Thursday, June 27, 2013


On a hot summer Tuesday night, I decided to check out the soothing piano sounds of a great young master of the keyboard.    The piano player was Geoffrey Keezer.

He has played and recorded with jazz greats Art Blakey and Ray Brown.   He has released recordings covering a diverse ground of music ranging from Latin, world, and modern jazz.   In this particular evening he returns to the heart of playing solo jazz piano with an eclectic repertoire consisting of pop tunes and jazz standards rolled into one great jazz experience.

In the first set, Keezer started out with an interpretation of the great Stevie Wonder classic “These Three Words”.   There was a strong influence of McCoy Tyner in the performance that was captivating and mesmerizing to the ears and eyes.    The next two songs in the first set are rock classics, which is Peter Gabriel’s “Come Talk to Me” and Rush’s “Limelight”.   Through playing these songs, Keezer showed that rock and pop tunes can be great vehicles for jazz exploration, and even introduces great nuances and aspects of the songs to a new audience.

The most emotional song of the night had to be a take on Robert Burns’ “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose”.   In this performance Keezer brought out the gospel and spiritual influences in his playing and transformed it into a very spiritual experience that you would get coming from a church service.   

Along with the eclectic mix of pop tunes played, Keezer still had room for the great jazz standards interpreted with such flair and soul.    Keezer’s take on Duke Ellington’s “Black and Tan Fantasy” was a rousing and soulful take on the blues echoeing Oscar Peterson at points.    On the obscure Thelonious Monk piece “Coming on the Hudson”, Keezer explored and took that piece into various directions, even echoeing the great Thelonious Monk at places while keeping his own voice.    But what really showed Keezer’s brilliant speedy technique and prowess was his take on Duke Ellington’s “Take the Coltrane”, with its lightening fast runs and bass lines that makes him a complete band of his own, without the need of further accompaniment to create such swing and excitement.

It was one of the most eclectic jazz solo piano performances during the jazz festival that I have been to.    It is refreshing to not hear the same standards done to death, but have Keezer choose obscure tunes and pop songs and create a brand new experience for the jazz listener.   All in all, it was a great night of jazz from a great young master in the business working today.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Precision.   Mastery.   Commanding.   Romantic.    Heavenly.    Going to a Fred Hersch concert is experiencing those things and more.   From seeing the way he approaches the material and the instrument to the sound he gets when playing a diverse set of repertoire, it was like experiencing an intense spiritual moment when coming from a church service.

Fred Hersch’s solo performance at the Enwave theatre began with a set of original compositions that showcase his influences, his inspirations, and his great sense of melodic and harmonic ideas that comes out of his writing and playing.   He started out the night with his composition “Whirl”, which resembled a dancer whirling and twirling around the stage in a graceful manner.   “Whirl” had echoes of Bach counterpoint in the writing and execution of the performance, plus the performance had a lot of life and vibrancy as it carried on.   His classical influences continue in pieces such as “At the Close of the Day” and “Pastoral”, which showcase the poetic and lyrical side of Fred Hersch, which even channels the styling’s of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett when approaching the material.   One of my favourites of the original repertoire, “Dream of Monk”, showcase another influence, hence the title referring to the great pianist/composer Thelonious Monk.    It was a swinging and a spirited take that fused elements of “Crepuscule with Nellie” and “Blue Bolivar Blues” yet it is a work that is completely original and reflected the spirit of Monk at the same time.

In addition to the great original compositions showcased in his recital, Hersch devoted the other set to interpretations and arrangements of standards and cover material.     Among the highlights of his set was a spirited take on Cole Porter’s “You’re The Top”, a standard that hasn’t been done to death and should be explored more by jazz musicians; a slowed down ballad version of “The Song is You”, which shows off the beauty and the hidden nuances of the standard to create a very captivating and arresting performance that stirs the soul; and “Whisper Not” is a spirited, swinging take on a bebop classic in which Hersch was able to find new explorations and new melodic and harmonic possibilities within the standard.  

Hersch’s piano playing, compositions, and choice of repertoire shows that he is a very captivating performer that provides an enriching experience for both himself and the audience.    He treats the standards and cover materials with respect, and the original material could even pass for classical music since it had the precision, technique and mastery that comes from a classical composer.    When he plays, all of the influences and inspirations come out in one unified, personal voice that does justice to the material at hand.     Overall, I would say that Hersch’s solo piano concert is one of the most captivating performances in the festival and I hope he comes back again to repeat that magic to old and new fans alike.   


Tuesday, June 11, 2013


On a cool Friday evening, I was taken to the sounds of the Nick Scott Quintet, which had more of a chamber jazz feel since the band did not have a drummer and most of the tunes are melodic, pensive, and meditative.

The quintet was made up of guitarist/composer Nick Scott, pianist/keyboardist Tom Richards, Jeff LaRochelle on tenor sax, Ryan Brouwer on trumpet, and Jim Sexton on bass.   

The material consisted of original repertoire that was featured on Nick Scott’s debut CD called “Vestiges”, and chamber-like arrangements of standard repertoire.   The opening number, Cinco Sol, had the immediate feel of an ECM performance, with its spacy, straight timing and the quintet performing tight like a chamber unit with intricate arrangements.    The next three of Nick Scott’s pieces, Memory Woken, Requiem, and Coalesence, follow in that same vein, while at the same time giving an opportunity to let the soloists shine on the material and express themselves outside of the chamber like context.   

