Pianist Adam Daudrich will celebrate the tradition of the jazz piano trio at his concert at GigSpace Saturday evening.

Adam Daudrich at Mercury Lounge  ©Brett Delmage, 2011
Adam Daudrich at Mercury Lounge ©Brett Delmage, 2011

In fact, it's a tradition that's been handed down to him – from his teacher, NYC pianist Mike Longo, and even further back from Longo's own teachers, who included Oscar Peterson.

Daudrich, who grew up in Ottawa but now lives in Montreal, has teamed up with bassist Kyle Morin and drummer Marc Beland, both from Montreal. The trio has been together since this spring, mostly playing Daudrich's own compositions plus a few standards.

“It's a mix of modern jazz trio with a lot of pop influences and the American jazz tradition of swing, blues, and particularly bebop. So we mix the American tradition with the modern pop music quite well and it creates a nice balance for the audience.”

Daudrich met Morin back in 2004 in Toronto, and they had “this one fantastic gig” with another musician from Ottawa, and “we were really surprised at how well the sound came together. We were mystified: it was like jazz magic. And I never really forgot about that, but in the interim period circumstances were such that we all went in different directions. Kyle went west; I went to Europe and worked on cruise ships. And it took us a very long time to get back on the same page because we had developed separately for that period of time.”

The two reunited in Montreal in 2009, and played together occasionally since then. Then Daudrich met Beland through a jam session in Montreal, and they found they both enjoyed playing and listening to each other.

“I saw the chemistry that I had with the drummer and the chemistry I had prior with the bassist”, and Daudrich decided to try a few trio gigs in May, one of which was the Governor-General's Awards in Ottawa. “And it worked out.”

When Daudrich arranges music for the trio, he said, he works to make it sound “very complete and full-sounding.”

“The piano trio tradition is: how do you take all the elements of jazz music and make it work with three people? Three people, and the piano as an orchestra. I make the elements of American jazz music work with what we have available. You know, you have the African-American influence; you have on the conception of rhythm on how the drums and bass play together – walking bass lines. And then you have the European influence of harmony and melody and song forms. And I take care of that with piano. So we all know that and we make it work.”

One of the things he studies with Longo is piano arranging, he said. Longo has his own piano trio, played piano in Dizzy Gillespie's Quintet for nine years, and composed and arranged for Dizzy's and other groups for many years. Longo also studied with Oscar Peterson at Peterson's Advanced School of Contemporary Music in Toronto, for six months in 1961.

Daudrich credited those lessons with Longo as affecting how he played: “What I play is very derived from my studies with him. It's utilizing the piano to its maximum capabilities as well as coming from my own voice.”

Warm, inviting – and no eyes glued to charts

So far, Daudrich's trio has recorded a four-song EP called Go Get It. They've also made a few videos, including one of a Daudrich original called “Get Nice”, which he describes as “a warm, inviting, swinging thing that you want to get into.” They played at the Resonance Café in Montreal this Wednesday, and will play Saturday at GigSpace.

Unlike at many jazz concerts, you won't see these musicians eyes' glued to the charts on their music stands. That's because they know the material by heart.

“It's very important for the audience because the level of communication is way higher. The act of reading [music] is like a filter and if you have to have that filter on you can't express and you can't be part of the experience as much as you can if stuff is memorized.”

Adam Daudrich at Le Petit Chicago  ©Brett Delmage, 2011
Adam Daudrich at Le Petit Chicago ©Brett Delmage, 2011

So Daudrich made a point of making memorization part of the band's rehearsals. “I encouraged [the band] to internalize the pieces by a gradual process and come to rehearsals, come as you are, play what you can, sound good, and we're going to take it section by section, we're going to talk about the grooves, we're going to come to a common understanding in what we're doing so that the stuff sticks so that the musicians can remember what we did. And the audience they all feel that when we perform: they know that 'Oh, these guys they have a thing. They've worked it out. It sounds good.'"

The GigSpace show will also feature Ottawa trombonist/vocalist Steve Berndt sitting in. “Steve is one of my favourite guys to be around; he's one of my favourite musicians and a lot of people don't realize that Steve Berndt is actually a fantastic arranger of music. He's very skilled with the pen. So we're going to play one of his original compositions.”

The ticket price will also include download codes for the group's EP, because “we feel that the CD as a format is now dead”. Those who download it will hear some of the material played at the concert, as well as some alternate takes of several songs.

