A 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!