On High School Bands and Jazz Greats


Hey Bloggy McBloggerson. I know it's been over a week. I wasn't giving you the silent treatment, just really busy at CSIS. Oh, but Bloggy McBloggerson before there was the week from h-e-double hockey sticks at CSIS there was the weekend of music. The wonderful, fabulous, weekend of music...music so grande it almost made up for the fact that the weather in the t-dot over the long weekend was hovering around freezing with whipping winds and rain, rain, rain. Blech.

Last Thursday, my awesome niece Janet, who is awesome and plays the flute had her grade 10 music night. Have I mentioned that she's awesome? Well, she is. Besides, what's more fun than a high school music night? When you get bored clenching your ears at the horrible vocal ensemble you can try to pin point who the bitchiest and trampiest girls in said horrible vocal ensemble are. Or if that gets dull you can unclench your ears and listen to the grandmother of the best flute player in the school bitch about how the music teacher is pulling focus from the kids because she's dressed like a tramp. You see how a bitch/tramp theme began to emerge there? And I haven't even begun to touch on how I'm turning into my mother, because that opens up a whole 'nother can of worms on the bitchy/trampy front.

I keeeed.

At any rate, Janet was fab in the concert band and the orchestra and I'm certain she will shine even more in the years to come. The kid's a big fish in a little pond over there. She's a superstar, I tell ya.

Speaking of big fish in little ponds, last Friday the Robeau and I attended A Tribute to Don Thompson at the inaugural Art of Jazz Celebration taking place at the Distillery District. The evening featured Don Thompson on vibes, piano and bass, Jim Hall on guitar, John Handy on alto sax, Dave Holland on bass, Terry Clarke on drums and Phil Dwyer on piano and tenor sax.

Don Thompson is one of those true greats, the kind of artist I fear we take for granted here in Canada. He is a gifted multi instrumentalist, a composer, arranger, teacher and has played over the years with the likes of Paul Desmond, Lenny Breau, Art Farmer, Milt Jackson, Kenny Wheeler, George Shearing and Sonny Greenwich, just to name a few. The genius musicians assembled that night for the tribute have all worked extensively with Thompson and obviously feel very fondly towards him, as, of course, did the small and appreciative audience.

Thompson is almost as well known for his clipped, monotone way of speaking as his musical prowess. Every single time he got up there to tell a story or to introduce a tune I had to stifle giggles. You see everyone, even those on the very edges of the jazz community in Toronto has an impression of Thompson's unique speaking voice. To hear him talk at such length was a hoot. Most gigs I've seen him play over the years you're lucky if he introduces a tune. It's hard to describe, but he's so endearing.

The music that night was without parallel. From Thompson's composition in tribute to Charlie Parker "Bird Bath" to standards like "Just Friends" the group tore it up. Handy was a true entertainer, Hall hasn't been in Toronto in my lifetime so I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to see him live. I really like his warm, fuzzy sound. Terry Clarke has no equals. Dave Holland played a phenomenal solo piece that left me breathless. Afterwards the Robeau commented that I looked delighted after that piece. Indeed, I was...it was some of the most evocative musical storytelling I've ever witnessed, all without the aid of lyrics or even other instruments. Phil Dwyer, who is no stranger in these parts, is in many ways Thompson's heir apparent. I've seen him play tenor live a bunch (he even has a killer solo on the Clayton/Scott Group album "So Nice"!) but I'd never seen him play piano. I guess in the back of my mind I assumed since it was his secondary instrument he wouldn't shine the way he does on sax. Boy, when I'm wrong, I'm spectacularly wrong. The man's a freak. He may have been the most talented one on stage that night, even among his teachers and elders.

Later that weekend we caught two shows, back to back in the duo series at The Art of Jazz. Kenny Barron & Eddie Henderson and Ravi Coltrane & Luis Perdomo. They couldn't have been more different from each other yet they were both very enjoyable. I'll write more on those later. Right now I'm off to pack for a long weekend trip to Ottawa to hang with some girlfriends and maybe even drive to Waterloo, New York to do some cross-border shopping. Good. Times.


  1. sounds like good times!

    love high school bands.

    i was in them throughout high school and can i tell you how super cool i was? oh yeah baby, cool as ice.......LMAO!!


  2. Anonymous10:11 AM

    BT wishes to relate an awesome occurrence at your sister Maureen's natal day celebration. A game of Scrabble was played. Niece Janet presented Aunt Maureen with "the gift of humility"!

    In a few minutes you may stop giggling and resume your duties.


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