Teaching jazz rhythms to children

On Friday at noon, Daudrich will give a very different performance: a lecture at Carleton University based on his current thesis work for a Master's in Music Education at McGill University. His topic is the “Pedagogy of Rhythm for Children”, and what he's interested in is how children are introduced to musical rhythms between ages 6 and 12.

“I feel that the most important area for the development of jazz music is how a child is introduced to rhythm and what kind of language, exercises, and exposure and experiences they had when they were a child with respect to keeping time, making rhythms. And it's very relevant to jazz music because the future of music culture really lies with the next generation of kids.”

Currently, he said, most children are only introduced to rhythms like 3/4 or 4/4 or 7/4 – those you find in Western classical music. The terminology used in school classes “does not refer to the rhythmic practices of African music and the way in which they entered jazz music. So there is a need to revise the terminology because the terminology people use frames the way a person thinks.”

“If I'm always discussing rhythm in terms of 3/4 or 4/4 or 7/4 times, then your music is going to sound like that. If you discuss rhythm in terms of flow of rhythm and actions, then your music will sound more like the tradition of jazz. So I think there's a need to at least have a conversation about not only the terminology, but developing exercises that are appropriate for different levels, different age groups, using hand drums, using graphing techniques. So my talk at Carleton is going to be an introduction to that.”

After Cuba, a greater interest in the jazz tradition

Daudrich moved from Ottawa, where he grew up, to Montreal to take his first degree in music at McGill. Afterwards, he stayed in Montreal because of the greater opportunities there. But he kept up his links to Ottawa, playing here frequently with many Ottawa musicians and groups, especially from 2009-11.

In particular, he said, “I have benefited from the very good organizational work ethics that I got from working in Ottawa: because in Ottawa you just have to be organized, you can't fool around. It's not something that's encouraged. It's not part of the culture. You need to be organized and you need to be on time and have your musical ability together so that you can perform and make money. So that really helped me in Montreal.”

But around the beginning of 2012, he had a week of concerts in Cuba, “and then when I came back from that, I was so changed by the whole cultural experience that something changed in me and I stopped wanting to just work like a madman on music just to make money, and I stopped going to Ottawa as much.”

He wanted to investigate the jazz tradition more, connecting back to New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz. “And New Orleans had for a long time a ferry boat that used to go between Havana [Cuba] and New Orleans every night. All the way up to the Cuba Revolution, pretty much. There was something that happened there in Cuba where I felt a connection between the American practice of music and the Cuban music, and African music.”

Adam Daudrich at the NAC 4th Stage  ©Brett Delmage, 2012
Adam Daudrich at the NAC 4th Stage ©Brett Delmage, 2012

That got him really him interested in rhythm, and that's also when he went on YouTube and discovered Mike Longo. He started going to NYC regularly to study with Longo, including spending a month in NYC in August 2012 to study with him exclusively.

“So the transition from going to Ottawa to not going to Ottawa as much anymore was like a maturing process, I guess. And in that time, right on the bridge of that time, Kelly Craig proposed that I should write all the pieces for his sextet which I did. And that, for me, was enough. I said, 'OK, that's enough. I've contributed to the Ottawa scene about as much as I can.' ”

These days, Daudrich is teaching more, and even doing some singing. “Well, I do sing a little bit. I like to sing right now because variety is the spice of life. So I like to sing a little bit just to bring the vibe back into a place that resonates with people. And, also, I just really enjoy singing.”

He also has a project with Ottawa saxophonist Zakari Frantz called Downtown Canada, which is mostly on hiatus. “It's exploring a different dimension of my musicality, but it's all stemming from that same connection I was talking about: Cuba, New Orleans and American funk music. So I'm really excited about that band but that's not going to happen for a while. The trio is really the focus right now.”

And where will the trio go next? They're looking for gigs further away: British Columbia, the Czech Republic, and Germany. They will also be applying to all the jazz festivals this year, small as well as large. “If we can get funding to go across Canada and the international jazz festivals, I think that not only audiences but I think established jazz musicians are going to be like, 'Yes, these guys are playing!'”

    – Alayne McGregor

The Adam Daudrich Trio will play GigSpace on Saturday, September 21.

Daudrich will give a lecture/workshop on the “Pedagogy of Rhythm for Children” at noon on Friday, September 20, at Carleton University (Room A900, Loeb).