Wednesday, July 8, 2015


Over the years, Canadians have decided to trek to the big city of opportunities, New York City, to learn, build, and thrive in the world of jazz and creative music.    Some come back home to build up Canada’s scene, while others stay and let their talents and careers blossom in a huge cultural hotpot that is New York.  

Among those crop of artists is Manhattan School of Music graduate and scholarship fellow Curtis Nowosad.    Curtis is emerging as one of the most exciting, creative, and deeply engaging drummers and composers incubated in the New York education and jazz scene.    Originally hailing from Winnipeg Manitoba where he studied jazz, he is carving a great niche for himself in the New York jazz community and his composition and playing chops is fresh, rooted in tradition, and never stops swinging.

In a set comprising of originals, standards, and a Pink Floyd composition, Curtis and his quartet shift through tight grooves, engaged in tight interplay, and brought an energy and excitement to jazz music which is nothing short of electric.  

The opening number, Thelonious Monk’s classic composition “Evidence”, elevated the concepts of the bebop language into the 21st century with its Freddie Hubbard/Woody Shaw inspired solos and passages by trumpeter Derrick Gardner, single hand harmolodism on the piano by pianist Will Bonness, and a Jimmy Garrison influenced attack on the bass by Steve Kirby.   Curtis, through the whole performance, holds it down with an aggressive attack on the drums and even takes a fiery drum solo to set the pace for the evening.

On both of his compositions, aptly named “Empirically Speaking” and “Gleaning and Dreaming”, Curtis is highly influenced by the Blue Note eras through his writing material.   The first tune was even homage to a Blue Note stalwart, the producer/pianist and composer Duke Pearson, which brought depth, swing and pizzazz to the performance.   “Gleaning and Dreaming” is more of a modern influenced composition with its mellow grooves, bringing a cool element into 21st century jazz.

The most intriguing piece of the set would have to be Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine”.   I am not familiar with Pink Floyd’s music, but as evident through this performance, I can tell that the group Pink Floyd is a master of complexity and richness in songwriting and composition.   Through this jazz arrangement, those elements are brought forth with atmospheric effects of Will’s Rhodes, exploratory trumpet by Derrick, and shifts from Latin, hip-hop funk and swing by both Steve and Curtis.

Closing the set Curtis’ quartet did a brief but engaging take on the classic standard “I Remember You”, which propelled the swing and fire of jazz in lightening speed and leaves the band members inspired and hungry for more.

Bands such as the Curtis Nowosad quartet make me happy because it really shows that jazz has a viable and thriving future among the youthful, millennial generation.  A day will come where mainstream society will be weaned from the likes of saccharine, lifeless pop music and into real music that has substance, style, class and pizzazz.   Curtis’ quartet has all of the above and more, and I really can’t wait to see the great new talent that is emerging from the jazz capital of the world.


 (Curtis, Derrick, Steve and Will performing "Evidence")

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