Saturday, May 30, 2015


In the 21st century, there is a tendency to see jazz leaving the consciousness of the millennial generation.   Thanks to YouTube, social media, downloading and streaming, various forms of music have been available and tend to cater to the top 40 crowd clamoring for a hit.

There are up and coming artists who still think that jazz is a cool thing that should be explored and expanded upon by the millennial generation.    Among those artists who are part of this millennial generation is the multi-talented tenor saxophonist and composer, Landen Vieira.

I first heard about him through a University of Toronto student and classmate of his who stated that his tone and attack is like a 1960’s Wayne Shorter.   Upon further evidence of what I experienced one Monday night at the Emmett Ray, we see that not only Wayne Shorter is echoed, but Joe Henderson and to a further degree John Coltrane.    As a result, I made it a point of myself to follow (and eventually jam) with this up and coming new talent.

In his set it was mostly a program of creative originals and a couple of standard chestnuts that swung like mad.    “Light Piece” is a fierce bebop number that sets the tone of a later day Rudy Van Gelder Blue Note session, an advanced post-bop number employing stop and go time, sheets of sound, and quartal harmonies in the solo passages of all involved (pianist Adrean Farrugia, bassist Julian Anderson-Bowes and drummer Ethan Ardelli).   “Do It” had the pizzazz and feel of an Art Blakey stomper that has a bluesy groove that is funky and makes you want to snap your fingers.   

One of the standard chestnuts, the Cedar Walton hard bopper “Bolivia”, employed a playful intro vamp that sets a groove and pace for the swing of the tune, which breaks into chord changes and modal interplay between Landen and the rhythm section.    Back to original territory, “Dove” is a beautiful ballad in which employs devices similar to two standards, the AABA format and keys of “Body and Soul” and a B section in which the melody borrows a part of “Like Someone in Love”.    Closing out the set is a quantum burner called “Double Vision”, in which Landen employs his Michael Brecker influences with a tune that is basically the chord changes to “Nothing Personal” which shifts from stop time to fast paced post-bop.

From what I heard that Monday night, I can rest assured that artists such as Landen Vieira give me
such hope that jazz has an enlightened and a secure future in Canada and beyond in the 21st century.


(Landen Vieira)


On a beautiful spring Tuesday night, the Jazz Bistro was packed with friends, family and jazz fans alike to witness the release of a new CD by a charming vocalist named Mary Panacci called “Her Perfume”.    From the looks of the repertoire and the titling of her CD, it was a night celebrating love, romance, and timeless music from various parts of the world.   

Under the careful direction of Mary’s husband and pianist Anthony Panacci, they lead an all star band (Ted Quinlan on guitar, Mike Downes on bass, Kevin Dempsey on drums and Kelly Jefferson on saxophones) and its special guests through well executed arrangements (courtesy of Shelly Berger) and soaring performances that tug on one’s heart strings and treats the music as a collective family affair.    

Starting with the opening number “A Beautiful Friendship”, the spirited arrangement effectively merges Mary’s sunny, spirited vocals with the lively swing of the backup band.   In this opening number Ted Quinlan takes a very cool and melodic solo to get the music going to a good start.    In “Double Rainbow”, Mary’s voice is more angelic and more romantic in this number, while she and her band take us to sunny Brazil singing about one of the world’s beauties.   From the get go, Mary’s voice is full of life and charm, and makes the music more welcoming to the listener.   On Double Rainbow there is even a fine Stan Getz-influenced sax solo contributed by the great Kelly Jefferson.    

