Monday, April 30, 2007

Filling the blanks

Apologies for the protracted absence again, dear readers; between rehearsals, gigs, technical glitches, and life, I've been away from the blogosphere for a while.

Most of my time these past few weeks was spent rehearsing with May Cheung for her final graduation recital. She put together a great band for the event - myself, Dave Watts on bass and Karl Schwonik on drums, with Phil Parenteau guesting on tenor sax on a couple of tunes. It was my first time playing with May, Dave and Karl. The last time I played with Phil was in second year. May chose some fantastic and challenging repertoire - the monster being a transcription of Kurt Elling's recording of "Downtown" off Live in Chicago. Written by Russell Ferrante of the Yellowjackets, the chart we got was actually sent to May by Ferrante himself, and for that alone he has my utmost respect. It's a deceptively tricky tune; it sounds difficult, and it takes a little while to grasp, but on the page it's not nearly as hard as it sounds. (Then again, I didn't have to do that bass-vocal soli.)

Last night, I went to see Fieldtrip, fresh off their Banff Centre residency and a national tour. Full disclosure: Colin, Pat and Mark friends and frequent colleagues. They've got a unique sound - a chordless trio with alto is rare to begin with. Colin's alto tone is very edgy, somewhere between Cannonball and Ornette, though he can get it down to a whisper when he wants to. They play tunes to their fullest and are equally comfortable with free improv; indeed, many tunes would start with a theme, break away into open improvisation, and culminate in a new theme or a re-iteration of the earlier theme. The melodies are quite tonal and almost traditional. Pat spent a year in Africa, and I may be projecting the influence of kora on his bass playing, but objectively, he spent a lot of time in thumb position with open string drones, and his facility has vastly improved since I heard him last (and he was really good then, too). Mark is one of the most sensitive drummers I've had the pleasure of playing with, and I always love listening to colleagues in their other bands, with a little bit of distance. I'm really proud of those guys. I wish I could have stayed longer, but I'm fighting a cold and was fading fast.

Tomorrow night (Tuesday/May Day), I'm playing with drummer Wali Muhammad, bassist James Challenger, and vocalist Sara Latendresse at Winnie's (1455 Crescent). It's a new residency for the month of May, wherein we get down with our bad selves and cover some old-school R&B and neo-soul. Sara and I knew each other back in Toronto, but I haven't played with her much since we've both been in Montreal. It's going to be a fun night.

No comments: