Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Trio Bruxo on the 401

Trio Bruxo concluded our first "tour," playing Toronto and Ottawa last week. Just before we hit the road, Peter Hum conducted an interview with yours truly on the great riches of Brazilian music.

I tend to have bad luck with car rentals, but drummer Mark Nelson's Maori lucky charm worked in our favour, scoring an upgrade to a Ferrari-red Dodge Avenger for no extra charge. We went to pick up Nic Bédard and his gear, and swung back to my place for all my stuff before getting on the road. Over the three days we got the packing down to a science.

Mark and I swapped iPods into the auxiliary jack of the car for most of the trip. I must admit, because Mark was doing all the driving, I was doing the selecting. Lots of Brazilian music to get in the mood, as well as forward-looking jazz (Krantz/Carlock/Lefebvre, Rich Brown & rinsethealgorithm, Jason Lindner's big band arrangement of "Giant Steps") and old soul (Stax 50th anniversary compilation).

We met up with Brownman around 6 pm and ran through a couple of tunes. On his recommendation, we went for some killing Vietnamese food in the Junction, and then headed over to Trane Studio. It was apparently Brazilian week in Toronto - a host of local talent performed on Sunday's Brazil fest, Carlinhos Brown and Elba Ramalho played during Brazil Day festivities on Labour Day Monday in Yonge/Dundas Square, and then the night after us, Cajamarca was playing at Trane, Luanda Jones was at the Distillery and Salviano Pessoa was at Lula Lounge. The Trane crew of Frank, Kris and Tai were considerate and helpful in changing over between an earlier benefit concert and our show. We got on around 11, and played a solid 75-minute set for old and new friends, eager to continue their Brazilian fix. Cuban conguero Alberto Suarez sat in on pandeiro on a tune, leading to a five-man percussion break: Alberto, Brown on his hybrid percussion kit, Mark on drums, Nic on shaker and me on tamborim.

Us night owls went out in search of food after the gig, forgetting that Toronto isn't as quite the late-night grub-friendly city as is Montreal. We wound up at a grocery store, took some bizarrely funny photos of us in a shopping cart (at least, before the security guard confiscated it), bought some late-night snacks and breakfast food and headed back to Brown's place. We fueled up in the morning on some amazing coffee courtesy of Crema Coffee on Dundas, and hit the road for Ottawa.

I had just played Mercury Lounge with Isaac Neto a week and a half prior, so I knew the soundguy, DJ Lance Baptiste, and the layout of the room. Set-up went off without a hitch, and we headed off for Indian food in the Byward Market. We had a decent yet intimate crowd for our first show in Ottawa. Mercury is set up as a dance club, and the music we play is ostensibly dance music (even though no one is singing). The audience was more inclined to show their appreciation sitting down, which was fine, but I couldn't see them with the bright lights in my face. Towards the end, some ex-Montrealers living in Ottawa got the party started with us.

It was a total blast to bring this music to new cities, and I can't think of two better people for a roadtrip than Mark and Nic. Thanks to everyone who came out in Toronto and Ottawa, and we hope to do it again soon.

Now's the time

EDIT: Er, in my haste to respond, I neglected that this meme was "five modern jazz records that might grab those that aren't interested in jazz." I still stand by most of my selections, because a lot of these records came into my life when I wasn't super well-versed in modern jazz, or because I saw them act as entry points for other people I know.

I'm so happy to see that there's a bounty of twenty-something active musician-journalist-bloggers out here on the jazzy section of the internet. One of them, Patrick Jarenwattananon of NPR's A Blog Supreme, has instigated a "Jazz Now" series, inviting fellow Montrealers Nextbop and AccuJazz's Lucas Gillan, among others, to post about their top five jazz records of the past decade.

Having been in and around jazz school for most of this decade, it's quite telling to see what records and artists have made waves among my fellow students and musicians. I'm not going to limit myself to five records (because, honestly, neither did PJ), but reflect more generally on records that affected me and my friends.

