The good folks at Allison Piano are carrying on their legacy of hosting great jazz pianists in Victoria.
This Friday, February 1st at 7:30 pm they welcome Toronto native Jamie Reynolds on a Canada-wide tour in support of his debut album Time With People.
Bassist Gary Wang and drummer Eric Doob, also rising young talents on the New York scene, will join Reynolds.
Reynolds’ album features a dozen original compositions that have already received strong reviews in Downbeat Magazine and All About Jazz.
A listen on Reynold’s website reveals melodic, reflective, and deeply personal material, somewhat reminiscent of Keith Jarrett, that should suit the intimate Allison Piano venue perfectly.
A number of the compositions, including “Ideas of North” and “Locks” are inspired by Reynold’s memories of growing up in Canada.
The album, by the way, is released on Fresh Sound, the Spanish label responsible for recordings by Kurt Rosenwinkel, Seamus Blake, and a host of other young jazz stars, as well as reissues of classic albums from the 40s, 50s and 60s.
It’s going to be a tough call on Friday night with a gypsy jazz tribute featuring Quinn Bachand, Richard Moody, Joey Smith, and Reuben Weir heating up Hermann’s at 8pm, but based on what I’ve been hearing on Reynolds’ website, I think I’m heading for the show at Allison’s.
If you are torn, you can always catch Reynolds for the first set and then head over to Hermann’s later. The tickets are reasonable for both shows and are available at the usual outlets.
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.
Monik Nordine writes to say that the Barracuda! Saxophone Quartet “is back at it, and this time we’re playing seasonal music for anyone who would like to come down to the Moka House (Hillside) and enjoy a warm beverage and some saxophone music. There will be plenty of warmth and good cheer and not only that, lots of saxophones.” By donation. A box for food bank donations will be provided. Nordine, along with Tom Ackerman, Chris Watt and Rainier Roth fire up the saxes on Sunday, December 23rd from 11am -12pm. Hillside at Shellbourne.
And Kelby MacNayr is reprising his highly popular early evening New Year’s bash(dinner and music) at Hermann’s on Monday, December 31st from 5 – 8 pm with Ian McDougall, Louise Rose, Roy Styffe, and Ken Lister. $35.00/ $30 (U-Jam, VJS, advance). Seating is limited and the event sold out last year and so reservations are recommended (250) 388-9166.
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.
I’m re-posting information from Capilano University about a benefit concert held last night that provides an address for donations. I know the entire Island jazz community will be thinking about him and will come to his support. Please send a donation if you can. Here’s the blurb:
Ross Taggart, one of Canada’s finest jazz pianists and saxophonists, and a dear friend to many in the jazz community is in hospital battling renal cancer. A benefit concert featuring Vancouver’s finest jazz players will take place on Monday, November 26 at the NSCU Centre. The fundraiser is SOLD OUT. Donations can still be made, please send to the Vancouver Musicians Association at #100 - 925 West 8thAvenue, Vancouver, BC V5Z 1E4.
Submitted by: NSCU Centre
With celebrated veterans like Phil Dwyer, Campbell Ryga, Ross Taggart, Ron Johnston, Ken Lister, Oliver Gannon, Craig Scott, and Brad Turner – not to mention McDougall himself on trombone – this collection of Juno and Grammy award-winning and nominated artists is one of the most talented jazz groups ever assembled on the west coast of Canada.
They first performed in 2010 at the CBC Jazz Festival – where they received rave reviews – and recorded their first album in Vancouver in March of this year.
Most of these musicians live on the Lower Mainland and are performing on the Island thanks to the efforts of Dave Paulson and U-JAM, the Victoria jazz society dedicated to developing the local jazz scene.
McDougall, who has played in some of the best bands in the world, including the Boss Brass, the John Dankworth Band and the Woody Hermann Thundering Herd says the group is a “hot band” and one of the “most fun” he’s ever worked with.
When musicians this talented are enjoying themselves, you can be sure the result will be one of the best jazz concerts of the year.
The Victoria concert takes place at Alix Goolden Hall and the Parksville show at Knox United Church. Both get underway at 8 pm.
Tickets are $35 for Adults/ $30 for U-JAM members/ and $15 for students and can be purchased in advance through the U-JAM website.
