To kick off the third annual Jewish Music Week in Toronto, I decided to take in the sounds of an all star band paying tribute to a Canadian jazz icon and legend who has gone too soon. I am talking about the music and legacy of flautist, saxophonist and composer Moe Koffman. The concert was held at Toronto’s premier jazz club, the Rex Hotel and Bar.
The band was made up of pianist Bernie Senensky (Koffman’s long-time pianist), flautist Bill McBirnie, guitarist Lee Wallace, bassist Neil Swainson, drummer Terry Clarke, and Koffman’s grandson (and good friend of mine) Jake Koffman.
It was a program of eclectic music, ranging from original repertoire by Bernie Senensky (great blistering takes on his original blues “The Mover” and the Brazillian samba piece “Paco Paco”), classical music (a moving rendition of Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Sicilliene”), standards loved by Koffman (great arrangements and takes on “Night in Tunisia”, “Caravan”, “Angel Eyes” and “Jitterbug Waltz’) and of course, Koffman’s claim to fame through his classic composition “The Swinging Shepherd Blues”, which was bluesy and swinging at its hardest and best.
One word about my friend, Jake Koffman. I am honored to get to know this fine musician from when I first saw him play at the Beaches Jazz Festival with the early version of Canada’s prime hip-hop rock band, “Down With Webster”. He has come a long way from those early years and I am blessed to know that the future of Koffman’s music and the spirit of Canadian jazz lives on through people like him. At the night of the performance, it was intriguing that I was meeting various members of the Koffman family, wishing that I got to know Koffman at the prime of his career personally.
All in all, it was a great way to kick off a great week of Jewish music and honoring a great icon of Canadian Jewish jazz music.
(Jake Koffman and Me)