Modern Jazz Happening
with MAH2 (Musicians are Humans Too) and the Adema-Smith Quartet
Pressed
Wednesday, May 10, 2017 - 7:30 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Ottawa listeners turned out in force Wednesday, to welcome back two young musicians who have just finished their jazz studies at the University of Toronto, and to send off another who will start there next fall. It was the latest in a developing tradition of talented young musicians performing at Pressed in May after returning from music studies elsewhere.

Saxophonist Patrick Smith and trombonist Nicholas Adema consistently played delicious harmonies ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Saxophonist Patrick Smith and trombonist Nicholas Adema consistently played delicious harmonies ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Pressed was packed with listeners for a double bill: the Adema-Smith Quartet, and MAH2 (Musicians are Humans Too). All the seats were taken, and a few people were standing at the side of the room.MAH2 consists of drummer Keagan Eskritt from Ottawa plus two other U of T jazz students: trumpeter Kaelin Murphy from Owen Sound, and Caleb Klager from Calgary (and previously from Ottawa). The Adema-Smith Quartet is led by saxophonist Patrick Smith and trombonist Nicholas Adema, plus two “mainstays of the Ottawa scene” (as Smith described them): drummer Michel Delage and bassist J.P. Lapensée. Eskritt and Smith have just finished their final year of their bachelor's degree at U of T, while Adema begins his first year studying jazz there next fall.

Both sets showcased many originals by band members. MAH2 played primarily freely improvised pieces, each with a specified starting inspiration, such as the music of rapper J Dilla, or the devastation of the current local floods, or thoughts of summer. They also included compositions by Eskritt and Klager.

The trio had only played one other formal gig together (last December), but showed considerable musical empathy in jointly creating music with a large dynamic and textural range. Their first improvisation evoked Miles Davis in the late 60s, with Murphy's long, full trumpet lines circling over Klager's fluid, inflected bass lines, and then dropping to barely audible before again building up and repeating the melody over Eskritt's atmospheric drumming.

Kaelin Murphy, Caleb Klager, and Keagan Eskritt (l-r) played primarily freely improvised pieces in their set at Pressed ©Brett Delmage, 2017
Kaelin Murphy, Caleb Klager, and Keagan Eskritt (l-r) played primarily freely improvised pieces in their set at Pressed ©Brett Delmage, 2017

Murphy used looping and other effects in their second improvisation, his echoing trumpet notes and Klager's ominous bass creating a watery feel fitting their flood theme. The piece developed into an intense vibrating dirge, reminiscent of Wadada Leo Smith's compositions.

I also enjoyed the trio's punctuated variations on Eskritt's “Should I Lose You” and the intense rhythmic interplay on Klager's “Goliath”, as well as the dramatic slow drum thumps with which Eskritt opened their final piece, his “Daylily Dawn”.

The Adema-Smith Quartet opened with “Gentle Peace”, a composition by Kenny Wheeler, and continued its full, flowing vibe through most of their set of originals and standards, with finely coordinated sax and trombone passages.

Adema on trombone and Smith on tenor sax played long, full lines in unison, intertwined, and alternately, developing and playing with melodies in pieces like Smith's warm and calm “Strength” and Adema's contemplative “MF”. But they also took their instruments to more abstract places, creating off-kilter squeaks and scratches and warbles, alternating with sombre lines, in Smith's “Perpetual”.

And they upped the energy and speed in several pieces, including in Ornette Coleman's bluesy “Faces and Places” and Charlie Parker's “Scrapple from the Apple”. Lapensée's bass and Delage's drums were a consistent strong underpinning, and Lapensée also added expressive and intricate solos.

They ended with Smith's “We Cried Together”, which opened with rough, buzzing lines on saxophone underlined with partially muted trombone, and then evolved into a gentle, melancholy conversation, and finally built up into a powerful sax/trombone duet.

The audience listened carefully throughout the 2½-hour show – the fridge at the back was the loudest noise at one point – and applauded warmly and enthusiastically.

    – Alayne McGregor

Set List

MAH2

  1. 1 to 3 Improvisations
  2. Should I Lose You (Keagan Eskritt)
  3. Improvisation
  4. Goliath (Caleb Klager)
  5. Daylily Dawn (Keagan Eskritt)

Adema-Smith Quartet

  1. Gentle Peace (Kenny Wheeler)
  2. Perpetual (Patrick Smith)
  3. Faces and Places (Ornette Coleman)
  4. Red Anne (Nicholas Adema)
  5. Strength (Patrick Smith)
  6. Scrapple from the Apple (Charlie Parker)
  7. MF (Nicholas Adema)
  8. We Cried Together (Patrick Smith)

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