Thursday, November 08, 2007

Galloway leads talented quartet
Experienced players will hit stage as jazz fest heads into final weekend

Roger Levesque

As the Yardbird Jazz Festival continues into its final weekend, there are some top-notch acts to catch with a double bill each evening.

- The band that Toronto bassist-bandleader Rosemary Galloway brings with her to perform tonight is an exquisite, talent-heavy quartet, given the presence of saxophonist Pat LaBarbera, pianist Gary Williamson and drummer Terry Clarke. Their recent CD, Live At Montreal Bistro, has also won high praise for the sizzling interaction of the band on a program of mostly original material.

They're all experienced musicians who have worked with some of the most famous names in jazz. But Galloway herself maintains one of the busiest careers of the bunch, co-leading several different groups including Velvet Glove, Swing Sisters and another quintet with Jane Fair.

Edmonton singer Diana Stabel opens the date with a trio backing that includes Charlie Austin and Sandro Dominelli. Tonight's show starts early at 8. Tickets are $20 for Edmonton Jazz Society members and $24 for guests, at the door.

- D.D. Jackson has been living in New York since he first went there to study in 1989, and over that time the Ottawa-born pianist has become one of the most prominent Canadian players to win international recognition for his work with David Murray, Jane Bunnett and from leading his own projects.

His phenomenal keyboard abilities will be on display for a solo set Friday before bassist Don Bradshaw's Big Ideas band takes over.

While Jackson is weary of generalizations, he feels that Canadian jazz players benefit from being neighbours to the American scene.

"There's such a diversity out there, but speaking from personal experience I think there is something about growing up nearby American culture and not feeling completely a part of it. That gives you a slightly once-removed perspective and that's a good thing. It allows you to take a step back and not be so burdened with the tradition."

There may also be another factor tied to our geography.

"New York musicians have a very in-the-moment, competitive intensity, while a lot of the musicians I've worked with in Canada have a slightly more laid-back vibe which speaks to the wide-open spaces and lower population you find in Canada. But I'm sure there are exceptions to that too."

These days, playing jazz in varied contexts is just part of Jackson's multifaceted career as he juggles posts as music director for the New York-based Chicago City Limits comedy troupe, writing a bimonthly column for the magazine Downbeat, teaching work and time as a new father. Jackson hasn't forgotten his roots either. In fact, he has penned two separate operas with librettos by Canadian writer George Elliot Clarke that have been presented here (Quebecite, the semi-biographical story of his parents' life, and Trudeau, based on the life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the late former prime minister).

As one artist who's very involved in the marketing of his own work, Jackson is exploring the current transition in the music business through his part in the independent ArtistShare organization, and his website offers an excellent example of the many avenues artists can use to bring their work to the public via videos, podcasts and more (see While the pianist has been lucky enough to record a dozen albums for such labels as RCA and Justin Time, he notes that very few jazz artists make a living from their recordings.

Jackson says playing solo is the "most challenging" angle to performing, and promises a few tunes from his last CD, Serenity Song (2006, Justin Time), with lots of improvising Friday. After Don Bradshaw's Big Ideas (with Mo Lefever and Dan Skakun) play, don't be surprised if Jackson sits in with the trio.

The show starts Friday night at 9. Tickets are $20 for members, $24 for guests.

- Vancouver guitarist Gordon Grdina closes out the Yardbird fest Saturday with his trio (bassist Tommy Babin, drummer Kenton Loewen). They're not quite the stars he hooked in for his last recording -- think Paul Motion, who played on Think Like The Waves, and Gary Peacock), but their solid working relationship promises a unique dip into modern jazz. Edmonton's Bill George and his quintet open at 9 p.m. Saturday.

The Edmonton Journal 2007