Aug 18, 2013 Phil Dwyer & Laila Biali at Markham Jazz Festival

PHILA picture perfect day at Markham’s 16th annual Jazz Festival at the Millennium Bandstand in Unionville for an outstanding quartet performance of the great  Phil Dwyer on saxophone/piano, Laila Biali piano/vocals,  George Koller on bass and on the drums, Larnell Lewis.  The focus was on the Canadian Songbook eh!   Canadian’s honouring Canadian’s and having a lot of fun doing it!

They kicked off the show with a jazz inspired instrumental tribute to the legendary Ian Tyson.  Laila did an outstanding job on vocals and piano on Ron Sexsmith’s Secret Heart.  Jazz-infused treatments of Randy Bachman’s She’s Come Undone and Willie Nelson’s Crazy was stellar (Nelson had an aunt from Keswick!)Laila’s rendition of, Leslie Fiest’s,  Mushaboom was delightful and fresh.  A kickin drum solo by Larnell (a jazz drummer’s drummer!) to the opening of One Note Samba was outstanding.  One Note Samba was arranged by Biali for CBC some 10 years ago (was she 12?)  They also performed two tunes from the Joni Mitchell songbook – Woodstock featured Laila on vocals/piano – Laila really captures the heart of soul of  Joni’s lyric’s without sounding like Joni – Free man in Paris, arranged and played by Phil on piano & Laila on vocals was excellent.  Bruce Cockburn’s Stolen Land, a Jane Siberry tune and Ruth Lowe’s I’ll Never Smile Again rounded out the set.

George Koller, one of the best bassist’s around these parts, outdid himself today – great solo’s and whale sound work!!   Larnell Lewis, who is new to me, is one of the most sought after jazz drummers around – I can see why….absolutely wonderful.   Laila Biali is new to me too – I was blown away with not only her great vocals but great piano chops!  Wow – very impressive.

Phil Dwyer – what can I say except- he rocks!  To quote former Globe & Mail  journalist Mark Miller “startling jazz audiences with his unprecedented command of both tenor saxophone and piano…..extraordinarily authoritative playing since his late teens” – I couldn’t have said it better myself!

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August 17/13 The Bob Cary Orchestra

A picture perfect day at the Frenchmen’s Bay Yacht Club in Pickering, Ont this afternoon to honour a good friend of the band, Carlo Vanini, who is suffering from cancer.  The Bob Cary Orchestra graciously donated their time and talents to this worthy cause.  Carlo, one of the trumpet players in Bob’s orchestra, is currently in hospital, and could not be at his event.  We send out good healing thoughts to Carlo during this difficult time.

The band was outstanding – great charts – great players!  Vocal’s by Sharon Smith & Vincent Wolfe were awesome!  Most of the charts were written by Bob Cary himself.  Bob Cary, and a great trumpet soloist I might add, has been writing big band arrangements for over 40 years.  The band selections were fun, musical and danceable  – We danced all afternoon – it was great to see so many supporters of our friend Carlo.

We hope and pray that Carlo recovers completely!!

Aug 16/13 Maceo Parker – Markham Jazz Festival

A perfect summer evening outdoors at the Millennium Bandstand stage in Markham, Ont to see the legendary Maceo Parker & Company.   It’s not everyday a girl gets to dance on stage with one of the great funk alto sax players of all time!  A bit of a stray from my normal jazz type concerts but I love a good funk now and then and who better then the Mo’ Better Blues man himself Maceo Parker!  Great tunes – tight band!  I loved “the freeze” the band did at the end of the first tune-  a whack at the drum and the whole band just froze in place – just like the game we played as kids!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX1yDXQRdOg
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But child’s play this band is not – a well produced, energetic, a truly funky band  – they do what they do best (320 shows a year!) and they do it very well.  Maceo not only plays great sax – he sings, plays flute and has some great dance moves – he is very funny to watch.   They did pay homage to the “jazz” festival,  featuring piano and Maceo on sax, by playing a really up tempo version of Satin Doll.  The rest of the evening was pure funk….Pass the Peas, Make it Funky, Give me Some More were just some of the tunes performed last night – he also performed a soulful Charles-like rendition of You Don’t Know Me.  His daughter, Darlene Parker, who does great backup vocals also performed a powerful rendition of Stand by Me.  I was dancing the entire night as were so many others – Maceo really connects with his audience – when I got the eye to come on down to the stage, I didn’t hesitate – Wow!  A  Funkadelic night it was!!

Aug 15/13 Markham Jazz Festival Denzal Sinclaire & Elizabeth Shepherd

The city of Markham (Ontario) kicked off its 16th annual Jazz Festival with the great Canadian talents of Denzal Sinclaire & Elizabeth Shepherd at the Varley Art Gallery.  The Varley Art Gallery is a small but nice place to see a duet or trio – very cozy.

Denzal really showed off this talents at this concert, in addition to his cool vocal stylings he also played piano, drums and a melodica, also known as the blow-organ.  Denzal began the show with an acapella version of “Amazing Grace” that truly was amazing.  He followed up with the oldie but goodie You Treat Me So Good, great bass playing by Devin Henderson.  He then sang I’ve Got Rhythm &  I’ve Got the World on a String – Denzal played nice brushes on the drums for this tune.  The next tune was a great rendition of Mona Lisa -he played the intro on his melodica – nice touch – it’s tough to do such a well known Nat King Cole tune, but Denzal owns this tune.   You and the Night and the Music, one of my favourites tunes was next – great phrasing & delivery.  On the drums he did a tune that was new to me called The Ruby and the Pearl, written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston (who also wrote Mona Lisa), nice brush work, a haunting beautiful song.   He did a medley of I Can’t Stop Loving You, You Don’t Know Me, Be My Love and How Glad I Am; he ended off with just the bass and him snapping his fingers to a the Beatles tune, Eleanor Rigby. Nice, really nice –  I finally know what this tune is about!  Great show – well done!

Elizabeth Shepherd started the second half with a great rendition of Love for Sale – vocal & piano solo by Elizabeth, followed by a bass solo from the great Ross MacIntire, and finished off with a  vocal scat by Elizabeth. The bass play & drummer, Colin Kingsmore, also do great vocal harmonies and back ground singing with Elizabeth on a number of tunes – multi-talented!  The next tune was written by Shepherd, called Lonely House, haunting….  The next tune was in French – I didn’t catch the name – but it sounded beautiful – rich harmonies of the three – cool finger snapping from the drummer!  (Is this a new trend?)  She performed a couple more home grown tunes – one started with very primal beat with the bass – very cool – called People are Different in the Night & a solo piano vocal piece entitled Close Enough for Love.  The last tune was You Know How I Feel – nice transition from jazz to rock feel.  Her encore piece, Just for Now,  was what she felt was an appropriate benediction tune on which to end the night – no surprise here, she was raised by the ministers of the Salvation Army.   I quote from Do Right! Music column “As far as being a “jazz performer”, Elizabeth does not count herself as one to be defined by a particular genre; her music comes straight from the soul, and is more than just what she does, but what she loves and who she is.”  Well said.

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