Monday, October 11, 2010

Lewis Nash with Renee Rosnes (Concert Review)

This past Friday and Saturday evenings I had the distinct pleasure of hearing the Renee Rosnes Quartet perform at the Cellar Jazz Club in Vancouver, British Columbia. This was my first visit to this fine establishment and owner Cory Weeds has done an exceptional job at creating the perfect environment for both performers and patrons alike to play and listen to live Jazz music on Canada's West Coast. Along with Edmonton's Yardbird Suite this is truly one of Canada's premier Jazz clubs and Vancouverites should consider themselves very lucky to have it!

The band consisted of Vancouver ex-pat Renee Rosnes on piano, Steve Nelson on vibraphone, Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. Nash has long been a hero of mine since bassist Dave Watts first played me Joe Lovano's seminal double album "Quartets" released during the mid 1990s. I've been a big fan of Nash's drumming ever since through his extensive recorded work with many of the world's leading Jazz artists but unfortunately I have only had the occasion to hear him play live once. During one of my travels to New York City in 2000 I had the opportunity to hear him play with the "Grand Slam" band consisting of Nash on drums with Jim Hall on guitar, Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone (and other assorted woodwind instruments) and George Mraz on double bass. I remember this gig well as I was expecting them to play an evening of standards (for some reason!) but instead was treated to them really stretch on a program of original music that was very loose and free in nature and took full advantage of Jim Hall's varied array of effects pedals. Inspiring stuff and Lewis Nash has always been one of my favorite contemporary Jazz drummers ever since.

So when I heard that Nash was playing two nights in Vancouver with Rosnes, Washington and Nelson I knew couldn't pass up this opportunity to hear this great band of musicians that I've long admired.

The music both evenings featured high-energy renditions of Rosnes's original compositions and other (to me anyways) lesser known tunes (but all brilliant none the less!). Some of the highlights for me included Rosnes fine tunes "Mirror Image", "Let The Wild Rumpus Begin", "Manhattan Rain" and "Iceland", Irving Berlin's "Suppertime", Duke Elllington's "Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool", a blues by McCoy Tyner (sorry I missed the title...) and some beautiful renditions of music by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Milton Nascimento.

The band played really great and really demonstrated their affinity for a contemporary, straight-ahead approach to Jazz music while at the same time truly playing in the moment without resorting to old cliches. I really identify with these musician's approach and their conception of contemporary Jazz playing so all-in-all it very much resonated within me.

I found pretty much everything I heard from this group to be inspiring on so many levels and, in particular, Lewis Nash's drumming was quite exceptional. His dynamic sense of swing combined with a HUGE dynamic palette (ranging from playing barely a whisper to an uncompromising tidal wave across the drums...) as well as a very creative and ingenious sense of orchestration of the drum set really did it for me. In particular the clarity of his ideas on drums, his acute articulation and a very definitive sense of phrasing really makes his drumming speak.

This band also recently completed a week-long hit at the Village Vanguard and fortunately for us NPR captured this great band live. Here's the streaming audio link:

And amazingly this Vanguard broadcast was also filmed (!) so here's the link to the video portion as well:

Truly an inspiring weekend of music and I consider myself very lucky to have been a part of this !

Now it's time for me to head back to the woodshed to try and put into action all this outstanding music I've just absorbed...

ed: Looks like someone snuck in some video footage of the Saturday evening show (it wasn't me!!!)


Hey I'm hosting the jam session this coming Thursday evening at Calgary's premier Jazz venue, the Beatniq Jazz & Social Club with Calgary Sax Titan Jim Brenan. Come by, say hello and sit in !


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