Jazz at the Gallery, a joint venture of U-JAM and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV), begins its fourth season on Sunday, January 27 at 2 pm with a performance by multiple Juno Award-winning pianist/saxophonist Phil Dwyer, accompanied by bassist John Hyde and percussionist Hans Verhoeven.
As U-JAM’s Dave Paulson reports in a recent press release, Dwyer burst on the Canadian jazz scene when he was still in his teens, causing Mark Miller, the Globe and Mail jazz critic for many years, to declare that he startled jazz audiences with his “unprecedented command of both tenor saxophone and piano” and with his “extraordinarily authoritative playing” setting the country on its ear.
Years later Dwyer continues to startle and inspire audiences with his phenomenal command of both instruments and his profound musicality. This promises to be one of the best concerts in the history of the series and is sure to sell out.
U-JAM and Art Gallery members enjoy a discounted ticket price of $25.00. The regular price is $30. Tickets 250-384-4171 ext. 0. Tickets include admission to the Gallery’s exhibits on the day of the performance.
Whitaker, supported by an A-list of west coast players, delivers the real thing with her signature dark, husky voice that seems made for jazz.
And while that voice thins now and then under the load of these demanding tunes and arrangements, Whitaker makes up for any tonal challenges with sensitive phrasing that respects the lyrics and knows when there should be sound and and when there should be silence.
Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out to Dry is a fine example with the gorgeous interplay between her muted trumpet voice and Dwyer’s sweet, supple sax. You’ll also hear it in My Foolish Heart as she plays off rich horn lines and Dwyer’s spare piano work.
Fact is, all the songs on this album are delivered with style, not the least of which are the Stevie Wonder tunes Overjoyed and Creepin’, well-chosen contemporary contrasts to the standards that are at the core of the album.
Speaking of Phil Dwyer, is there a better musical mind anywhere in the country? He, along with the other masterful players he’s recruited, including Brad Turner on trumpet and flugelhorn, Ian McDougall on trombone and Ken Lister on bass, has given Whitaker an expansive musical sandbox in which to play.
Just listen to the percussive fun and excitement on the opening The Song is You and you’ll know you’re in for a treat. This album is a winner vocally and instrumentally.
Note: Sadly the CD arrived too late for me to review it in time for Whitaker’s Victoria show this past weekend, but you can catch her tonight (Wednesday) at The Cellar in Vancouver at 8 pm. And the album is now available on disk or digital download through Whitaker’s website. It would make a great Christmas gift.
This weekend promises to be something of a jazz, blues and world music extravaganza at Hermann’s with an appearance by chromatic harmonica virtuoso Joe Powers on Friday night followed by an all-day Kidney Foundation fundraiser on Saturday, featuring a veritable who’s who of Vancouver Island musicians.
On Friday, Powers, who hails from Portland, will be joined by Seattle pianist Eric Verlinde and Victoria percussionist Kelby MacNayr for a program of jazz and jazz-tango music. Don’t be fooled by Powers’ instrument. The chromatic harmonica is a totally different beast from the typical harp favoured by folk musicians. Expect fireworks. Tickets $16/ $18.50. More info here.
The Saturday fundraiser kicks off at 12 noon with an all-star jam starting at 1 pm. The line-up includes The Tom Vickery Trio, John Fisher & Sharon Wadsworth, Aurora Scott, Aaron Scoones, Brent Jarvis, Charles Gates, Morgan Onda, Al Pease, Joe Powers, Don Leppard, Nori McFarland, Bruce Hurn, Pablo Cardenas, Toni Bloggett, Andy Slade, Tom Ackerman and many more.
At 5 pm Damian Graham and his Hi-Fi Hipsters take the stage (Nick La Riviere, trombone; “Art Booker,” piano, Damian Graham, drums) , and then at 7 pm 2012 Juno award winner Phil Dwyer appears with Miles Black (piano), Sean Drabitt (bass) and Kelby MacNayr (drums). This is a heck of a lineup and you can see it all for just $40 and support a worthwhile cause in the process. More info on the Saturday program at Hermann’s website.
