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Jazz Reviews Toronto 2006

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Review 1 - rinsethealgorithm - Sept 29, 2006

Rich Brown (E. Bass), Rob Brown (drums), Robi Botos (keys) - Trane Studio

I've seen rinsethealgorithm several times. Each time there is a different energy and vibe that brings a different life to the music that is being performed. From the moment that they start to groove (and they start to groove quickly) you know that you're in for a good performance. It's not just the groove, the riff, the melody and harmonies that they choose, it's their interaction, and it's their apparent extrasensory perception to one another. It's like how when one player goes bop, the other player instinctively, whether he knows it or not, answers with a bip.

Rich Brown is a monster on his electric six string bass. I marvel at his ability to somehow make his fretted instrument sing with a vibrato purer than that of a classical singer's without any assistance from an effects pedal. His methodology in playing bass seems to be driven by the principle that the bass is an instrument capable of great agility like any other instrument. With that principle in mind he weaves in and out of the chordal foundation of the music like water current weaves through lake reeds. Never allowing his audience to believe that the bass is a stagnant instrument whose sole purpose is to ride the tonic and accentuate the II, V, I.

Robi Botos, another giant of the Canadian jazz music scene is a phenomenal keyboardist. To the stage he brings incredible dexterity and innovation and also a wit and charm that makes him a very affectionate entertainer. I suppose that his ability to play, adjust and improvise on the fly makes him one of the most sought after pianists in Toronto. He seamlessly moves from heavy swing to reggae to ballad to bossa.

The band played quite a few original songs, 'Constellation 149', dedicated to the stars of the local musicians union, 'Forward Motion' 'Hibiscus' and 'Black Nimbus' to name a few. Rich is a poignant artist who paints beautiful musical images with his artistic voice

Review 2 - John Ferguson (pianist), Amy Beckford (singer) - October 22, 2006

Maggie's "Jazz" Club - London, ON

While in London visiting my parents last year I stopped by Maggie's to catch a jazz show in the city before I went back to Toronto. I asked a friend of mine who was playing that night and she exclaimed John Ferguson and Amy Beckford. Not knowing the treat that I was in for I happily paid my $10 cover, ordered a rye and ginger and sat down to watch the show.

When you first walk up to Maggie's, you may notice that the business marquee has a picture of a woman silhouetted in white against a midnight blue background smiling as she holds a clarinet in her hand. That to me seemed like an indicator that whoever was in here performing would have to know their stuff because this was an establishment built or leased for the purpose of making quality music.

Now, here comes the funny and slightly ironic twist. When you walk through the door the first thing that you notice are white leather seats which match the white decorative candles which match the bone white plates and the white light fixtures which go with the white framed mirrors which altogether complement the white jazz that poured from this white establishment.

Going to York has made me accustomed to the butchering of jazz music. But this.. this was something to behold. The worse part about this singer was not that she didn't know what she was doing (oh, and she didn't), but that she didn't know what she was doing AND she was proudly parading this ignorance as jazz. This is particularly bad because it's not like London is the centre of the cultured universe as it is. Most Londoners don't know the difference between let's say Miles Davis and Gregory Isaacs. So if Amy's calling her vocal stylings jazz.. it's jazz.

Amy Beckford may be one of the most horrible singers I have seen in my life. Was it the 4-bar count-ins (Not the 4-bar intros.. the 4-bar count-ins)? The apparent free time feel that she chose to use for every song ('swing', 'ballad', 'bossa'.. didn't matter. It was Amy's night and she was gonna make it rubato).. or was it when she forgot her lyrics when singing They Can't Take That Away From Me and started humming and then came back into the bridge chuckling saying "Whatever! (tee hee hee) It's JAZZ!" ... It's who?!

Their set (the one I stayed for) consisted of well-known favourites. 'Summertime', 'Autumn Leaves', 'Misty', 'They Can't Take That Away...', 'Lullaby of Birdland', 'Mood Indigo' (Oh. My. God.) and 'Fly Me to the Moon'. Now, I wouldn't have minded these predictable selections so much had it not been for the singer. I mean, it's London, you gotta cater to your crowd, give the people the standards that they can sing-along to. I get it. But, the singer.

I will commend her on her tuning, I didn't hear anything that was wonky in her straight melodic approach. I imagine she was probably at some point a classical voice major at Western who stepped over to the 'dark' side of jazz music.. but instead of stepping over she just sort of put her big toe in, as if testing cold lake water. The pianist was also pretty poor. His idea of comping was playing way louder than he should, while completely ignoring Amy's desire to free time everything, while also adding the occasional dominant seventh chord (where there should have been a major seventh chord played) and vise versa.

I have seen good jazz in London and with the construction of the John Labatt centre, the city has had some heavyweight singers stop by. Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Oscar Peterson to name a few have all performed in London. In fact, James Brown was even supposed to go there this month. But until the city invests in arts culture other than theatre and trains good musicians in genres other than classical music, they will be forced to continue to rely on outside artists to present quality concerts that everyone can enjoy.

Sophia Pearlman - Monday November ?, 2006

The Reservoir Lounge

I'm hard on vocalists because I like to think I know what a good vocalist should sound like. Sophia Pearlman is the first singer I've ever seen who

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