Monday, July 4, 2016

BRAD MEHLDAU: THREE PIECES AFTER BACH AT KOERNER HALL

Brad Mehldau: Three Pieces After Bach at Koerner Hall

On a beautiful spring Thursday night, I caught a brilliant solo piano concert by one of the premier pianists of our time, Brad Mehldau.    

This particular solo piano concert is a special one since it involves three commissioned works by Brad Mehldau that are being premiered for the first time in Canada.    The work, called “Three Pieces After Bach”, involves Brad playing a piece by Bach from the “Well Tempered Clavier” and then creating an original piece based on that selection, blurring the lines between composition and improvisation.

Hearing these commissioned works of art I detected a sense of searching new ways to tackle the timeless works of Bach through its lyricism, advanced harmonies, and intricate rhythms supplied by the sole pianist.    It also showed through the presentation that despite being a classically influenced work, it was a great exercise on showing how jazz improvisation and classical technique can be wonderfully married together into a cohesive performance.     This presentation also envisioned what Bach would sound like in the 21st century, in which he would be a forward thinking jazz pianist and composer looking for new ways of expression and melody that could be harvested into new forms of expression.

At the end of a towering display of classical/jazz fusion, Brad returned to the stage for three encores, playing jazz versions of tunes written by McCartney and Lennon, Paul Simon, and Nick Drake.    The reading of “And I Love Her” was a very pensive, sensitive and mellow reading of a classic Beatles tune, transforming it into a performance that is lush, romantic, and full of soul.   The Paul Simon number, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”, is a rocking, finger snapping take on a classic 70’s hit, even hinting at gospel influences with the music.   The closing encore, Nick Drake’s “River Man”, is a towering concerto that brought soul-searching introspection into the performance, transforming it as a seminal work of art in Mehldau’s repertoire.

Overall, Brad Mehldau displayed brilliant piano mastery and composition with his performance that night, showing that he is one of the most important pianists to emerge in our time.    He has the ability to transform creative jazz from the most unlikely of sources and makes it his own through his romantic and sensitive performances.     A great showcase and kudos to Koerner Hall for allowing this commission to have its Canadian premier in their world-class facility.  

Conrad Gayle

@CON_RADICAL

OUT OF THE CLOSET

My 35th year has got to be one of the most interesting years that I have ever faced.    The year started as business as usual serving at my local church, a visit from a missionary, and a Bible study.   Then I had a few jazz gigs here and there, and so forth.

But after my second gig up until now, was where the dark valley of the soul occurred.     This is talking about my fifth experience with bipolar depression.   I was so depressed I didn’t want to get out of bed or do anything.     The evils and the troubles of the world weighed me in.   In 2016 alone, icons such as David Bowie, Prince, and the great Muhammad Ali have passed on.   Out of the many attacks that have happened, the Orlando shootings have grabbed my attention.   First out of numbness, and then into bipolar meltdown.

The Bipolar meltdown came to the terms that I had to finally admit and say the dreaded three words that I would never see myself admitting: I’m gay.   This did not come as a party.   It did not come with a rainbow flag.   It came with weeping, mourning, and sadness knowing the pain and the journey that I have to accept.  Admitting these words show that my life as an evangelical Christian is going to change. 

This does NOT mean that I will find the next cute looking guy on the street and getting it on with him, because that is not what I’m about.    This does not mean that I will wear drag because the Bible forbids men to dress or act in feminine matters.   I will still live the same standards and Christian values that I was taught by my beloved parents and church, while facing this new reality.


My name is Conrad Gayle, and I came out of the closet stronger than ever.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

2016 DONOR APPEAL

All my life there were two things that I wanted to do with my life.   One was to become a prominent jazz musician in my hometown of Toronto and hopefully out of that forge a worldwide career.    The other is excelling in my talents and gifts as a writer/critic for my popular blog post “The Conrad Gayle Review”.

2015 happened to be a big one for the success of the Conrad Gayle review.   In December, the blog reached an astounding 20,000 views and counting.   The content seemed to get exponentially large by posting over 140 articles ranging from concert reviews, CD reviews, food reviews, cultural phenomenon, and theological discourses.   My goal through my blog is to provide an intelligent, thought-provoking (and at times) humourous approach to the blog, and I feel that 2016 will just be about as big as it could get.

Sometimes the blog will be busy for weeks, and then not busy for weeks.   At times I would go through writers block and bouts of depression which deplete my creative juices from flowing.   But through it all, I am astounded and blessed by God at the modest success created by this blog, and it is only going to get better and better as the time goes by.

I normally don’t like asking anybody for money, but my vision and goal for blogging and music is to do this as a lucrative full time career.   I don’t see myself doing anything else but working in these two streams, and making sure that I get a lucrative means of living from doing it all.   I have a mound of CD’s that I want to review.   I have restaurants and concerts that I would love to profile.   But it all takes money to make things happen.      

This is why I am asking everyone.   If you enjoy this blog and are among the thousands of people that check it out on a daily basis, then please consider making a contribution of ANY amount towards the cause of my blogging and artistic efforts in Toronto.   You can find the “Donate” button on the right side of the blog to make an easy PayPal contribution.    

However, I just want to take this time to thank you all for making “The Conrad Gayle Review” become a great success as much as I enjoy providing content for all who are willing to read.

Take care and blessings,

Conrad Gayle.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

CD REVIEW: DREAM BY LANDEN VIEIRA

DREAM
Landen Viera
Independent
5 out of 5 Stars

At just 23 years of age, tenor saxophonist and composer Landen Vieira is quickly emerging as a force to be reckoned with in the Toronto jazz scene.   A student of the storied University of Toronto, Landen in his stunning debut album shows what jazz should be all about in this day and age. 

