Making beautiful music together

This week we wrap up a process which started eight months ago - the final TD Discovery Series Special Projects presentation of 2015 is Thursday, April 30 at Jazz Bistro.

We have experienced three different projects so far: a showcase of Alex Brown's Afro-Cuban/jazz fusion; the celebration of Robi Botos' album Movin' Forward and, this past weekend, Riverrun's 12-hour music marathon. To wrap up the series, Alex Goodman brings his Chamber Quintet to the Jazz Bistro stage.

Alex's Chamber Quintet is a Special Project for a variety of reasons. First, it's a relatively new project for Alex, a further exploration of his interest in bridging the gap between jazz and classical music. Second, this week's shows will be the final stage in the group's preparation to record. And third is the musicians themselves.

Alex Goodman won both first prize and the Public's Choice Award at the 2014 Montreux Jazz Festival International Guitar Competition, one of the most important competitions in the world. Now living in New York, Alex's name appears frequently on a wide variety of projects as a performer and composer; he has earned acclaim in both roles.

I remember Andrew Downing as a hotshot bass player a couple of years ahead of me in the University of Toronto's Jazz Performance Program. In the past few years I think I've seen him play more cello than bass, but he sounds fantastic on both. Also an established composer, he's been involved with projects ranging from jazz to improv to classical. His album Blow the House Down earned him a JUNO Award and he's a past winner of the Grand Prix de Jazz at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

The first time I heard Michael Davidson's name, it was in a sentence preceded by "If you need an incredible vibes player, check out…" Having now seen him in action in several settings, I can confirm this initial feedback. His approach to the instrument is fluid and melodic, whether he's playing folk, jazz, Radiohead or improv. He's deservedly in demand and has been recognized for his performing and composing.

Felicity Williams has been on my radar since I was first introduced to the group Hobson's Choice several years back. Her voice is a fantastically flexible instrument; she handles melodies simple and complex with ease, effortlessly moving from top to bottom of her impressive range. Whether interpreting lyrics or adding colour wordlessly to a melody, Felicity's is a unique and noteworthy approach.

The Quintet's out-of-town guest for these shows (and the recording) is percussionist Rogério Boccato, who is featured on Grammy Award-nominated albums by Kenny Garrett and John Pattitucci. Rogério frequently performs with some of the biggest names in the Brazilian and New York contemporary jazz scenes; he teaches at Hartford's Hartt School and at Manhattan School of Music, among others.

Impressive bios all; but what is sure to make an impact is the music. I look forward to hearing how Alex, in his original compositions and arrangements of classical works, uses the various sounds and textures of the ensemble. Based on the one clip I've heard so far, we can expect melodies which move from instrument to instrument; impressive vocal acrobatics; and a mix of composed and improvised sections. The acoustics at Jazz Bistro should be especially complimentary to this primarily unplugged music.

The Alex Goodman Chamber Quintet kicks off a three-night appearance at Jazz Bistro this Thursday, April 30 at 9 pm. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for students. Complete information is available from Alex's concert page on our website.

Join us later this week for some outstanding playing and composing in this season's final Special Projects presentation.


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