Marc Copland /Adrian Vedady /Jim Doxas Trio
(Dièse Onze, Saint Denis Street, Montreal. MIJF. 2 July 2022. Review by Sebastian Scotney)
There are some facts that need saying. Often. And maybe what they really need is for someone who comes from the outside to recognise the truth and to blurt it out. Here we go: there are some highly-skilled, fully-formed practitioners of the art and the craft of playing jazz in Montreal…and they are as good as any in the world.
As American pianist Marc Copland – who has played with, er, everybody – HERE’S ALL THE PROOF NEEDED – put it last night, describing bassist Adrian Vedady and drummer Jim Doxas: “I appreciate these cats so much. This stuff is hard to do.”
Copland, Vedady and Doxas have formed a trio. They released an album in a quartet with Jim’s saxophonist brother Chet in 2020, and the will be recording a trio album here in Montreal, starting on Monday.
Copland often just starts playing without having indicated where he is going, either to the listeners or his fellow musicians. It’s not a problem, we are going to find out sooner rather than later. If there is a ritual, it is for the pianist to start gently and ethereally, “triste et lent”, as if taking Debussy’ first, highly tentative steps in the snow from “Des pas sur la neige”. In this case, it was not long before we found out where the first number was going: a lovingly crafted 4/4 version of “Greensleeves”.
It is the level of the listening among all three players which really impresses. Nothing is left to disappear off into the air, everything is reacted to. When any of the three starts a new motif, it is taken on by one of the other players instantly. It’s not necessarily imitative. Copland and Vedady have the kind of musical brains that respond to the challenge of a scale by instantly suggesting the one that goes in contrary motion. (I couldn’t actually work out who’d started that particular game…) The delicacy and the long arcs of concentration that characterise Marc Copland’s playing become normal. The listener adjusts to this sound-world. Simplicity sometimes opens the door to other worlds: there was one point I wondered if both Nikolaï Medtner and Kaikhosru Sorabji hadn’t both just walked into the room to argue through some knottier details of counterpoint.
The other players led us off on interesting journeys too. Jim Doxas went off on a particular adventure during Mongo Santamaria’s “Afro-Blue”. He started, logically enough, in a dissection of the shuffle patterns inherent in the tune, but then seemed to move off into the creation of spiritual sounds that might be heard, say, in an Indonesian temple – all kinds of gongs and chimes – except, miraculously, every sound was being made with parts of a normal drum kit.
The closing number was calming (yet also disquieting if one thinks of the lyrics): Joni Mitchell’s “Rainy Night House”. And that tune gave the clearest demonstration I have yet seen of what a ridiculously fine bass player Adrian Vedady is. His impeccable ear for tuning and level/balance, his agility around the instrument and his fluency as improviser are just jaw-dropping. A player who “must be counted among Montreal’s finest double bassists” (La Presse, 2009) might also happen to be one of the best in the world.
This album is going to be worth hearing. And some.
DISPATCH – About Dièse Onze
It obviously flies in the face of the “wisdom of the market”, but who can possibly deny that the greatest listening experiences are often to be had in tiny venues run by people devoted to making special moments happen?
Dièse Onze (it means ‘sharp eleven’) opened in 2007 . It is a seven-nights-a-week club and a cornerstone of the Canadian scene. As Gary Tremblay, the proprietor said last night: “MIJF is on for ten nights, we are a 365-days-a-year festival”. Tremblay has always worked in music and absolutely lives for it.
As he has said in an interview, speaking on behalf of the team he works with: “we love music and we are bons-vivants.” He took over the programming in 2013 and bought out the previous owner in 2015. He and his front of house manager both go out of their way to make people welcome, with the latter doing regular circuits jug-in-hand to top up people’s water. A simple gesture, but how much more effective that is than going round just once and asking people if they are enjoying their meal…
My night at Dièse Onze was a joy (next review of the Jensen sisters to follow…) but this success has to be chalked up against a wrong decision. No prior information had reached me about which guest or band Christian McBride would bring with him to this festival. In the event he performed in a one-off duo with Kenny Barron, no less. It’s been the talk of Facebook and there is bound to be some one-upmanship in the press room. You win, you lose… but really you win.
LINK: Dièse Onze website
Montrealers get a kick when outsiders from New York or London praise our food and our fabulous local jazz musicians – but it still is nice to hear.