8 years ago

Volume 9 Issue 7 - April 2004

  • Text
  • April
  • Toronto
  • Theatre
  • Jazz
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  • Yonge
  • Composer


JAZZ NOTES by Jim Galloway LAST MONTH I HAD the pleasure of spending some time with Jay Mc­ Shann when we played together at the Montreal Bistro. James Columbus "Jay" McShann was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, January 12, 1916. He taught himself piano as a child, even although his parents were less than enthusiastic at the thought of his being a musician. In any case he began his professional career in 1931 and still remembers his first engagement very well. He was booked to play one engagement that went until two in the morning, but discovered that there was a second gig from 5 to 8, in those days, not all that uncommon. The young Jay did not get home until about 10 in the morning when he had to do quite a bit of explaining to his father who was waiting for him, or as Jay puts it, "layin' for me!' Quite a baptism into the world of professional Last month, renowned saxophonist Michael Brecker was the guest at Humber College's annual Artist in Residence Week, and played a highly successful concert with students from both the college, and the Royal Conservatory. In April, it's his brother's tum to make a Toronto appearance as Ranplaying.On that first engagement, by the way, he played with a close friend who went on to become one of the greatest of all tenor players - none other than Don Byas. Jay moved to Kansas City in 1936, a time when, as he describes it, the place was 'wide open' with round-the-clock entertainment and he formed his own sextet the following year. He would later lead one of the best big bands in the territory, second only to the Basie band. Kansas City is at the meeting point of the Kansas and Missouri rivers and in the 30s was a thriving city with trading in livestock its focal point. It was also home to a unique jazz orchestral style which came out of the 1920s Southwest - a style that sounded different from the music of New Orleans, Chicago or New York. Ideas 9rought in by the travelling vaudeville shows were incorporated with the local musical traditions of the brass band, ragtime and blues. Enter corrupt KC political leader, Tom Prendergast. He ran a well-oiled dy Brecker is fea- Toronto-based vocalist Heathe; Bambrick tured with Pat La- Barbara at the Top 1-. __.;.p_l-'ay;..s_th_e_A_r_b_ou_r_C_a..::.ifi_e_in_A....:p .... n_"l ___.., 0' the Senator. In thel meanwhile, the Humber Stu- Sunday afternoon open concept jazz dent Ensembles finish their series workshop for people of all levels. of Monday nights at the Rex. And for those who want to take As the weather gets nicer over some lessons, Lula Lounge ofthe month of April, maybe it's time fers its Cuban Percussion School to not only go out and listen to on Saturday afternoons. some music but play some as well. Finally, this month we welcome There are lots of opportunities for two new venues to the listings - musicians of all different levels to the Grasshopper Bar, at 460 Parget out and play. Ron Davis hosts liament and the Cloak and Daga jam session every Sunday night ger at 394 College Street. If you at Gate 403, and the Rex features know another venue that we haven't various hosts at its Tuesday night included, feel free to let us know sessions - this month, John Ober- cian, Sly Juhas and Gord Web- · ster. In addition, they've added a Sophia Perlman 24 Jay McShann machine which promoted the under- of the Kansas City style. Saxoground economy and nightlife and phones were predominant, and the encouraged' the vice clubs to pros- rhythm was mostly 4/4 rather than per even during the depression. the two-beat feel of New Orleans Now, where there were clubs, there and Chicago. The walking bass line was entertainment and every club was developed and the drummer's needed musicians so that as a re- hi-hat was emphasized instead of sult, even in, and partly because of the bass drum. This looser conthe hard times, there was plenty of cept meant a lot more freedom for work, especially in the big bands and 'emphasis on soloists instead which thrived. The emphasis was of the c9llective improvisation of on simple memorized head arrange- New Orleans. This in tum encourments which evolved with repeated aged soloists to become more complaying and the 12-bar bl,ues; it is petitiveandtherewere 'afterhours' significant that two of the greatest sessions pretty well all night every blues singers in jazz, Jimmy Rush- night with cutting contests where ing and Joe Turner, were a product soloists phallenged each other in marathon jam sessions. It was a magical musical time which pro­ .duced some of the truly great names in jazz - Lester Young, Don Byas, Hot Lips Page, Sweets Edison, Mary Lou Williams, Jo Jones, Walter Page, Freddie Green, Count Basie - and Jay McShann. Tom Prender:gast was convicted for tax fraud in 1938, 'but he had created a gambling forerunner to Las Vegas and inadvertently helped to create the Kansas City sound in jazz. Jay McShann still lives there and if the 1930s Kansas City s.ound is associated with rollicking boogie-woogie and fullthrottle swing, then pianist Jay "Hootie" McShann is its greatest living proponent. 1 APRIL SHOW(ER)S , #ft;d