When I was in high school, I was still building my vocabulary of the tradition. My method of buying jazz records was looking for albums by artists I had heard of, playing tunes I had heard of or wanted to learn. The recommendations of my teachers were also immensely helpful. One day I hung out with pianist Gordon Webster, who played me Chris Potter's Gratitude (Verve, 2000). It may have been the first time I had heard any of those players - Potter, Kevin Hays, Scott Colley and Brian Blade. The odd-metered tunes didn't feel choppy but had a natural groove to them, and the flow of tunes like "Sun King" and "High Noon" bowled me over. I remember saxophonist Evan Smith transcribed "Sun King" at McGill, and some of my compatriots were experimenting with fitting standards in odd meters in the vein of Potter's arrangement of "Star Eyes." Related obsessions included Joshua Redman's Timeless Tales (for Changing Times) (Verve, 1998), and anything Dave Holland put out with the Quintet or the big band. Recently, the saxophone hero du jour around McGill (and rightfully so, I might add) is Donny McCaslin, a regular collaborator with the Altsys Jazz Orchestra, not to mention his phenomenal turn on Dave Douglas' Meaning and Mystery (Greenleaf, 2006), Maria Schneider's Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, 2004) and his own outstanding records on Sunnyside. I'm partial to Soar (Sunnyside, 2006).

The '00s brought new directions in what was possible in a piano trio. Obviously, it seemed like everyone but me had imbibed the Brad Mehldau kool-aid - it took me seeing him live at The Spectrum in 2004, days after Elliott Smith's death, with the tunes that would comprise Anything Goes (Warner Bros., 2004), to really appreciate what was going on with his playing and with that trio. Similarly, The Bad Plus' These Are the Vistas (Columbia, 2003), and mainly Dave King's drumming, made waves with my circle, though it took my discovery of Ethan's blog to understand and re-contextualize the music. Jason Moran's work with the Bandwagon is what spurred me in the direction of Andrew Hill and the late-'60s Blue Note "New Thing." Facing Left (Blue Note, 2000) is my favourite, with Björk sitting beside Ellington, but the live record from the Vanguard (Blue Note, 2003) really seemed to affect others I knew. And when Robert Glasper exploded on the scene with Canvas (Blue Note, 2005), it was the most elegant fusion of hip-hop with jazz that I had yet heard. He wasn't forcing the two together, as so many '90s experiments seemed to, but the rhythmic cadence and sensibility of an MC's flow seeped into his lines.

This is shaping up to be an entirely rambling and far-too-long post, so I'll just list records that attained cult-classic status among my immediate circle of colleagues and friends:
- Kurt Rosenwinkel, The Next Step (Verve, 2001) & Deep Song (Verve, 2005)
- Fly, Fly (Savoy Jazz, 2004)
- Maria Schneider, Allegresse (enja, 2000) & Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, 2004)
- Brian Blade Fellowship, Season of Changes (Verve, 2008)
- Reid Anderson, Abolish Bad Architecture (Fresh Sound/New Talent, 1999) & The Vastness of Space (Fresh Sound/New Talent, 2000)
- John Hollenbeck: Claudia Quintet, I Claudia (Cuneiform, 2004) & Large Ensemble, A Blessing (Omnitone, 2005)
- Guillermo Klein y los Guachos, Live in Barcelona 2005 (Fresh Sound/New Talent, 2005) - okay, so maybe this one hasn't made the rounds at McGill, in Montreal or in Canada yet, but I fell in love with Guillermo's music the first time I heard "El espejo" and everyone I've played this for has been amazed by it, as well.

Locally, people like Joel Miller, Christine Jensen, Frank Lozano and the whole crew of Effendi artists and alumni have been greatly influential on the writing and playing of my peers. Key albums: Miller's Mandala (Effendi, 2004) and Jensen's Look Left (Effendi, 2006).

Monday, September 07, 2009

Silence is the question

My friend, bassist/composer Patrick Reid of Fieldtrip just sent out this disconcerting e-mail. Canada's "Heritage Minister" James Moore is planning on restructuring the Canada Music Fund, a major part of which goes towards financing the Canada Council for the Arts' recording grants. Pat writes in his e-mail:

This is incredibly saddening and disheartening news for the creative arts in Canada and its supporters. The majority of Canada's library of creative music was made possible by this program and the future of its production of new creative music is uncertain at best. Small record labels and non-profits that work relentlessly to distribute our creative outputs will have an incredibly difficult time surviving without it.

