6 years ago

Volume 21 Issue 7 - April 2016

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Beat by Beat | Jazz

Beat by Beat | Jazz Stories Braid & McDonald Czech It Out! ORI DAGAN Dream Barriers: David Braid’s artistry continues to find new directions, moving steadily forward towards the unexpected, fuelled by tremendous musical gifts. Fresh off a media appearance to discuss his role as composer for the Ethan-Hawke-starring Chet Baker biopic, Born to Be Blue, the two-time JUNO winner sat down for a one-on-one interview to discuss his latest project. The project revolves around his 12th recording, Flow, which is on the Steinway & Sons label. Later this year he will perform in Russia, Norway, Scotland and Australia to support the album; this month he tours across Canada including a stop in Kingston on April 1 at St. Mark’s Church, April 4 at London’s Aeolian Hall and April 5 at Jazz Bistro in Toronto. The new recording is a collaboration with Prague’s Epoque String Quartet. “We have a world tour coming up this year, and I really wanted to bring the Epoque Quartet to Canada, so we’re doing a cross-country tour.” But in keeping with the project’s genesis, it’s a tour that will feature three different quartets. “The first ten days are with [Epoque]; our last concert before they go home is at Jazz Bistro. Then I fly to Calgary on the sixth and pick up the Borealis Quartet, then central Canada with the Penderecki String Quartet. So I’m having a great time working with these amazing musicians and learning a lot about their world, and intermingling their music with my world.” Flow is a unique departure from Braid’s previous efforts, and not only because of the instrumentation. Courageously conceived, the bold recording blends Western classical, folk, ancient and world music forms. Jazz, Braid’s musical home turf, is perhaps more evident in the spirit of the risk-taking than the sound. So will this effort net another JUNO nomination and if so, in what category? Braid does not seem to care, and that’s precisely the point. “I found it very liberating to cut myself off from thinking in practical terms – to lose my identity as a ‘jazz pianist’ and just think about making a program of music that feels like it’s fresh and alive and not influenced by any practical decision, i.e. not being jazz, or classical. Not limited by the performance practices of a particular style. I just wanted to build something that was beautiful, that was artistic, that people could connect to.” So why now for this change of direction? “Probably…with me growing increasingly frustrated playing in jazz venues where the sound is so ridiculously loud. I feel like I’m not performing at my best because I’m fighting to create energy. I found that collaborating more with classical musicians opened up the sonic playing field fully for me. I’m really interested in playing my instrument and making a good sound at the piano and using the full range of dynamics, which could be very expressive. I wanted to go back to acoustic fundamental vibrations: strings resonating in a room, piano hammers hitting strings in a room, and nothing that’s modified by technology. Revitalizing the beauty of natural sound.” The actual catalyst though, he says, was Werner Herzog’s acclaimed documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2010. The film recounts the experience of French backpackers, who in 1994 discovered ancient caves containing paintings covered by mineral deposits, which took thousands of years to grow. Braid’s wonderment at the film is still evident as he speaks. “It turns out these paintings are 32,000 years old, the oldest art work in the world – twice as old as what was previously considered the oldest. And if you see these images, we’re not talking about stick figures or primitive ideas – these are sophisticated three-dimensional drawings with very contemporary ideas. There’s a painting of a bison with eight legs – one set of legs extended, the other closed– where else do you see a single image with multiple movements? It’s a cinematic idea– and they had the same type of thinking 30,000 years ago – they were explaining in the film that when you hold torchlight up to the images on the rocks, the flickering of the torch makes it seem alive and moving. It’s mindboggling…I had never even seen a film twice before, but I saw this film nine times! One thing that really came through for me was that art has the potential to be transformative. This film made me remember that art can have a much deeper, more fundamental, ancient purpose.” In keeping with the theme of visual inspiration, Flow, which will be released on vinyl as well as compact disc, features a stunningly vibrant painting on its cover, courtesy of Beijing artist, Sophia Gao. Currently hanging in Braid’s living room, the work is fittingly titled Qi and will be on display with several other original works by Gao at Jazz Bistro when Braid and the Epoque String Quartet play on April 5. Why did Braid choose the Epoque String Quartet to record with? The Ken Page Memorial Trust and WholeNote Media Inc. are proud to present the first performance by JIM GALLOWAY’S WEE BIG BAND in The Garage, a spacious, acoustically friendly venue on the ground floor of the CSI Building at 720 Bathurst Street (two blocks south of Bloor) under the leadership of Martin Loomer and supported by Jim’s Friends we invite you to join the band for an evening of musical nostalgia, toe-tapping and dancing from 7:30 to 10:30 pm Thursday 14th April 2016 Tickets each at the door, cash only please Should you wish to reserve seating in advance phone Anne Page at: 416 515 0200 or email: Premises are licensed Light menu available Street parking David Braid with Sophia Gao’s Qi painting This concert is dedicated to the memory of Jim Galloway, Gordon Evans, Kira Payne and Laurie Bower ORI DAGAN 18 | April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016

“The last couple of years, I played with a lot of string quartets in a lot of different countries, and although they are all great, with the Czech quartet, early on in our collaboration, we talked about recording. We had done a couple of demo recordings, and a pile of concerts in Prague. They weren’t sure if it was going to connect with audiences – we were playing in this jazz club in Prague, the Jazz Dock, and it’s a real jazz club – here we are with a string quartet and piano, and they were like – ‘I don’t know if people are going to like it, let’s see what happens’ – and people went nuts! I felt as though with them, I broke through my dream barrier in terms of making that special type of connection with completely fresh new music. We did two more concerts that tour and we had a similar, deeply emotional response from the audience which was kind of unexpected. With new music this is unusual and so it meant a lot. “At one of the concerts, the Canadian culture attaché was in attendance and he said ‘I hadn’t seen a reaction like this before – Czech audiences are usually very critical, especially of new music.’ So that audience in Prague, which is the first place I put the program out for public consumption. These guys – all they do is play music. Three out of the four play in the state orchestra, really well taken care of, their families are musical royalty. When I wanted to do the recording, they just said, ‘We’ll just do it at the best recording studio at the Czech television station with the best engineer, we work there all the time,’ and boom, there it happened! So for many reasons, it just felt very natural to do it with these guys.” Czech mates part two: Jazz singer, educator and impresario, Lynn McDonald, is no stranger to Prague herself; next month will mark her nineteenth visit to the Czech capital, where she has sung countless tunes and absorbed bountiful inspiration. On April 19 at 6pm, she will be sharing the stage with Prague’s star guitarist Roman Pokorny at 120 Diner (where in the interest of full disclosure I should state that I have a significant hand in the programming). continues on page 58 April 1, 2016 - May 7, 2016 | 19

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