You can check the listings for a comprehensive look at what is happening this month, but I will make mention pf an event on April 14th. at Humber College to honour the memory of Ron Collier. Ron was a well-loved musician/composer/arranger and a dedicated educator and the evening will feature the Humber College big band playing Ron's music and arrangements. Also on hand will be clutch of prominent Toronto players in what promises to be a special event for a very special man. That same week on the 17th the Herbie Hancock Trio with Jack DeJohnette on drums and Dave Hollanp, bass will be at Massey Hall while on the 16th and 17th guitar virtuoso Howard Alden will check in for a couple of nights at the Montreal Bistro. It's Howard's first visit in some years and his many fans in town will be happy to know that he has recovered from the ill health that plagued him recently. There are those who might say that it is like bringing coals to Newcastle to bring a guitar player to Toronto, but every guitar player in town should come out to hear his genius. Having said that, our own Reg Schwager is no slouch and he will be at the Bistro for the three nights prior to Howard. , Sometime I'd love to hear them both together. On a personal note, on the afternoon of the 24th I'll be at Royal York Road United Church with most of the 'Echoes Of Swing' band. Happy "live" jive! DESPITE MUSIC BEING my favourite subject in school, there were two other areas of study I learned valuable lessons from that I make . use of every day. One was typing class. This is, hands down, the most useful skill I've ever learned. I shudder to think how long this column would take to write if I was a twofinger hunt and peck typist. The other was shop class, or as they call it now, tech studies. In shop, I learned that to do a job properly, you had to use the right tools .. I learned why there's a zillion different types of hammers, screwdrivers, chisels and.gadgets. What the heck does this have to do with bands, you may well ask? Simple. Band musicians often seem to be trying to play using equipment inappropriate for the music they're performing. This most frequently applies to percussionists and saxophonists, but it happens to other instrumentalists too. I don't know how many times I've played a piece of music with a wonderfully climactic percussion part, complete with a bass drum note that's supposed to shake the foundations of the building, only to hear it get played on a drum set, where the bass drum has all of the wonderful tone of a cardboard box. A wet cardboard box. Drum sets are great - nay, irreplaceable for playing jazz and pop music. Drum sets are just not the right thing when it comes to playing concert music, which for most bands is the majority of the repertoire. It doesn't matter how nice a cymbal on a set sounds when played Featuring some of Toronto's best jaz3: musicians with a brief reflection by Jazz Vespers Clergy Sunday, April 4 at 4:30pm /AN BARGH, piano; FRANK. WRIGHT. vibes Sunday, Aprll 18 at 4:30pm THE CHARLIE GRAY QUINTET Sunday, May 2 at 4:30pm NANCY WALKER, piano; KIERAN OVERS, bass; BRIAN BARLOW; drums Christ Church Deer Park, 1570 Yonge Street (north of St. Clair at Heath St.) 416-920-5211 Admission is free. An offering is received to support the work of the church, including Jazz Vespers. APRIL 1 - M AY 7 2004 BAND STAND byMerlin Williams with a stick - it's not the same as a properly played set of hand crashes. And this may surprise some drummers, but a snare drum sound that works for a pop tune often just doesn't cut it when it comes time to play a march. Not to mention that standing to play concert percussion puts you in a much better position to see the conductor. Get the right tools to do the job, and learn to use them properly. SAXOPHONISTS ARE MAJOR offenders too. What's the number one complaint most conductors have of saxophonists? They're too loud. Why are they so often too loud? Because they 're playing on a setup designed for jazz or big band playing. Sure, there are times we need to play in a swing style, but it can be done successfully on a mouth­ 'piece and reed setup that works well for concert music as well. And if you find it can't - well, why not have two setups? A good percussionist will choose the proper weight of sticks for the style of playing they have to do. We saxophonists can quite easily have two setups ready to go to cover any stylistic requirements posed by the music on the stand. DoN'T 1HINK YOU'RE OFF the hook just because you're not in the saxophone or percussion sections. I don't know how many tirres I'.ve seen a trumpeter player fighting to play with control and nuance on a mouthpiece that is essentially a sonic paint stripper. Remember, use the right tool for the job. On April 4'1\ the ~uga Pops Concert Band and the ~uga Big Band Jazz Ensemble are teaming up for a concert entitled "Snap, Crackle and Jazz" at the Meadowvale Theatre. The Scarborough Community Concert Band is giving a free concert on April 18, 2:00 p.m at the Scarborough Civic Centre. If you've got young children you'd like to introduce to band music, the time and' cost can't be beat. The sam: series has the Highland Creek Pipes & Drums on April 25. The Hannaford Street Silver Band is presenting "Celtic In Brass" on April 25. Guest soloist is Ian MacKinnon, 0 J-lighland bagpipe and whistles. One work I'm particularly keen to hear on this concert is the brass transcription of Sir Malcolm Arnold's "Four Comish Dances." Arnold's English and Scottish dances are frequently performed, but the Comish dances have lovely rrelodies that deserve to be heard more often. The concert is at the Jane Mallett Theatre, 3:00 p.m., with a preconcert chat at 2: 15 with guest conductor Michael Reason. The Markham Concert Band and the Metropolitan Silver Band are both presenting concerts on May 2'l

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