Monday, June 10, 2019

A Drummer's Guide to the JazzYYC Summer Jazz Festival

It's nearly Jazz festival season here in Canada and things kick off this week in my hometown of Calgary, AB with the annual JazzYYC Summer Jazz Festival running June 12-16 in various venues across the city. There is lots of great music happening this week and, in particular, many great drummers to check out.

So on that note, here's my very biased and drummer-centric picks of several not-to-be-missed shows to attend and the great drummers that will be performing this week (and in no particular order...)

- Toronto's Larnell Lewis has been making waves around the world with his deep pocket, grooves and chops to spare with artists such as pianist Laila Biali and the band Snarky Puppy. Last November's performance with bassist Mike Downes at Calgary's BuckingJam Palace was a real demonstration of sensitive dynamics and musical inventiveness from behind the drum kit. This guy can roar...but he can also whisper too.

This time Larnell is bringing his own sextet and original music to Calgary on the heel's of his recent Juno nomination to play at the Ironwood Stage & Grill on Saturday, June 15th starting at 7pm.

Larnell will also be offering a FREE drum workshop on Saturday afternoon starting at 2pm, appearing at the National Music Centre.

- Pianist Benny Green's trio featuring bassist David Wong and drummer Aaron Kimmel will undoubtedly be, for me anyways, the highlight of this year's Jazz festival.

Following in the footsteps of the many other great drummers that Green has played with (see Kenny Washington, Carl Allen, Lewis Nash, Jeff Hamilton, etc.) Kimmel's drumming and hard swinging style is no exception and will not disappoint.

Check out the discipline and control that Kimmel maintains at this breakneck tempo:

I know where I'll be on Friday evening starting at 8pm! (appearing at the Studio Bell)

Benny Green will also be offering a FREE workshop on Friday at noon (also at NMC) and I am quite looking forward to this as well.

As per always: when the Masters speak, we listen!

- Toronto's Stich Wynston has been grooving behind the Shuffle Demons for as long as I can remember and it's always a treat to hear him lay it down from behind the drums in his unique way:

Hear Stich and the Shuffle Demons at the Ironwood on Wednesday evening starting at 7pm.

- Montreal's Mark Nelson is a drummer I've long admired since I first met him at the Banff Centre ten years ago. Nelson is appearing with Elizabeth Shepard at the King Eddy on Saturday evening (930pm) along with a great band featuring Michael Occhipinti on guitar, Jacques Kuba-Seguin on trumpet and Calgary's own Jon Wielebnowski on bass.

Here's a brief clip of Nelson demonstrating some inventive rhythms on some nice Gretsch drums:

- Drummer Dan Brubeck, son of the late Dave Brubeck, will be appearing with the Brubeck Brothers Quartet at Studio Bell on Saturday evening (8pm).

- Cody Iwasiuk will be laying down some dirty grooves and greasy backbeats with the Dirty Catfish Brass Band out of Winnipeg on Thursday evening at the Ironwood (7pm)

- When I lived in Toronto I would often check out Glenn Anderson playing drums with a variety of trad Jazz groups including the likes of the Excelsior Dixieland Jazz Band at the Rex on Sunday afternoons. Anderson will be bringing his swinging beat to Calgary, backing up vocalist Alex Pangman on Friday evening at the Ironwood (7pm).

- I first met drummer Mackenzie Longpre at the University of Toronto while I was pursuing my Doctoral studies in Toronto circa. 2007-2009. Mack sounded really great back then and he now he's even better! Longpre will be performing with trumpeter/vocalist Tara Kannangara at the Ironwood on Sunday evening (7pm)

- Calgary tap dancer Kelly Steele has been making a name for herself around town over the past couple of years, faithfully attending jam sessions and gigs, initiating local audiences to the possibilities of Jazz & Tap. Check out Kelly's tap Jazz quartet at the King Eddy on Saturday evening featuring local young lion Harry Faunt on the drums (6pm).

- Once you've seen whatever concert you've chosen, make sure to head down to the Ironwood Bar & Grill Thursday through Saturday evenings (10pm) to hear pianist Dave Restivo and his trio host the late-night festival jam session. Local phenom Colin Adhikary will be holding down the drum chair and I'm sure there will be exciting things to come out of these sessions.

- While not officially part of the festival, but definitely most worthy of any serious Calgary Jazz fan's attention, is the Redline Trio featuring Jeff Sulima on drums at Betty Lou's in the basement of Devinish Building, just off of 17th Avenue and 8th Street SW.

Along with veteran saxman Mark DeJong, these guys have been holding court at this hip cocktail bar every week for well over a year now and it's a great place to relax, enjoy a nice beverage and dig some great music in a hip room. Check them out every Thursday evening starting at 7pm.

- Speaking of regular gigs, the very tasteful Nate Chiang on drums also leads a trio at the Deane House (809 9th Avenue SE) every Sunday night featuring the always well dressed Nate Waters on tenor saxophone. The band starts at 6pm, swings hard and the restaurant menu is awesome.

- And last, but certainly not least, here's a couple of notable gigs of my own coming up this week:

I'll be appearing with guitarist Joel Untinen at the Gravity Espresso & Wine Bar as part of the JazzYYC Jazz Walk on Sunday afternoon from 2-4pm (FREE admission!) Joel is home for the summer following his first year of graduate studies at New York University, studying with guitarist Peter Bernstein so this should be a fun one indeed.

And last, but certainly not least, I am also very excited to present my own "Tribute to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers" on Thursday, June 13th at the King Eddy (930pm). I am very proud of the band and music I've assembled for this performance and hope that you can join us for this special evening of music.

For more festival and ticket information, visit the JazzYYC website at www.jazzyyc.com and remember, tell them that Four on the Floor sent you!

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