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In the Current
It's hard to believe, but the TDJ Special Projects are wrapping up this Wednesday at Gallery 345 with Mike Downes' In the Current.
Originally assembled to serve as the vehicle for a five-part suite Mike wrote for his Masters thesis, with Wednesday's performance the ensemble will have its professional debut. There are all sorts of cool things about the group, and about the show. First is the instrumentation: the bass-playing leader is joined by three woodwinds (playing an estimated 14 instruments between the three of them), trumpet, trombone, french horn, tuba, piano, guitar and drums. This unique instrumentation is somewhat reminiscent of the ensemble put together for the Miles Davis/Gil Evans collaboration Birth of the Cool; it's no coincidence that Wednesday's performance will feature a re-imagining of some repertoire from that album.
But this is no tribute band - Mike is an excellent composer (I've had the good fortune of playing a couple of his big band tunes) and the ensemble will be performing a number of original compositions on Wednesday evening. In some ways, I feel that writing for a group of this size is perhaps more challenging than writing for small combos or larger ensembles: with an instrumental palette more limited than a big band, the composer must balance great arranging with room for solos, all while maintaining the melodic interest of the piece. I think Mike's nailed it - the three tunes I've heard sound great, and his writing brings out the unique qualities of every instrument.
What I also like about the collection of players who will be performing on Wednesday night is their mix - at least three decades will be well-represented on stage. Mike's booking of musical colleagues young and, um, less young speaks to the breadth and depth of outstanding talent we have in this city.
This should be a great night of interesting music. In the Current performs on Wednesday, May 9, 8 pm at Gallery 345. For complete information please visit the In the Current concert page. Come check it out and support the development of what I hope will be a long-standing fixture on the Toronto jazz scene.
To wrap up, I'd like to once again offer a hearty congratulations to all three groups selected for TDJ Special Projects status this year. Each project is different, each is of the highest quality, and as a series they demonstrate the creativity with which Toronto musicians perform and compose throughout the year. I look forward to the next round of TDJ Special Projects, and encourage you to check out these and other local musicians year-round.