This program was the main way that artistically motivated/non-commercial recordings were possible in Canada. Recordings are the only way for musicians to document their work and now this will no longer be supported by the only federal organization that promotes art for art's sake in Canada. This is by far the largest blow to music that has taken place since the Conservative regime started their crusade against Canadian culture. This news went completely under the radar mid-summer and I only began to hear about it asa scary rumor last week.

On the heels of last year's massive arts cuts, and the discussion of the importance of grants for non-classical music, this is a deep and dangerous move. Much of the creative Canadian music scene relies on grants financed by the Canada Music Fund, under the auspices of the Canada Council and FACTOR. To list the amount of great recordings over the past few years that have received such aid would take way too long. I'm not even sure what the next step would be in combatting this (and I've written about my ambivalence over the protests of last year's cuts), but this cannot go through.

Of course, more cuts to arts means that PM Stephen Harper is sending signals to his base, warning of an impending federal election that, once again, no one seems to actually want. Most likely it will result in another Harper minority due to our fragmented and ineptly-helmed left-learning parties.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

See you in September

It's September and the newest batch of freshmen are discovering the city. I overheard one American student ask what the equivalent of CVS is here. With this influx of new blood comes a lot of music-making.

Wednesday September 2 (tomorrow) I'll be a featured guest with Athésia & The Gentlemen at La Sala Rossa (4848 St-Laurent). Athésia is the recipient of a grant to take her and her core trio of guitarist Jim Bland and percussionist Daniel Emden to Brazil. This is her send-off show with an expanded band. If you stick around, I might even be spinning tunes after. Facebook event here.

Athésia - vocals; Jim Bland - guitars; Daniel Emden - percussion; with Kweku Kwofie - vocals; DRR - keyboards; Paul Johnston - bass; André Martin - percussion.

Friday & Saturday September 4 & 5 guitarist Stephen Johnston is kicking off Labour Day weekend at Upstairs (1254 rue Mackay). We'll be playing his original, groove-focused compositions in a quartet setting. It's a similar repertoire to the SJProject6 show from this summer's OFF Festival de Jazz, but just a tad more subdued. Facebook event here.

Stephen Johnston - guitar; DRR - piano & keys; Fraser Hollins - bass; Evens Baptiste - percussion.

Thursday & Friday September 10 & 11 Trio Bruxo hits the road for the first time. The 10th will see us at Toronto's Trane Studio (964 Bathurst St.) at 10:30 pm, joined once again by my old buddy Brownman. After our sold-out shows at Upstairs, Brown said, "We must unleash this on Toronto!" The following evening we'll be at Ottawa's Mercury Lounge (56 Byward Market) at 8 pm. My friend Rommel Ribeiro, a former resident of Ottawa, will join us on a few tunes. Facebook events are here (Toronto) and here (Ottawa).

DRR - keys; Nicolas Bédard - bass; Mark Nelson - drums; with guests Brownman - trumpet (Toronto) and Rommel Ribeiro - vocals (Ottawa).

Saturday September 12 is Michael Reinhart's return to The Yellow Door (3625 Aylmer). After a summer of global travel, Michael is back with new tunes. He'll be performing two sets: one of instrumentals, and one of his urban-fingerstyle-folk songs. As always with Michael, I'll be getting my sporadic accordion practice. The wonderful Katie Sevigny opens. Facebook event here.

Michael Reinhart - guitar/vocals; DRR - keys/accordion; Jérémi Roy - bass.

Sunday September 13 marks the end of the craziness with the return of OthnielBand, singer-songwriter Othniel Petit-Frère's original, bilingual soul project. We're playing as part of the Apollo Nights series at Le Tapis Rouge (1252 Bleury). In addition to Othniel's tunes, some co-written with guitarist Dave Goulet and vocalist Nanny Roy, we'll toss a few covers into the mix. Facebook event here.

Othniel Petit-Frère - vocals; DRR - keys; Dave Goulet - guitar; Martin Letendre - bass; Seb Fauvelle - drums.

See you on the other side!