In celebration of the CD release, Mary invited three special guests to share the stage with her, adding their special touch to the CD Release celebration.   First, there was the violinist Drew Jurecka who brought a classy, European gypsy-tinge to songs such as “I Wish You Love” and “La Vie En Rose”.    Smooth jazz crooner John Alcorn joins in the fun with Mary as they do a romantic take on the standard “How About You”, sounding like a perfectly matched couple roaming around the streets of New York.    Last but not least, Mary invites her daughter and a fine jazz singer Natalie Panacci as they swing through the standard “Almost Like Being in Love”, and take us to the Brazilian beaches in the classic standard “The Girl From Ipanema”.   Natalie’s vocals showcase a huge jazz sensibility, and she is even creative with her scat singing and melodic duets with her mother.  

Aside from the familiar tunes that she did in the evening, Mary even made room for selecting repertoire that was fresh, adaptable, and not heard too often in the jazz context.    “Love Dance” serves as a beautiful love ballad which is well arranged and performed by Mary with her vocal delivery and the band which backed her up with such sensitivity and support.   The Italian/French song “Love is Stronger Far Then We” showcased the splendor of Italy through Drew’s violin playing and the pleasure surprise of pianist Anthony Panacci brining out his accordion to add an old-school Italian touch to the piece.    On the title track “Her Perfume”, it is a driving blues number that opens in 5/4 and then swings in 4/4, allowing Mary to show off her sassy soulful side to go along with a romantic evening.

Through what I heard at the CD Release concert, the Panacci’s has put together a winning formula that celebrates love and beauty from various aspects of the world.   Mary’s vocals is so inviting and endearing that she made the audience want to be a part of her family, and her backup band for the night knew how to both let go and hold back at the appropriate times to make the music more effective.    The concert was an effective, successful way to celebrate a momentous artistic achievement from beginning to end.



On what would be the first of three nights at the Jazz Bistro, rising star jazz guitarist Alex Goodman brought in his newly formed chamber quintet to showcase its unique brand of classical-meets-jazz improvisation.    The series of gigs was also part of the TD Discovery Special Projects series as well as a future CD recording of this unique ensemble.

What I first noticed about this quintet was its unique instrumentation of vibraphone, acoustic guitar, voice, cello and percussion.   Through these instruments, they collectively improvise and blend together musically in addition to showing their virtuosic talents of each instrument.    Even the repertoire played in this quintet was different since it blends originals, classical music, and film music as vehicles for exploration and improvisation.   

Among the originals, the opener “Acrobat” allows Alex to show off his Spanish flamenco influences with his guitar styling’s and the percussion elements provided by Rogerio Baccato shifting from bossa nova to high-energy flamenco.   Also vocalist Felicity Williams showcases her creative and melodic vocals into the tune by treating it like an instrument that complements the ensemble effectively.    Vibraphonist Mike Davidson employs the four-mallet technique playing creative solos and accompanying as if he was a piano player, and Andrew Downing creates light and airy bass lines on the cello as if he was playing an upright bass.   

In its varied repertoire, the quintet does a creative and note-for-note arrangement of “Pure Imagination” from the classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie.   Keeping to that arrangement and utilizing its unique instrumentation brings a dreamy, magical quality to the music.    The standard “Darn that Dream” is even treated as a classically influenced reading with a moving arrangement and Felicity’s strong vocal reading.    An obscure standard, “Out of This World”, shifts from samba to swing, with effective and groovy solos by the ensemble and an arrangement that takes the standard into exploratory places.

Among its classically influenced pieces, the quintet took Scott Joplin’s “Solace” into a vehicle for collective improvisation, bringing in the “Spanish tinge” through Rogerio’s percussion and all members of the band bringing in their unique voices to transform and bring light to a piece that I haven’t heard before.   They even did Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” in the form of a tango and shows that there is no boundaries between the worlds of jazz and classical music.    Even Alex’s two guitar etudes, “Chorale” and “Song Without Words”, the interplay between voice and guitar is heavenly and sets a pensive, religious tone for the presentation of the music.   

Upon listening to Alex and his colleagues as a chamber quintet, I was treated to something fresh, new, creative, and musically stimulating.    The instrumentation is different, the repertoire is varied, and the performances are sensitive and well executed to a discerning audience.