Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Calgary Scene - Gareth Bane

Well it's been awhile since this column has made an appearance on Four on the Floor. Today I'd like to introduce to you a very fine young musician who has recently returned to Calgary from New York City and whom I've had the pleasure of getting to know over the past few months. Gareth is an incredible talent and Calgary is very lucky to have him in its midst!

Gareth Bane’s return to Calgary signifies his continuation of hard swinging, forward thinking baritone saxophone playing. Since discovering the Baritone at an early age, he has endeavored to deepen that instrument’s mastery and introduce listeners to its true potential. A blend of jazz, R&B and funk shape the concept of his powerful sound and approach to music. Influences as diverse as Nick Brignola, Ralph Bowen and Tower of Power have solidified into his appealing concept and approach to jazz.

Already in high demand as both a performer and educator, Gareth left Calgary in 2005 to continue his studies and graduated with his Masters of Music from Rutgers University in 2007. After a year working abroad he returned to New York City to live and immerse himself in that great city’s music culture. Studying with such masters as Ralph Bowen, Stanley Cowell, Conrad Herwig, Vic Juris, Bob Francischini and Jason Marshal have only broadened Gareth’s musical direction.

Between Calgary, Rutgers and New York some of Gareth’s favorite associations have been with Ralph Bowen, Conrad Herwig, Brian Lynch, Ed Simon, Frank Sinatra Jr., Eddie Palmieri and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. He has also been building his reputation as a copyist and arranger, completing projects for Conrad Herwig, Tim Ries, Dave Pierce, Joey Van and the Calgary Stampede.

1) Can you tell us about your musical background? How did you learn to play Jazz?

I started in High School at Central Memorial playing in the school Big Band. I switched over from being a classical to a jazz undergrad at the University of Calgary in my 2nd year, graduating in 2000. I dabbled on all the saxes in high school focusing mainly on alto, but UofC was where I embraced the baritone sax and I’ve never looked back. I’ve taken lessons from one time or another from just about every saxophonist in the city including Eric Friedenberg, Pat Beliveau, Rich Harding and most recently Jim Brenan. In 2005 I left Calgary to take a Masters of Music at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (yes, thats the title) and study with legendary saxophonist Ralph Bowen. While at Rutgers I also had the fortune to learn from Conrad Herwig, Stanley Cowell, Vic Juris and Lewis Porter. I would say this is the time I made the most leaps in my understanding of jazz music to date. Since graduating in 2007 I’ve also studied with Bob Francischini, Jason Marshal and Pat Labarbera. I like learning from any sources that present themselves and feel blessed to have studied and worked with some of the greatest musicians out there.

2) Who are your musical influences and why?

Pat Beliveau was the first. He has a power to his sound on baritone I still envy (though I don’t envy playing size 5 reeds!). Ronnie Cuber for similar reasons. Nick Brignola for his virtuosity, creativity and ability to drop a blues lick in ANYWHERE! Tower of Power and Stephen “Doc” Kupka for introducing me to the groove and how the Baritone fits in it. Pepper Adams for his concept and individuality. Earl Seymour, Gary Smulyan, Serge Chaloff, Leo Parker, Harry Carnie... these are just baritone players, but I’ve been influenced by many other saxophonists and instrumentalists. Everyone in a different way. You take something from everyone you hear.

3) Name your top 5 favorite albums and how they have influenced you.


Pat Metheny Group - "The Road to You"
I love this album and always have. People say you always love the music you listened to in High School and this was it for me. PMG makes complex time changes glide by effortlessly and its live so you feed off the energy. Amazing album that taught me how to look at odd-meter and musicality.

The Brecker Brothers - "Heavy Metal Be-Bop"
In my mind the quintessential Brecker Brothers album. The famous cadenza from Funky Sea, Funky Dew should be all anyone needs to hear to become inspired to master the saxophone. Michael’s ability to create his own grooves that the rhythm sections can’t help jumping in on has always blown my mind. That and Heavy Metal Be-Bop. ‘nuff said.

Mingus Big Band - "Live in Time"
Ronnie Cuber playing “Moanin” embodies my whole perception as to how the Baritone Saxophone should be approached. That and the latin groove he plays on the out-head is awesome and one of the first things I ever transcribed.

Kenny Wheeler - "Music for Small and Large Ensembles"
This is an essential album for any who are interested in jazz composition and has formed the backbone to my arranging style.

Tower of Power - "Live and in Living Color" and "Soul Vaccination"
The MOST grooving band with the most killing horn section in the world. Aside from the awesome which is “Doc” Kupka, this horn section redefines “tight” and is my benchmark for cutoffs.

4) What sort of things are you practicing or developing musically these days?

I’m trying to really focus on vernacular so I’ve been transcribing a lot. Right now I’m working on Nick Brignola’s solo on Billie’s Bounce off of Baritone Madness. I’m also taking several different lines and concepts through 12 keys using the blues as a framework. I’m also working on “Odd Meter Etudes for All Instruments” by Everett Gates and trying to do as much writing as possible.

5) What interesting projects do you have on the go at the moment? (gigs, recordings, etc.)

I’m working on starting my original sextet “Low Blow” back up. Tenor, Trombone, Baritone, Guitar, Bass and Drums. Basic idea is the horns all sound in the bass clef. The original group had more of a hard bop feel, but I’m looking to “modern” things up a bit by getting the current lineup to do some writing of their own for the group. At the moment its looking like me (Bari), Sean Craig (Ten), Carsten Rubling (Bone), Aaron Young (Gtr), Kodi Hutchinson (Bass) and Karl Schwonic (Drums).

6) You were fortunate to spend several years studying and working in New York City. What can you tell us about your experience as both a student and professional in the big city?

I could go on at length on that one... Here are a few lessons I learned.

-Even the “Heavies” are human and you can talk to them like anybody else you respect. Most are wonderful supportive people. All are on their path which is totally different from ours or anyone else’s.

-We are all in this together and being supportive of each other is critical if we want to succeed. It always amazed me how many musicians in the scene would come out to support one an others gigs and projects.

-I truly believe one of the best things you can do for your growth in music or any life pursuit is to travel. Getting away form what you’re used too is paramount for kicking your butt up to the next level.

7)Favorite place to eat and drink in Calgary?

That’s another lengthy one...

Breakfast- Dairy Lane in Upper Hillhurst on 19th Street NW. Amazing locally sourced food. I haven’t had a bad meal in there yet. Decent coffee. I also have to give props to Monki on 10th Ave SW. I’ve only been there once so far, but it blew my mind.

Lunch- Boxwood in Central Park on 13th Ave. Good dinner too, their modest kitchen is in the middle of the restaurant and has a bar around it that you can sit at. I recommend this for dinner. They have Brew Brother’s beer on tap which adds to their awesome.

Dinner- Cassis in Kilarney on 17th Ave SW. Little French restaurant with incredible staff and menu. Great wine list to boot.

Drinks- I’m a big fan of Beer Revolution on 11th Ave SW. They have a rotating craft beer selection which rocks.

I’ll also give a nod to Wurst on 4th Street SW. I’m a little biased as I used to work there, but their food is killing and you can get the Hacker-Pschorr Kellerbier on tap...

Second nod goes to Phil and Sebastian in Marda-Loop. Some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. 

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