Given the quality of the players –Miles Black (piano), Phil Dwyer (sax), Daniel Lapp (trumpet), Tom Wakeling (bass), and MacNayr on drums – this promises to be one of the more adventuresome jazz events of the year.
“These musicians are all people that I have been fortunate to work with in different settings here in Victoria, in Vancouver or in Washington State,” says MacNayr. ” Each brings a certain energy and chemistry – I’m excited to see what happens!”
MacNayr has chosen to record in front of a live audience, rather than going into a studio where the group would have the luxury of several takes to perfect the material, an approach that is bound to ensure that everyone is on his game and the excitement level is high.
Some of the best recordings in jazz have been produced at live concerts. The Bill Evans Trio: Sunday at the Village Vanguard, The Paul Desmond Quartet Live (recorded at Bourbon Street in Toronto), and Keith Jarrett’s The Koln Concert are just three that come to mind.
MacNayr is taking bold new steps with his latest projects. This may be the best yet. Highly recommended.
Thursday and Friday, February 2nd and 3rd at Hermann’s Jazz Club. Advanced tickets are available from Hermann’s and Larsen’s Music. $20/$18 (VJS, UJam) $15 student. Reservations recommended. (250) 388-9166 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Percussionist and impresario Kelby MacNayr asked if I would write a review of his newly-minted “Night of the Cookers” series that launched at Hermann’s last night with an appearance by Phil Dwyer accompanied by MacNayr on percussion and Ken Lister on bass.
I thought I probably wouldn’t because I’ve written a lot about Dwyer lately.
Then I went to the show and was once again gobsmacked by this giant of jazz who lives amongst us mere mortals here on Vancouver Island.
Covering everything from Coltrane to Evans to Rollins on sax and piano, along with a few original compositions and arrangements, Dwyer and the trio wowed a packed house that included a number of Victoria’s top jazz musicians.
Actually “covering” is the wrong word because Dwyer does more than that – he channels the jazz greats, all the while infusing their music with his own soulful and playful energy.
It goes without saying that he’s technically and musically brilliant, but he also brings a drive, energy, and joy to his playing that elevates the music, his audience, and his band mates as he challenges them to go beyond themselves.
Both Lister and MacNayr rose to that challenge, with Lister delivering several gorgeous bass solos and MacNayr, ever the consummate and subtle accompanist, playing with added muscle.
It was a thrilling show, made all the better by Dwyer’s witty and adept handling of the drunk at the back who insisted on shouting out questions every time he introduced a tune.
Just before jumping into the closing piece, a slightly exasperated but still-in-good-humour Dwyer responded, “I don’t need to talk to you, I can listen to the voices in my own head.”
That pretty well silenced her and ultimately it was the music that spoke the loudest.
First on the list is Phil Dwyer’s appearance this Saturday January 7 at Hermann’s in Victoria as part of Kelby MacNayr’s new “Night of the Cookers” series. I’ve written plenty on this site about this great saxophonist, pianist, composer, and educator, and so I won’t belabor the point. Suffice to say that with the subtle and sympathetic support of Ken Lister on bass and MacNayr on drums, Dwyer will deliver an amazing show. Don’t miss it. It will be one of the best of the year (8pm/$18,$15, $10).
The jazz vespers folks have lots going on too. Drummer Bob Watts welcomes Andrew Slade on piano and Bruce Meikle on bass this Sunday, January 8 at St. Phillip Anglican Church on Eastdowne in Oak Bay. Watts is doing something different with his series in that all of the music played by his rotating trio is sacred music. Makes for a relaxed and contemplative Sunday evening in the intimate setting of a small church (7:30pm/by donation).
