July is upon us! We’re all making plans for the Fourth of July weekend, plans that I’m sure differ quite dramatically from what we’ve grown accustomed to in previous years.
While I am always excited to celebrate the independence of this country that I call home, it’s the first day of this month that holds a particularly special day in my heart. July 1 is, of course, Canada Day and as the only Canadian expat on staff at CapRadio, I feel it is important to celebrate the many Canadian contributions to jazz.
What follows is music spanning seven decades by some of my personal favorite Canadian jazz artists.
“Tenderly” — Oscar Peterson
“Quiet Nights and Quiet Stars” — Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson is often described as Canada’s greatest jazz musician, and with good reason. In a career spanning over 60 years, this Monteral, Quebec native won eight Grammy awards, worked with countless jazz legends like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, and was awarded the Order of Canada. He even has a statue at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, which was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in 2010.
The two pieces of music I’ve selected from Peterson represent his time on the Verve record label, which was founded by Peterson’s longtime friend and manager, Norman Granz. With “Tenderly,” we have one of the first studio recordings Peterson made in the U.S. Featuring Ray Brown on bass, who would be a fixture in Peterson’s groups for the next 15 years, this was somewhat of a hit for Peterson. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Quiet Nights and Quiet Stars” is the opening track from 1964’s “We Get Requests,” an album that would prove to be the last Peterson would create for the Verve label.
“Alone Together” — Don Thompson & Ed Bickert
“What Is This Thing Called Love” — Don Thompson & Ed Bickert
“Come Rain Or Come Shine” — Don Thompson & Ed Bickert
Ed Bickert and Don Thompson are easily two of the finest musicians Canada has ever produced. You can hear their work on recordings with the likes of Jim Hall, Paul Desmond, Ron Carter, Rosemary Clooney and George Shearing.
Bickert’s chord work on the guitar possesses a fluidity and creativity that is matched by few. As a bassist, Thompson has a sense of time and an approach to melody that are comparable to anyone past or present who could be considered great. All of these qualities and more are present on these three tracks from their duo album, “At The Garden Party.” Recorded live at The Garden Party, a community garden in Toronto, in 1978, this record captures these two giants at the peak of their respective careers. On “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” you can hear another Canadian jazz great as drummer Terry Clarke joins them
“Just Friends” — Rob McConnell & The Boss Brass
“Riffs I Have Known — Rob McConnell & The Boss Brass
One cannot talk about Canadian jazz without mentioning The Boss Brass. Established in 1967 by London, Ontario native Rob McConnell and featuring an all-star lineup of Canadian jazz talent, including Guido Basso, Ed Bickert and Pat LaBarbara, The Boss Brass became known as one of the premiere big bands in the world for over 30 years.
McConnell’s unique, rich arrangements were a signature of the group, and that sound is prevalent in these two selections. “Just Friends” from the 1987 album “Mel Torme, Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass” and “Riffs I Have Known” from 1993’s “Our 25th Year” represent some of McConnell’s best work from a period of time that is often referred to as “the golden age of Canadian jazz”.
“Lingus” — Snarky Puppy
“Change Your Mind” — Larnell Lewis
Toronto native Larnell Lewis is one of the most sought-after drummers working today. Lewis is most well-known for his work with the Brooklyn based jazz fusion group Snarky Puppy, a group that yielded him a Grammy award in 2016, but he has also recorded with David Clayton-Thomas and Emilie-Claire Barlow.
Perhaps most impressive is his 2018 solo album, “In The Moment,” on which Lewis plays bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, melodica, percussion, piano, synthesizer and vocals. You can hear this otherworldly musicianship on the track “Change Your Mind.”
Also included here is “Lingus,” a track Lewis recorded with Snarky Puppy for their 2014 record, “We Like It Here.” This tune is most famous for Cory Henry’s brilliant synthesizer solo, but Lewis’ groove is infectious. Have a listen, of course, but I also highly recommend you watch the live video recording to gain a full appreciation of the tune, the band and Lewis’ ability.
Want more music selections from CapRadio? Follow us on Spotify, or listen to our Jazz Favorites playlist below.