Monday, May 20, 2013


On a nice spring evening, I was invited to check out an intriguing jazz trio at Toronto’s newest (and finest) jazz club, the Jazz Bistro.   The trio was lead by none other than Halifax’s own Peter Togni.

The evening consisted of jazz interpretations of classical music, showing the effective bridge of the past, present and the future with its innovative and fresh re-imaginations of such timeless pieces, along with contemporary pop material as well.
Togni opened up his set with his take on “Bittersweet Symphony”, which is a jazz version of the great pop hit by the band “The Verve”.   Here, it is taken at a pensive and reflective pace, embodying the classical influences that dominates the peace and putting it forth into a jazz context.

The next tune, in which Togni calls it “Café Midnight”, is in essence the classic Prelude in C Minor by Frederic Chopin.    This tune brought me to tears with its beautiful and haunting melody, which happens to be one of my favourite classical pieces (and one in which I have to learn to play on the piano).   Then it is followed by a very ancient take on a Gregorian Chant piece, Ubi Caritas.   On this piece we hear the great spirituality and the wonderful interplay between the trio members as they bring something new into an old piece.

For the remaining pieces, the trio is joined by none other than Juno award winning sax giant Mike Murley.    Troll Time takes Edvard Grieg’s classic theme and turns it into straight ahead music that really swings and gets down hard.  

Not only Peter Togni is a fine interpreter of classical music, he is also a fine composer.   On “Waltz for Patricia”, dedicated to his wife, the melody is beautiful and the solos by both Togni and Murley bring a sense of romanticism into the piece.

The next two pieces are back in the classical vein, both Bach’s Prelude in C Major from the Well Tempered Clavier and Beethoven’s “Joyful Joyful Lord We Adore Thee”.     Especially on “Joyful Joyful”, I heard the gospel church-like influences in the arrangement a la Keith Jarrett.    The set closes with “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”, the classic Creedence Clearwater Revival hit.   

Overall, it was a great night of fresh jazz, beautiful music, and clever approaches to fuse classical traditions and music with the improvisational freedom that jazz has to offer.   Look out for this group in the future when they come into town next.

-       Conrad Gayle

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