Landen is one who really respects the tradition of the music at such a young age.  In an age where young jazz cats are forgetting about swing, blues, groove, feel in favour of abstract explorations, odd time signatures, and making the music contemporary, Landen is showing everyone that it is cool to innovate yourself while still honouring the storied traditions of the jazz idiom.

For instance, “Light Piece” is a spritely bebop line that opens with sheer intensity and breakneck swing from Landen and his storied quartet of pianist Adrean Farrugia, bassist Malcolm Connor, and drummer Ethan Ardelli.   “Do It” is a groovy hard bop number that gets the core of the blues and groove down solid and doesn’t even let go. 

However, two of my favourite pieces of the album, tend to show Landen at his most expressive and his most soulful.   “Dove” is probably one of the most effective ballads ever written by the current young cats, which brings an Ellingtonian vibe into the mix that is purely sublime.   The title track “Dream”, shifts from 12/8 Latin feel into a driving 4/4 minor groove that is completely arresting and sorely theatrical.


If you want a CD from a young cat who knows the history of the music and does it with such conviction, run, don’t walk to pick up this record.   This may very well be the best debut record coming from a young jazz musician in the year of 2015, signaling the glorious hope of the future of jazz in Canadian culture.

Monday, December 21, 2015

MY 2015 MUSICAL YEAR IN REVIEW

CD’S:

1) Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap: The Silver Lining: The Jerome Kern Songbook

Almost approaching 90, Tony Bennett shows with this album that he is a fine wine that simply gets better and better with age.   This album featuring the sensitive piano styling’s of piano great Bill Charlap (featured in solo, in duo with his pianist wife Renee Rosnes and in his classic trio with Peter Washington on Bass and Kenny Washington on Drums) takes the timeless songs of Jerome Kern and makes it a definitive statement in 21st century jazz and popular song.   Quite frankly one of the best CD’s of 2015 hands down.   Highlights:  All The Things You Are, Pick Yourself Up, The Way You Look Tonight, Yesterdays, and Look for the Silver Lining.

2) Landen Vieira: Dream
One of the most stunning jazz debuts in a long time from a 23-year-old saxophonist and composer wunderkind from Toronto.   Hearing his playing shows real depth, emotion, and maturity well beyond his years, and his writing has echoes of some of the best composers in jazz such as Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and Wayne Shorter.    It is also a record that respects the tradition of jazz while taking the music forward.  

3) Various Artists: Oscar With Love

Kelly Peterson, Oscar’s widow, produced and orchestrated this well executed valentine for Oscar Peterson Fans with this stunning and well priced three CD set.   It comprises of mostly Oscar Peterson compositions played in solo and duo configurations, and all pianists played on Oscar’s home piano in their home studio.   This is a collection that all fans of the great Oscar Peterson should run and get a hold of.

CONCERTS:

Christian McBride Big Band – high-octane swinging big band led by one of the top bass players in the world

Blind Boys of Alabama:  Free concert during Panamania that brought the gospel soul and rhythms to an infections audience

Danilo Perez Panamania: Danilo Perez, with orchestra, and a quartet featuring Miguel Zenon, John Pattitucci and Brian Blade, premiering an arresting work especially commissioned for the Pan American celebrations in Toronto

David Virelles and Gnosis:   Avant Garde Latin-jazz at its most intense, rhythmic, and melodic from viruostic Cuban pianist and composer David Virelles.

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic: One Nation Under A Groove.  Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk).   Nuff Said.

Snarky Puppy:   the premier jazz jam band of all time played an arresting set of high octane funk and electric jazz to a packed audience.   One of the most electric moments I have ever encountered.

Oscar @ 90:  Star Studded concert spectacular celebrating the release of the brand new “Oscar With Love” recording, with Benny Green, Robi Botos, Oliver Jones, Bill Charlap, Renee Rosnes, Kenny Barron and Gerald Clayton taking turns on Oscar’s very own Bosendorfer piano.

- Conrad Gayle

TWITTER:  @CON_RADICAL

JUSTIN HAYNES' "THIS TRANQUIL LIFE" AT LA REVOLUCION

Nestled in the heart of the Junction in West Toronto is a live venue that features genre-bending jazz and live music on certain nights of the week called La Revolucion.   The band happened to be led by Justin Haynes called “This Tranquil Life”.

In this particular form, there is Justin Haynes and Ryan Marshall Driver alternating on keyboards and acoustic piano, with a custom rhythm section of electric bassist Michael Overton and drummer Evan Cartwright.  

The music throughout this set was a blend of free improvisation; inside out takes on standards, and vocal numbers with the luscious, sexy and dreamy voice of Ryan Marshall Driver.   Among the repertoire, the standard “It Could Happen To You” was taken in an inside/outside direction where free playing, in-the-pocket grooves and a mellow esthetic has enveloped in the explorations of this quartet.    The same has been treated on the standard “This is Always”, taken in a straight ahead piano trio style.     Undecided, transforms the swing piece into a spritely bebop number that plays with the conventions and takes the piece into new territories and exciting adventures for the listener and musician alike.

By luck of the draw, I also was treated to a nice helping of Tacos, which was served three ways:  grilled chicken, grilled steak, and mixed bell peppers.   It was a nice and refreshing dish that accompanied my enjoyment of the evening well, and I appreciated the courtesy of the wait staff for extending their warm hospitality and offering to provide a nice meal in exchange for reviewing the food and the show.   The food is excellent and I really can’t wait to try more of their Mexican/Latin offerings provided at La Revolucion.


Overall, a delicious and an inspiring night of music from a great yet underground jazz group.