One of the things that distinguishes Jim Hall from other jazz guitarists is his originality.
Many guitarists take a lick-based approached to improvisation. Over time they develop a vocabulary of licks – usually gleaned from other players or transcribed from records – and thread them together to create a solo. Some rely heavily on such licks while others will play improvised-on-the-spot melodies perhaps half the time.
Jim Hall does neither. He considers improvising an art form and likens it to painting. As a result he favours motivic development in his solos, meaning that he will improvise a “motive” or musical idea on the spot and then build on it and explore its variations as he develops the solo. The result: a new canvas each time he sits down to play.
In fact he has only transcribed one or two solos in his entire life and that was many years ago. When he listens to other players – often horn players – he does so to get the feeling, not to pick up specific phrases or licks. He’s just as likely to get his musical inspiration from other art forms, especially painting and poetry.
You can hear this approach in this wonderful 1981 recording with Don Thompson(piano) and Terry Clarke(drums):
There were times last night when I thought the Wayne Shorter Quartet, triggered by Brian Blade on drums, would levitate right through the roof of the Royal and soar into the evening sky.
Blade was that astonishing and they were that good.
Before I say more, a caveat: they weren’t for everybody. The guy beside me, who left early with his partner, held his head sometimes as if in pain.
The dude who thought he was at a rock concert and shouted, “Play Birdland!” was probably disappointed.
One avid jazz fan I know spent the concert making up funny show titles to cope. The one she shared with me was brilliant: “What Fresh Hell Is This?”
But I think it’s safe to say that most of the audience, once they abandoned all expectations of conventional harmonic structure and melody, were dumbstruck. Evidence: the spontaneous standing ovation and shouts for more that erupted at the end of the 90-minute set.
(Note: this was not one of those obligatory standing O’s, where a few people get up, and others, self-consciously thinking they should join in, rise slowly from their seats. This was instant, explosive, and sustained enough to bring the group back on stage for an encore after a long delay).
I confess, I was one of the shouters.
What triggered my response?
It was the ability of these great musicians to create in the moment with pure abandon.
To play as if the pages of their charts were filled with questions.
To play as if they were blank.
To experiment and stumble only to rise on a wave of exalted improvisation.
To perform as if they were discovering music for the first time.
To know where they were going but not know.
To play with deep beauty.
To dare to play with chaos.
To be so fully attuned to each other that at times they were one musician not four.
To spin off into four separate worlds and then awake to each other and come together once again.
To play with humour.
To be deeply serious.
To answer the Birdland dude with the most hesitant and unpracticed of beginnings. (I love it that Shorter felt free enough to make the warming up and tuning of his sax part of the music).
To go crazy (witness Blade leaping off his stool and laughing as he drummed like a madman while John Patitucci’s right hand became a blurr on his upright bass).
To be still and silent and play little or nothing at all.
To love what they were doing so much that it didn’t matter what they were doing.
To play until they could play no more.
Watching these guys was like watching a painting come to life:
Danilo Perez on the grand piano stage right peering at the charts and then looking at the others intently as he sent single notes or extended chords their way and waited for a reaction.
Shorter, standing casually beside the piano in his Indian-style kurta, playing one phrase on his soprano sax and then, enough said, putting it down.
Patitucci swaying and twisting with his bass in the wind of Blade’s drumming.
Blade, stage left, exploding into the most impossible of drum riffs and then settling quietly into the tinkling of a few bells.
This was art, not entertainment.
In its own way the Wayne Shorter Quartet did rise into the night sky.
For those who missed it, here’s a taste from a concert in Vienna:
“Josh’s cymbal beat made you want to smile and dance. Don’t need much more than that.” – Nicholas Payton
Josh Dixon was only 41 when he died of heart failure in his sleep, but judging from the response to his passing so far, he has several lifetimes worth of accolades to send him on his way, all of them earned through his masterful drumming and positive personality.
Pianist Karel Roessingh, who has known Dixon since he was four years old and has been a major figure on the Victoria jazz scene for years, says Dixon was not only “a really, really great drummer” but also a terrifically positive person with a wonderful sense of humour who took delight in everything he did, whether it was playing music, whacking a ball around a golf course, or painting a house.
