Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Splinter cells

I just realized I didn't blog about Darcy's hit at Sala Rossa last Tuesday, though Juan Rodriguez and Adam Kinner of the Gazette both have done the honours. I was coming at it from a very different place than most of the audience - being quite familiar with his music over the past year or so, I was listening for the differences between the New York and Canadian players and curious how my buddies and colleagues like Joel Miller, Erik Hove, Lina Allemano and Gordon Webster would take on Darcy's music. As opposed to the majority of the room who were experiencing Darcy's music for the first time. So, in the interests of full disclosure: I'm close with a lot of these musicians, and many of them, DJA included, play a big role in my own personal musical development.

The band nailed it. From the opening of "Flux in a Box" to the closing blast of "Transit," it was evident that the long rehearsals had paid off. And even though I'd been listening to recordings of the New York band, hearing that music live had a different power and immediacy that I wasn't expecting. I should have realized this, spending the better part of last year wrangling large ensembles, but it somehow eluded me. Highlights of the set included Hove on "Flux in a Box," Chet Doxas' solo on "Drift," Ingrid Jensen's turn on "Transit" (which is always impressive), Mike Fahie's intensity on "Habeas Corpus," and the beats kicking in on "Ferromagnetic," "Induction Effect" and "Habeas Corpus."

Joel Miller's Mandala is one of my favourite groups around, and the record Mandala (2004) received a lot of play on my personal stereo as well as CKUT. I haven't heard the new record Tantramar yet, but from what they played in their opening set, it deserves all the praise it has received. Some of the new music seemed more directly rock-influenced with unison basslines and hard-driving grooves, but it also retained the youthful levity that characterizes Joel's music to my ears. After the years of playing together, the rhythm section of Thom Gossage (drums), Fraser Hollins (bass) and Kenny Bibace (guitar) have really locked into each other, which showed on tunes like "Rashers" and "Big Tiny." Trumpeter Bill Mahar sounded stronger than I've heard him in the past, and those who saw Altsys at IAJE told me he'd raised his personal bar even higher at that gig. The blend of Mahar, Miller and multi-reedist Bruno Lamarche often creates this bizarre horn section where it sounds like a polyphonic horn.

For those of you who couldn't make it to the gigs, download them from Darcy's site ASAP. And for the non-Canadian readers and listeners who don't recognize any of the names above, make some room in your record collection.

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