The Canadian Jazz Quartet at Quotes Bar and Grill

24.2.07

For the past few weeks I've noticed that King Street favourite Quotes Bar and Grill has been advertising jazz Friday nights from 5pm - 8pm. My day job at CSIS tends to keep me late, especially on Fridays, so when the opportunity arose for me to leave a wee bit early this past Friday I took myself directly to Quotes. This is an old school kind of place, with a welcoming ambience and an excellent casual dining menu. Apparently they boast quite the selection of scotch for the swanky-tank, hoity-toit business types that turn up as well. Me? I was thrilled with my pint of Stella. There is something about this place that reminds me of New York. It feels a lot like one of those midtown joints you'd go to for dinner before a show. No coincidence I suppose since it is in the heart of Toronto's theatre district.

When I took my seat in front of the band I was immediately filled with a sense of nostalgia. The dark wood and the fact that I was the youngest person in the room by a good decade or two (excepting of course the waitstaff - I'm way older than any of them) took me back to Meyer's Deli in Yorkville and George's Spaghetti House. Ah, sweet memories of my youth, drinking diet coke, surrounded by blue hairs.

Of course the real reason for going is the music. Each week the Canadian Jazz Quartet serves as a sort of house band (and what a house band!) alongside a special guest. This week the special guest was trombonist Russ Little who non-jazz fans will know from the band "Lighthouse" and TV fans will know as the man responsible for the theme to SCTV. Little is a virtuoso on his horn, a soloist who really succeeds in making it all look very easy. He's got a lovely way with a ballad too. It was a pleasure to listen to him. I could have done so all night.

I have to admit though, his patter between tunes kind of got to me. He was very, for lack of a better word, slick when he was on the mic. All "this is a little thing called..." and "Yeah!". I absolutely despise when musicians say "a little thing called..." it sounds so dismissive. A "little thing"? Do you think Cole Porter or George Gershwin were sitting down to write a "little thing". Little? Thing? Yuck. Save it for the cruise ships, guys. Save it.

Of course, I should really take it easy on him for that, because he was simply treating the audience like we mattered. The fact that he came off "loungey" to me shouldn't matter, because the crowd was eating it up.

What I can't get past is the way he talked to the band between tunes. In an environment like that you are close enough to hear them try to figure out which tune to play next. Here's the thing. If you're going to play the kind of set where you are a slickster on the mic then plan you set out in advance. If you're just gonna call tunes, call tunes. Don't turn around and ask FRANK WRIGHT if he knows a little thing called ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE!!!!! DON'T DO IT RUSS! And when Frank Wright, one of the finest vibe players this country has produced (top 3 I'd say) looks at you in disbelief, don't then say "not you, Frank, I know you know...." OK, so Frank's good enough to know a standard like that but you have questions about Bob McLaren, Rob McBride (Duncan Hopkins and Don Vickery were not playing that night) and Gary Freakin' Benson. Come on.

They did play Jerome Kern's "All the Things you Are" and they played it beautifully. Benson and Wright's solos in particular were mesmerizing.



5 comments :

  1. Wow girl! You really know your Jazz huh??
    Did you go alone? I would love to go to a place like that, by myself even but I have this phobia of eating alone. I really need to get over it. The only jazz bar/live music "joint" in my city was also named the #1 pickup-singles joint so I have been staying far away...but that may just have to change.
    And please do clarify- blue hair??I know you didn't turn that gorge mane into a blue mess. Please say no!

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  2. Also I am tagging you.

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  3. I just discovered your blog; I am enjoying it so much! I look forward to your future postings. I love jazz clubs too, but always feel a bit unsophisticated when I go!

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  4. SoMuchSugar, Welcome!

    CeCe - my dear, the 'blue hairs' are all the old timers that go to jazz clubs :)

    What are you tagging me for? What's my assigment?

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  5. Just wanna say that Mr. Little was on the air at Jazz FM today helping them fundraise and he did a lovely job. The above entry is not meant as a indictment of the man, just the way he handled himself at that gig which bothered me, and probably not anyone else. Felt the need to say that.

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