West.
Holding back tears, McDougall said Taggart was “one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met in my life,” noting that he was a kind and good man with a wonderful sense of humour he kept even as he was dying of cancer.
“He was one of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met in my life.”
McDougall first met Taggart in 1986 when Taggart, about to graduate from Claremont High School in Victoria, came to his house to audition for a big band McDougall was launching at UBC in Vancouver. He recalled Taggart pulling out his tenor sax and blowing a beautiful Coleman Hawkins solo that showed not only his incredible playing skill at a young age but also his deep respect for jazz tradition. “I’ve never forgotten that moment,” said McDougall.
Uncertain if he would get a seat in the band, Taggart then told McDougall he could also play piano just in case he wasn’t good enough on saxophone. McDougall, in fact, was so blown away by his sax playing that he’d already decided to give him a seat. “He was so humble,” said McDougall, adding that he kept that quality throughout his life.
“We lost a fantastic man.”
Taggart went on to play in some of the most influential bands on the west coast, including the Hugh Fraser Quintet, VEJI, and the Ian McDougall Sextet. He studied in New York and Toronto and shared the stage with talents like Clark Terry, Slide Hampton, Bud Shank, Phil Woods, Tommy Banks, Rob McConnell, Don Thompson, and Fraser MacPherson.
He also worked with the Arts Club Theatre in productions of “Ain’t Misbehavin”, and “Five Guys Named Moe”, Colin James, the Powder Blues, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, the CBC Radio Orchestra, David Foster and Raffi. He was featured on numerous recordings by other artists as well as at least four of his own as a leader. He was widely regarded as one of the best players in Canada and performed internationally many times.
“A musician we all learned from, a friend we all laughed with.”
The Ottawa Citizen’s Peter Hum reported on his jazz blog today that Taggart got into jazz after hearing an Oscar Peterson recording when he was only 14. He then sold all his rock albums and bought jazz records.
Hum also reported on the many remembrances coming from across the land, including one from Mike Herriott in Toronto that recalled Taggart as “a musician we all learned from, a friend we all laughed with, and one of the most thoughtful people I’ve known.”
CBC music reported saxophone great Campbell Ryga saying he always recognized Taggart’s sound for its “grace, elegance and heart,” as well as his thorough command of “the history of the tenor saxophone.”
CBC’s Hot Air plans a tribute this Saturday at 5:05 (PST) on CBC Radio One and a memorial is planned for later this month in Victoria, Taggart’s hometown. Stay tuned for more info.
And like her debut album Twelve Easy Pieces, it’s a major artistic success unlike anything you’ll hear anywhere else.
If you did want to classify it, I suppose you could call it “indie alt world jazz” or some such thing, but labels utterly fail her work as they fail the artist herself who, with her diverse talents as musician, composer, arranger, and vocalist, and with her many influences, simply can’t be put in a box.
And while the album has a unifying concept – a collection of imagined characters sitting in a room waiting for… well, mostly love, but also freedom, acceptance, and the unexpected – each song is unique, making for a kaleidoscopic ride through pop, jazz, classical, folk and world music forms, feels, and grooves, a journey that periodically surges into impressionism or slows into free-flowing ballads so awash with beauty and emotion they’ll make you weep.
And while traveling, Schaefer explores the universal themes of loss, love, decline, and renewal that artists have examined for ages. She does this in part through her ability to inhabit the skin of her characters lyrically while creating the right musical setting for their voices to emerge sonically. This ability is no more apparent than on the breathtaking Elixir, a song about aging so sublime that it just might break your heart.
I don’t want to get carried away and say that Schaefer is darn near Shakespearean in her range but I’m tempted. And lest that comparison make her album sound hopelessly lofty and serious, just know that, as with the bard, you’ll laugh a lot. Schaefer has a killer sense of humour and her lyrics and music reflect that. “Please be apprised that my sensual guise is just a smokescreen/ ‘Cause I’ll clean your clock if you think you can just walk away,” from Black Canary is just one example of her wit.
A nod must go to the fine musicians who accompany Schaefer and help her realize her vision. They are Scott White on bass, Kelby MacNayr on drums, Adrian Dolan on strings and accordion, Kevin Fox on voice and cello, and co-producer Joby Baker on drums and “clanging pipes.” Schaefer herself plays piano, guitar, shaker, “clanging pipes” and “boots.” Like I said, she has a sense of humour.
When Twelve Easy Pieces came out, critics across the country raved about Schaefer’s talent. Marke Andrews of the Vancouver Sun called the record “a thing of beauty.” Greg Quill of the Toronto Star referred to her “exceptional voice,” “poet’s eye,” and “courageous heart.” Andre Rheaume of Radio Canada heralded the arrival of a new star. The Waiting Room is a worthy successor to that album and deserves similar praise.
Schaefer herself uses superlatives like “amazing,” “spectacular,'” and “incredible” in her liner notes to thank all the people who helped make the recording possible. In speaking about the album, I would add “inventive,” “original,” “sensitive,” “startling,” “challenging,’ “lyric,” “intense,” and “beautiful.”
Well worth the wait, this is a gorgeous record worthy of attentive listening and many spins on your CD player.
Anne Schaefer launches The Waiting Room on Thursday, March 1, 8 pm, at Alix Goolden Hall. Tickets are available in advance at Larsen Music and Lyle’s Place. $20/$18 VJS and UJAM/$15 students and seniors. Doors open at 7:30. More info here.