SPIRIT DANCE: CANADIAN BRASS AND JAZZ PIANO CD
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It took four years from start to finish' but at long last it's here.
Spirit Dance, the CD that unites two internationally renowned musical entities who got their start in Hamilton, the Canadian Brass and jazz pianist David Braid, has just been released on the Canadian Brass's Opening Day label. To start, let's rewind to one night in 2006 where Braid is in his Toronto apartment frantically packing to catch a flight to go on tour. His phone rings. It's the Canadian Brass. They're right around the corner and want to see him pronto. "I wasn't going to say I'11 get back to you," recalled Braid.
So, Braid drops what he's doing, and rushes to meet them. Seems the Brass had done some homework on Braid, checked out his CDs, and were now itching to do some kind of collaboration. "They just said, 'Do what you do, feature yourself and that was about it' said Braid. "Surprisingly, they left things kind of loose, not even discussing a deadline." But from that moment, Braid's wheels were already turning.
"When I walked out the door, I had ideas going on” said Braid “it seemed like a fertile proposition, musically.”
But 2006 was a fertile year for Braid, especially with his Asian tour and the release of Zhen: David Braid Sextet Live Volume II' a disc recorded the previous year at Toronto's
Top o' the Senator (now the Savoy Bistro & Lounge). Zhen was the follow up to Vivid (2004), which followed the David Braid Sextet (2001). Now, if you have any of these CDs or if you caught any of the David Braid Sextet’s shows in Hamilton you'll know that the group was made up of six prime improvisers primed for spontaneous combustion on Braid's originals. There was John Macleod's simmering flugelhorn and those ecstatic, stratospheric screeches plus reedman Mike Murley's shimmering solos, Gene Smith's talkative trombone, Steve Wallace's running bass lines, and Terry Clarke on the drum kit keeping everyone in line. With the Canadian Brass's proposition, Braid knew that things would have to be different. His challenges were twofold. First, how to write for an ensemble without a rhythm section? That, of course, wasn't new to Braid who had partnered with Japanese guitarist Hideaki Tokunaga as well as clarinetist Phil Nimmons in rhythm sectionless duos. Second, what to write for a seasoned jazz improviser such as himself joined by a group of classically trained brass players. It wouldn't be “Hey, here's a set of chord changes, blow a solo over it. That’s not their (the CB's) experience. That's my experience” said Braid.
So, Braid asked tuba player Chuck Daellenbach, the lone founding member still with the CB, if he could check out Luther Henderson's charts for the group. Then, Braid took originals such as Spirit Dance and Andalusia, tunes he'd done with his sextet, and reconceived them for the CB' writing some new pieces along the way.
Spirit Dance finds Braid largely in musical landscape mode. However, the self-effacing
Braid doesn't hog the limelight. He's worked out his charts so that the CB is equal partners in the picture, climaxing their affair with the final track. The opening cut, Interior Castles, sets a mellow mood with the CB's former hornist Jeff Nelsen soloing on a haunting melody purposely mixed to overshadow Braid's rolling piano accompaniment.
An afternoon stroll in Beijing’s Temple of Heaven Park in 2007 was the springboard for Temple Heaven Walk. Here, Braid improvises using a prepared piano while the CB provides an effective opening drone' one of their few improvised passages. The CB's other improvised spot came in Resolute Bay (Part I). Partway through this tempered and introspective soundscape, Braid feeds off the CB, who improvise on a set of four pitches.
The brief Prelude for Two Voices ought to be performed during a Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial.
In Braid's hands, Yesterdays, from the Jerome Kern Songbook, is fertile fodder for theme and variations treatment. It's also the longest track on the CD, allowing Braid several solos where, at long last, he lets down his hair before tying things up in a neat bow with a razzle-dazzle Canadian Brass Rag-style ending.