Live review

Michael Kanan – Global Music Foundation’s Online Concert Series

Michael Kanan
(Global Music Foundation’s Online Concert Series. Streamed on Zoom. 3 October 2020. Review by Rosa Sawer)

The Global Music Foundation has put together an impressive series of live online concerts with top jazz artists that is accessible from the comfort of one’s own home through Zoom. The event consists of a 30-minute concert followed by a short Q&A which allows for inclusivity and mutual appreciation between the musician and the audience. It’s a brilliant idea that allows anyone to experience live music (albeit still through a screen, but what isn’t nowadays?) and if listened to through a good pair of headphones or speakers, it’s easy to get swept up in live music for an evening.

Michael Kanan in Zoom performance. Screenshot: Rosa Sawer

On Saturday 3 October it was the turn of Boston-born, Brooklyn-based jazz pianist Michael Kanan. A pianist from the age of seven who started improvising very early on, Kanan’s unique and confident style clearly has deep foundations. It’s a style which has grown from his continued interest in and connection to both jazz traditionalists and modernists –  Kanan has played and recorded with the likes of Al Cohn and Jimmy Scott, as well as collaborating with Kurt Rosenwinkel and Mark Turner. That shows not only the high demand for Kanan, but also his flexibility as a pianist.

Over the course of this concert, Kanan performed a mélange of timeless jazz standards from the Great American songbook, including Duke Ellington, Julie Stein and Cole Porter. The fourth song in Kanan’s set, an evocative rearrangement of Sweet And Lovely – which he dedicated to the late American jazz pianist and composer Richard Wyands – was rich, moody and, within the first two bars, had transported this listener out of their home and into a New York club.

Kanan says when he first learns a song he “always likes to learn it with the lyrics” in order to achieve the correct phrasing. But I also believe that the keys speak for themselves, especially when Kanan effortlessly transitions from chord to glissando and back again.

When Kanan plays he manages to unlock the depth and history that is enclosed by the music. Perhaps this is why so many of his international audience during this online concert were touched by his rendition of Cole Porter’s In The Still Of The Night, a song originally published in 1937, but one that still does not fail to move people nearly 100 years later. It was at a friend’s request that Kanan gave his debut rendition of this enduring song, both personal and universal in its simplistic beauty.

In the Q&A afterwards, Kanan expertly turned the line of questioning onto the audience, asking: “What does anyone feel about playing standards in the year 2020? How relevant are they?” The impressive reaction to Kanan’s concert in itself answered this question: that these songs continue to be relevant and valued today. Indeed, as was stated by the audience members, emotion does not go out of date.

And, of course, Kanan’s heart lies with the greats of the jazz standards, but I would be interested to hear his timeless touch brought to a contemporary jazz composition. Despite his prolific discography with other jazz artists over the years, could a solo album be next on the cards? It’s certainly something that his fans are hoping for.

Michael Kanan will be playing a live concert along with his New York Trio featuring guitarist Greg Ruggiero and bassist Neal Miner on 21 November 2020. It will be their first live gig together since January and highly recommended for anyone in the New York area who would be lucky enough to experience this musical virtuoso in the flesh and blood.

LINKS:
Global Music Foundation concerts

Michael Kanan’s website

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