On Sunday, January 15th, Ken Gray’s and David Enns’ series at the Church of the Advent in Colwood welcomes the Bruce Hurn Jazz Orchestra Collective, a reincarnation of the Monday Night Big Band that used to perform at Hermann’s. They sound big and bold and brassy and with the likes of Monik Nordine as a featured soloist are sure to deliver a rousing show (7pm/by donation).
Also on Sunday, January 15th, Ron Hadley’s The Old School House series in Qualicum presents An Historical Tribute to the Jazz Clarinet with not one but three outstanding Vancouver clarinetists. Francois Houle, Tom Colclough, and Liam Hockley, supported by Hadley on piano and Joey Smith on bass, will cover everything from traditional New Orleans to contemporary sounds in this unique show. Houle alone has released more than a dozen albums that have garnered a string of Juno and West Coast Music Award nominations. Highly recommended. (2:30-4:30 pm/ $16).
While I’m at it I should put a plug in for shows at the Acme Food Company on Commercial St. in Nanaimo. They are running live shows every weekend and have some good jazz coming up. You can check out their calendar here. Incidentally, despite the name, this is a restaurant not a warehouse!
Stay tuned. There’s more to come.
And what a recording it is. Released on October 25, Changing Seasons is a lyrical 35-minute jazz-suite-cum-violin-concerto performed by a 17-piece superstar big band, a 20-piece string section, violin virtuoso Mark Fewer and trumpet great Ingrid Jensen all blowing, bowing, and swinging their way through 1000 bars of classical, jazz, and show music cooked up by the great Phil Dwyer and his fertile musical imagination.
Modelled in part on Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, it’s a refreshing breeze bringing the warmth of spring and the promise of summer to a sometimes frozen music world.
For some time now I’ve been thinking about the jazz and classical communities within that world and their apparent inability to get together in any meaningful way – at least on this continent.
My wife and I were in Europe in September and attended a concert at Bimhuis, the acclaimed center for improvised music in Amsterdam. There we saw a 30-piece big band of jazz and classical players (with a vocalist and tap dancer to boot) thrilling the audience with startlingly original compositions that mixed classical, jazz and experimental music as naturally as fresh water blends with salt in Holland’s seaside estuaries.
Changing Seasons isn’t quite that adventuresome, but it does challenge the notion that jazz is jazz and classical classical and never the twain shall meet. It also throws down the gauntlet to the institutions that keep music boxed up.
I’m reminded of my attempt two years ago to convince a local symphony to take a risk and produce Christine Jensen’s amazing Treelines jazz suite, a tribute to her Vancouver Island roots inspired in part by Emily Carr’s paintings (imagine the music together with the projected paintings), but no such luck. I didn’t even get the courtesy of a reply to my letter.
That symphony and others like it across the country will occasionally stick one toe out on a limb and produce a Holly Cole or Michael Kaeshammer concert but sadly that’s about as daring as they’ll get.
And our jazz societies that control most of the meagre funding that goes to improvised music in this country generally stick with the same formula of big-name (often non-jazz) acts filling the auditorium seats while the jazz groups are sequestered in the far corners of the city.
In the meantime our gifted Canadian jazz composers have to move mountains all by themselves just to get their work performed and recorded and then hope that somebody somewhere might eventually have the vision to present it to a larger audience. Which almost never happens, except, God bless them, now and then on CBC radio.
Enough ranting. We can do something about it. Do yourself a favour and download or order Changing Seasons. You won’t regret it. And as the winter winds start blowing, consider writing letters to a few music directors. If they get enough maybe they too will understand that they must believe in spring.
Note: Ottawa Citizen reporter Peter Hum has posted on his superb jazz blog a five-part interview with Phil Dwyer. Dwyer talks about the new album, his childhood fascination with jazz, hanging in NYC in the 80s, his career, his personal struggles, and his advice to aspiring players. It’s a deeply personal and moving interview. Highly recommended.
And blessing of blessings, Phil Dwyer performs with Ken Lister on Sunday, November 20, 7pm, at a Church of the Advent jazz vespers gig in Colwood.