“He had an almost boyish wonder about him,” says Roessingh, adding that Dixon was always friendly, humble and respectful and “clearly had a hugely deep love for his family.” Roessingh recalls him talking about his family “all the time.”
As a player Roessingh says Dixon was “a kind of trickster” who would get a sly smile on his face and then do something totally unexpected that would surprise and delight his fellow musicians. “He had such a simple little drum kit – like something from a toy box – but the stuff he did with it!”
Antoine Drye, a renowned New York trumpeter who has performed with many of the best jazz musicians in the world, says Dixon was a “natural drummer” and a “swinging dude” who fit very well into the New Orleans and New York scenes that he joined in the early nineties with his best friend, bassist Sean Drabitt. “That’s a hell of an achievement in itself,” says Drye, noting that to become a working musician in New Orleans and New York, the very breeding ground of jazz, “takes balls.”
Drabitt calls the years in New Orleans with Dixon “a golden time” where a group of young players learned together under the tutelage of the great Ellis Marsalis. He remembers playing up to three gigs a night, gigs that sometimes included members of the Marsalis family – Ellis, Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason – in different configurations. Nicholas Payton and Brian Blade were also part of the scene, as was Jason Stewart.
Stewart, now bassist for the Ellis Marsalis Quartet, says Dixon was “a great drummer” and a clever person with a particularly dry sense of humour. He had “a great feel” and was clearly well entrenched in “a certain tradition” of drumming, he adds, noting that unlike some drummers who overwhelm the bass, he meshed really well because of the quality of his sound.
Drabitt says that everything Dixon hit sounded good and that he had a “masterful” ride cymbal on the level of Claude Ranger’s, the iconic Canadian drummer who mysteriously disappeared in 2000. “He got the colours he needed.”
Dixon had little formal musical education beyond high school but studied with Ranger, Jeff Hamilton (Diana Krall’s frequent collaborator), and Marvin “Smitty” Smith, a famous drummer who toured with everyone from Sonny Rollins and Dave Holland to Sting and Willie Nelson.
Mostly, though, he got his musical education the old-fashioned way by listening to records, playing gigs, and immersing himself in the scene. Drabitt says he was heavily grounded in the early sixties both “soundwise” and “approachwise,” citing drummers like Elvin Jones, Grady Tate, Tony Williams, Billy Higgins and Philly Joe Jones as major influences.
Multiple Juno winner Hugh Fraser, who played his first professional gig in Victoria with Dixon’s dad George and eventually would mentor Dixon, says that even before he traveled to New York and New Orleans, the young Dixon “sounded like an old spirit,” and had a “wide open” swing feel that distinguished him from other drummers, not only in Victoria but also in Canada.
Fraser feels that his immersion in the New Orleans and New York scenes simply magnified qualities that were already there. “He had such traditional flare and drive” says Fraser, crediting Dixon’s listening to a lot of different recordings and growing up with his drummer dad, for the great feel he possessed.
Fraser adds that Dixon’s enthusiasm made him fun to play with. “He was always up for playing in the true sense of the word.” He fondly recalls the young Dixon pulling up to his (Fraser’s) mother’s house in a convertible MG with the top down and his dad’s drum kit stuffed in the back – a scene right out of the 40s in Fraser’s mind – ready and excited to play.
He remembers, too, that while teaching in London he would get phone calls from Dixon and Drabitt at 4 am in the morning, excitedly telling him they were at Mary’s (his mom’s) house jamming.”I thought jams happened only when I was there, ” laughs Fraser, adding that Dixon “was a sweetheart we’ll all miss so much” who infused his music with a playful, magical spirit.
Phil Dwyer, another multiple Juno winner, met Dixon and Drabitt in the summer or 1988 or 1989 when they played together with Dave Keen at Pagliacci’s in Victoria. A precocious musician himself who had journeyed to New York a few years earlier to immerse himself in the scene when he was only 17, Dwyer says “it was pretty clear they were (real) musicians who were in it for the long haul. “I was really pleased to hear that they had both struck out for south of the border.”
When Dixon returned from the U.S., Dwyer says you could tell he was someone who had “been sitting at the feet of the masters and paying attention.” He describes him as “a real groover” who “hadn’t checked his ego at the door – he’d checked it at the building down the block.” Dwyer adds that he had great respect for the jazz tradition “without pandering to it,” and when he played, he made things feel good and gave back “the right kind of energy.”