The last two pieces are standards, starting with the Wayne Shorter classic “Infant Eyes”, which has the pianist stating the melody while the horns play harmony in the opening passage.    It was one of the most expressive and emotional performances of the evening, with great solo turns by Richards, Brouwer, LaRochelle and Scott.   Closing the night was a reading of the old standard “If I Should Lose You”, which gives the ensemble a chance to cook and swing on a good tune, showing that they can pull off a tight swinging groove without the need of drums or percussion.

A word individually about the musicians:

Nick Scott’s compositions and guitar playing puts him in the company of the great guitarists that went before him, such as John Abercrombie, Jim Hall, John Scofield and even Pat Metheny.    He is a local talent that is definitely to look out for and watch in the years to come.

Jeff LaRochelle shows how he is capable and able to adapt to new configurations and challenges when it presents himself.   He is a very expressive and fine musician that brings out the best in music and puts his own soul into each piece of work.

Ryan Brouwer plays a very effective role by providing harmonic, melodic and tonal accompaniment through his trumpet in addition to making it a solo instrument.    This shows trememdous ability and growth as a musician to take on different hats and roles in a musical context.    I would love to hear more from this musician in the near future as well, and this performance served for me as a great introduction to an up and coming talent.

Tom Richards is one that not only is a great keyboardist and composer, but is also known as a trombonist.   Here, he plays really effective keys and provides great accompaniment and tonal colours to the music of Nick Scott.   

Jim Sexton is a great and capable bassist and improviser that provided steady time keeping and rhythm for an ensemble that didn’t have a drummer present.    He is also an effective soloist and improviser, taking moving solos whenever needed and playing with such soul and fire.    Overall, he was a great anchor to the chamber like quality of the quintet.

It was a great evening of soothing, soulful, and melodic jazz music put together by great young jazz musicians who seem like they were working together for years.   Look out for Nick Scott and the rest of these musicians in Toronto whenever they play a show next.



Friday, June 7, 2013


On a stormy February evening, I decided to catch the last of the two shows held by the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet coming off the heels on releasing their debut CD, “In a World Of Mallets”.    Known as a drummer and the youngest of the famed Marsalis clan, Jason Marsalis showed himself through his quartet as an inventive, creative vibraphone stylist and composer in the likes of Gary Burton, Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson.   

Through the two opening compositions, “Blues Can Be Abstract Too” and “Ballet Class”, Jason Marsalis illustrates the importance of knowing and respecting the roots of jazz music and referring these roots to create fresh new expressions in jazz.   “Blues Can Be Abstract Too” is a straight swinging blues number with a head passage that does not follow the conventional blues structure to keep it fresh and on the listener’s toes.    “Ballet Class” is his homage and respect to the classical tradition, even evoking essences of an Astor Piazzola tango groove into the piece and interpolating the melody of chopsticks during a solo passage.    In the opening remarks, Jason stated that “classical music has rhythm”, and he proved that with his group performing an exciting piece.

After a mellow ballad feature on the piece “Characters” (featuring a moving bass solo by Will Goble), Jason and the quartet get back into the blues on another blues number, “Blues for the 29%er”.     What is amazing about this piece is that the rhythm section, consisting of pianist Austin Johnson (who provides an intense solo here), bassist Will Goble and drummer David Potter, employ the stop-and-go rhythm effects made popular by the 60’s Miles Davis Quintet.    They would play fast, slow down, and play around with the time, making it another unconventional yet fresh way to play a blues number.

The quartet took a break from the original repertoire and instead played two songs paying respect and homage to the quintessential vibraphone quartet, the Modern Jazz Quartet.     Using the Modern Jazz Quartet’s arrangement of the standard “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise”, they would swing and do a straightforward interpretation of the tune before breaking into a funk interlude and a drum solo by Dave Potter.   After the drum solo, it is back to the high octane bebop for a lesser known John Lewis composition, “Travellin’”.    Even in the “Travellin” piece the rhythm section echoes another well known rhythm section, the rhythm section of the John Coltrane Quartet.   

Closing the set is a ballad paying homage to Jason Marsalis’ hometown, simply called “New Orleans”.   It is a very emotional, pensive, and mellow way to close a set of cool jazz.   

Overall, it was a great night of straight ahead, swinging jazz from start to finish.   I even managed to have a long conversation with Jason Marsalis during the break and he was very knowledgeable and serious about preserving musical traditions and not throwing them out the window for the sake of innovation, which I respect.     Not only he was serious but he was fun to talk to at the same time.    When he comes back in town, be sure to check out this new quartet whenever you can.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


SUSHI ONE happens to be one of my favourite places to get good quality Japanese cuisine at very cheap prices.    Once you step in you are treated to the freshness of the food without the need to break your bank for a good culinary experience.

Every day from 11:30-4 pm, Sushi One offers a special lunchtime menu in which various items are priced from $6.50 and up.    You can get everything from Bento Box’s, Udon noodle soup and sushi, which is high quality and fresh off the bar.

In this lunch date I had the White Tuna and Salmon Sushi along with an order of Vegetarian Spring Rolls.    The sushi portion was satisfying and I even liked the crispy texture that was included in the White Tuna Pieces to contrast the silkiness of the fish.   To start off I had a nice order of free miso soup and a salad made with a Zesty Asian-influenced dressing.

There is a whole lot of choice in the lunch menu to go around if you want to spend less than $10 on a good lunch meal.   Since sushi can be quite expensive, it is highly recommended to satisfy the cravings through a lunch menu where you can get more bang for your buck.   So whenever you are in the mood for good sushi, give Sushi One a try.  You will be glad you did.

4924 Yonge Street (Yonge/Sheppard)