But does it swing?

Well, folks, I'll admit it - you're not getting a great blog today. It's a gray Thursday, I'm having trouble completing sentences (tired), and I'm a bit sore (New Year's resolution...ball hockey...). So that title up there was really just a cheap way to get you to read on. But though I won't delve into anything too profound today, I have had an interesting ten days of music, so I thought I would give you a recap...

Monday, January 17 - Continuum's CD Release
As you may know, when I'm not working at the jazz festival, I'm working with Continuum Contemporary Music and on Monday, June 17, Continuum launched its third full-length recording. Featuring the music of James Rolfe, Raw has been released on the Centrediscs label, which is run by the Canadian Music Centre. The release party on the 17th was a blast. We had a great turnout at Gallery 345, the ensemble performed a few pieces, and legendary Canadian composer John Beckwith was honoured with the Friend of Canadian Music Award by the Canadian League of Composers. James Rolfe is an interesting - and internationally acclaimed - composer, so I'd encourage you to check out his stuff if you're looking to expand your musical horizons. Check out Continuum's website for more information.

Wednesday, January 19 - Bob Dorough at Hugh's Room
I had the great pleasure of being in the audience for the second concert in JAZZ.FM91's Songwriter Series, on this night featuring Bob Dorough. I presented Bob about six years ago at the Markham Jazz Festival, and I'm pleased to report that if he's at all aged since then (which seems likely, the passage of time being what it is), he's certainly not showing the effects. He presented two full, outstanding sets of music. Bob's voice is unique, and it was in fine form; he also sounded great when soloing on the piano. And his song and lyric writing was at times humourous, ironic, moving and just plain fun. Along with bandmates Steve Berger (guitar), Artie Roth (bass) and Mark Kelso (drums), Bob kept the audience entertained until the very last note; he even had us all singing the 3 times table! One of the better musical nights I've been to for some time...and there's some pretty stiff competition...

Thursday, January 20 - Mike Murley Septet CD Release at The Rex
Coming off of a great show the night before at Hugh's Room, and with the memories of New York's Winter Jazzfest still fresh in my mind, I headed down to The Rex last Thursday night for the Mike Murley Septet's CD release. I knew it was going to be a good show - how could it be anything but with a lineup like Mike Murley and Tara Davidson (saxes), Kevin Turcotte (trumpet), Ron Westray (trombone), David Braid (piano), Jim Vivian (bass) and Ted Warren (drums)? But what was a pleasant surprise was the crowd - the bar was packed before the first note was played, and stayed packed until I left just before the second set. And everyone seemed to be listening...to every...note...It was the kind of jazz night in Toronto that I feel many have been craving: local musicians in the perfect mixture of great vibe, a great audience and, without a doubt, some great music. Congratulations to Mike and the septet for putting on an excellent show. For more information on Mike and the CD, visit his website.

Saturday, January 22 - AimToronto Interface featuring Hamid Drake at The Imperial Pub
Unlike with some of the other shows I experienced last week, I had no idea what the first night of AimToronto's Interface with Hamid Drake would be like. I admit to not knowing a lot about Hamid's playing; some quick research in advance revealed that he's one of the more important drummers/percussionists on Chicago's improvised music scene, having played with some biggies like William Parker, David Murray, Adam Rudolph and Ken Vandermark (among others). The Imperial Pub is full of character, but not an ideal place for music - neither the sound nor the lighting is great - but that didn't effect my enjoyment of this night of creative music-making. The back room was filled to capacity (standing room, even) for three different sets of music. The first featured Hamid playing with Aaron Lumley (bass), Dan Friedman (reeds/winds), Dan Gooch (trumpet) and Steve Ward (trombone) and though I wished the horns sometimes went along a bit more with the various grooves Hamid was laying down, the music was consistently high energy, interesting, and well-played. The second set was completely different - it featured a vocal group called Grex, without Hamid. Under the direction of Alex Samaras, Grex features some of the city's excellent emerging jazz vocalists, and they handled music by Meredith Monk, Avro Part, R. Murray Schafer and more (including an Irish folk song and a Georgian chant) with various degrees of ease. Some worked better than others (a highlight for me was Hocket by Meredith Monk sung by Alex along with Robin Dann), but overall the ensemble sounded excellent and it was a perfect palate cleanser. The evening closed out with Hamid back on the drums, this time along with Wes Neal (bass) and Nilan Perera (guitar). This final set was full of groovy, funky improvised riffs, and was an exciting way to close out the evening. Kudos to everyone at AimToronto who put this together, to the musicians for great performances, and to those in the audience for supporting the initiative. It was a good community feel!

Monday, January 24 - The OCADU Project at The Music Gallery
Rounding out a busy week was Continuum's presentation of The OCADU Project at The Music Gallery. In short, here's what it was about: based on recordings only, a class of third-year students at the Ontario College of Art and Design chose the repertoire and wrote the program notes for a Continuum concert. It was a bit of an experiment - how would a group of people, who may have little formal knowledge about classical contemporary music, react to new sounds? What would they write about it? What pieces would they choose to have performed? It was a fun project, for the musicians and the students, and it came off well; the final program included works by Peter Hatch (CA), William Peltier (CA), Richard Ayres (UK/NL), Gerald Barry (IE), Mayke Nas (NL) and Peter Adriaansz (NL) and at various times the musicians were, beyond simply playing their instruments, following stage directions, shuffling their feet, and playing on the guts of a piano with dish brushes. Continuum concerts are always interesting for me - inevitably not all of the music resonates with me, but it's always an adventure, and I always come away if not humming a new tune or two, at least hoping that I get to hear them again and looking forward to the next event.

So - that was my musical week. And, to answer the question posed in the title, yes - if "swing" is that "thing" in music that makes it feel good, that makes me dance in my seat, and that keeps me interested - it all swang. Hard.

There's lots going on as usual this weekend, but here are few things of note (ha!):

  • Tomorrow night (Friday January 28), Steeltown Friends of Mohawk Music is presenting saxophonist Tom Scott in performance with the Mohawk Faculty Ensemble. Tom Scott has performed or recorded with Joni Mitchell, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, Grateful Dead, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Pink Floyd and BB King - to name a few - and Mohawk's Faculty Ensemble features some of the top jazz musicians in Canada, so this would be worth the trip. Complete information at sfmmusic.ca
  • Saturday night I'll be checking out Mike Janzen's CD release at Glenn Gould Studio. Mike's a talented pianist and songwriter, and he'll have along his usual bandmates George Koller (bass) and Ben Riley (drums). It's sure to be a fun night! Tickets were going fast, but there may be a few left - check out Glenn Gould Studio's website for more information
  • Sunday night I get to see one of my favourite groups of musicians as my big band gets together for its first rehearsal after a two-month break. Shenanigans - and some rehearsing - usually take place...
  • A bit further off, I'm looking forward to a performance by the Ugly Beauties (Marilyn Lerner, piano; Matt Brubeck, cello; Nick Fraser, drums) with special guest Jane Bunnett next Friday, February 4 at Gallery 345, in a tribute to Thelonius Monk!

Well, that's all for me. Hopefully I was relatively coherent. I promise that next week I'll have a more gooder posting for you...

What have you seen live recently that's caught your ear? Let me know by leaving a comment...


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