Vancouver pianist and trumpeter Brad Turner, who met Dixon in the early nineties and played with him in various quartet and trio gigs in Victoria and New Orleans, says Dixon was one of those rare drummers with both great technique and great musicality, making him a tasteful accompanist and a formidable soloist who played flawlessly with passion and fire.
He recalls a night in 1994 when The Sean Drabitt Quartet (Drabitt, Dixon,Turner and saxophonist Terry Deane) played the entire John Coltrane A Love Supreme album. “Josh was on fire that night,” says Turner, adding that he was the kind of guy who would “give you the shirt off his back” and was a “gregarious, generous and intelligent person.”
Tom Vickery, who gigged with Dixon around town and played with him at the Hermann’s jam every Thursday night for the last few years, says ” he had a passion for those drums”, and “he made me play,” adding that he was always upbeat when he arrived, could play any style, and “had a special touch.”
Dixon also made an impact outside the jazz world. Victoria Juno-nominated bluesman Bill Johnson credits Dixon with stretching him as a musician:
“As I’m a blues artist, playing with Josh Dixon was an experience that left me feeling both guilty for restraining him, and on the other hand, free from the blues form. If I felt the inspiration to take off into uncharted territory, he would be there ready to fly. He was like a springboard for my imagination. Those gigs were among the most musical experiences of my life.”
It’s not only older, established musicians who have great things to say about Dixon. Mitch Fisher, a 12-year-old student of Dixon’s who studied with him for five years, says Dixon was “a very nice guy” who in their weekly sessions focused more on “on playing than just learning,” and had “a really good positive attitude.” Fisher says other drum students had the same experience and always looked forward to their lessons with him.
Those words might have been spoken by Vancouver drummer Jesse Cahill who has written on his blog how important Dixon was to him as a young drummer growing up in Victoria and trying to make his way in the jazz world.
“Josh was one of the first real jazz drummers that I ever saw perform live. I’ll never forget him coming to my high school when I was in grade nine and playing in a trio with pianist Louis Rose and bassist Russ Botten. After that I made a habit of going to check him out at the restaurants and cafes around town whenever I could. Eventually he started giving me the opportunity to sit in on his gigs, always offering encouragement and advice. He gave me a few formal lessons but most importantly he was always happy to hang out and talk about playing music.”
Evidence of Dixon’s impact can be found in the press, too. A glance through journalist Joe Blake’s old Backbeat columns in the Times Colonist shows that Dixon, with Drabitt, had a major impact on the local scene very early in his career. “Ferociously swinging,” and “concise, joyful, orchestral” are just a few of the descriptors Blake used as early as 1991 in praise of Dixon’s drumming.
The last word, though, must come from Sean Drabitt who has been with Dixon on his musical journey since they were 16-year-old’s playing the music of The Police and forming their first jazz group. “I was always impressed with his ability to be so nurturing,”says Drabitt. “He always seemed to care.” And of his general approach to life and music, Drabitt adds, “He had an old wisdom to him…he was very accepting and a genuinely nice guy.”
Needless to say Josh Dixon will be missed by many people, not least among them is Grammy-winning New Orleans trumpet and piano iconoclast Nicholas Payton, who put it succinctly when he expressed what Dixon meant to his fellow New Orleans musicians:
“Josh’s cymbal beat made you want to smile and dance. Don’t need much more than that.”
The Victoria jazz community is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of drummer Josh Dixon last Wednesday at age 41. The coroner’s report identified a congenitally enlarged heart as the cause of death.
Tributes to Josh are pouring in not only from the Victoria community but also New York and New Orleans where he lived for a number of years and performed with some of the top names in jazz including Herb Ellis, Roy Hargrove, Nicholas Payton, and Kurt Rosenwinkel.
An informal jazz jam tribute is planned for this Thursday, January 26, 8 -11 pm, at Hermann’s Jazz Club in Victoria.
A formal memorial service will be held at Hermann’s on Saturday, March 3 starting at 4pm.
Josh’s wife Jennie is creating a website to honour him. It is up now and will be completed in February.
I’m currently working with Sean Drabitt on an extended article that will pay tribute to Josh and document his life as a musician. Stay tuned.