Before going to the other side of town to catch the swinging sounds of the Matt Wilson Quartet, I decided to stop over at the Monarch’s pub to catch an artist that never disappoints and thrills with his choice of repertoire, musicians, and directions in music. It would be none other that the great local National Jazz Award winning and Trinidadian-born trumpeter Brownman Ali (who spent much of the last year touring with A-list rappers such as Jay-Z and Mos Def) and one of his many group configurations, this time in a classic “akoustic” quartet setting. In this setting he pays respect and homage to the classic sounds of the 1950’s and 1960’s, with its influences of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and the Blue Note hard bop era.
The band first of all, is anchored by the rhythm tandem of young guns Julian Anderson-Bowes on bass and Morgan Childs on drums. To make it a quartet, the "plus one" added stellar award winning pianist David Restivo to give the ensemble the classic oomph as they put their own stamp onto the classic jazz repertoire.
Starting things off on a swinging note is the quartet’s take on the classic standard “Beautiful Love”. From the get-go the ensemble swings hard, making every note count and feeling every bit of the rhythm they could get from the piece. Brown’s performance ultimately carries him into the upper registers of his instrument, building on its intensity and strength. David’s piano solo is full of new modernistic ideas, channeling the great modern pianists such as McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock while at the same time bringing his own unique voice into the performance. Julian provides solid rhythm and timekeeping that is in sync with Morgan’s superlative drumming styles. Overall, it was a great and a strong way to start off an incredible evening of jazz.
Things cooled down with Brown’s take on “Dolphin Dance”, fleshing out its complex chord changes and melody with expert aplomb by the quartet with emphasis on Brown's dark tone and delicate touch. More widely known for his virtuosic dexterity as a jazz trumpet player, this tune showcases his expressive melodic abilities. For the Latin number of the set, Brown and his men put on a stellar, rhythmic take on Antonio Carlos Jobim’s classic bossa nova piece “How Insensitive”. Morgan Childs’ drum technique is in full display in this piece, employing an effective bossa nova feel that is groovy and full of feeling at the same time. It really shows how he is one of the most sensitive and effective drummers playing in Toronto today.
Closing out the first set was the spirited take on Miles Davis’ classic bop number “Seven Steps to Heaven”. Brown effectively channeled the spirit of Miles Davis with his rendition of the piece, showing that throughout his career and in his performances he has studied, breathed, and lived out the true spirit of jazz music, just as Miles did.
For those that want classic jazz that goes in various directions and wants superb musicianship and playing by all, Brown’s “Akoustic” groups is definitely your best bet for a good night of jazz.
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