Live! on Elgin, Ottawa
Wednesday, September 4, 2019 – 8 p.m.
Cynthia Tauro received a warm welcome back on Wednesday as she gave her first album, Moments, its Ottawa release.
The pianist and vocalist performed many of the tunes from that album – her originals and a few jazz standards – along with two classic 70s pop songs. She told the audience at Live! on Elgin that she had written most of the originals during the six years she lived in Ottawa. “I got my groundings, my bearings here,” she said, in studying for her music degree at Carleton University and then playing professionally in Ottawa's jazz scene: She returned to Toronto in 2018.
The show was the start of Tauro's first multi-city tour – “I'm excited to start it off in Ottawa!” – which will also take her to the Upstairs Jazz Bar in Montreal on Saturday, followed by concerts in south-western Ontario and a Toronto jazz festival.
It was also an opportunity for her to play again with two well-known Ottawa jazz musicians – guitarist Alex Moxon, who had been in her first jazz band in 2016, and drummer Stephen Adubofuor – and for the first time with jazz bassist Marc Decho. The four musicians played smoothly together, creating a sound that ranged from straight jazz to R&B to pop, but with enough added touches to keep the music interesting. Both Moxon and Decho contributed fluid solos throughout, adding effects and changing styles to fit the songs, while Adubofuor's vigorous but modulated drumming energized the show.
All of Tauro's own songs were about relationships, and generally about romance gone wrong. She opened her one-hour set exactly on-time, with “Wondering”, an earlier tune which she had first recorded with Moxon. It was a pensive ballad about whether to reunite with a lover, whose upbeat chorus created an interesting hook, and her keyboard playing had considerable intensity and dynamic range. She followed it with “Like That”, a confessional song about not being able to forget someone, which opened with a insinuatingly bluesy bass line and whose sad lyrics contrasted with the bright keyboard accompaniment.
Other originals included the pleading R&B number “Far Away”, a song about a friend who was leaving the country. In contrast, “Why” was written at a time when she had several possible love interests, and its dance music vibe conveyed its happier mood.
Antonio Carlos Jobim's “One Note Samba” was one of the first songs Tauro learned in Portuguese while at Carleton, and one of the highlights of the show. She gave it a vivacious treatment, scatting and singing in both English and Portuguese. She easily navigated the fast and inviting Brazilian rhythms, using her keyboard as much as her voice to develop them. Decho echoed that beat in his rapid-fire solo, adding to the upbeat feel.
Tauro gave friendly introductions to each song, checked with the audience that the sound was good and not too loud, and even encouraged sing-alongs in several of the songs, including Carole King's “You've Got a Friend”.
The band closed with “Dancin' on My Own”, the single from Moments. It was written just after a break-up, when Tauro cheered herself up by dancing by herself in her apartment. It was an full-bodied number, with a memorably joyful, bouncing rhythm powered by intense drumming by Adubofuor.
The audience, which mostly filled the room, greeted that tune with strong and extended applause and demanded an encore. Tauro responded with the jazz standard “Fly Me to the Moon” (also on Moments), which ended the concert on a particularly strong note.
Tauro interpreted it less as a Sinatra swinger and more as a heartfelt love song, beginning with the less-sung introductory verse and letting her voice linger on the words in the chorus. But it was also a vivid number, with lots of room for extended solo interpretations of the melody on keyboards, guitar, and bass. I particularly liked Decho's and Adubofuor's emphatic bass/drum trading fours.
This tune felt more carefree and more interesting to me than the rest of the set. I would have liked to have heard Tauro and her band do the same with some of the other, more pop-oriented, numbers – to have more fun with the tunes and experiment more with them. Perhaps that will happen later in the tour in shows where Tauro has more time to perform than the one hour she perfectly fit into.
Ottawa vocalist Edra Silva and her band also played a fine opening set. See our separate review.
- Wondering [Cynthia Tauro]
- Like That [Cynthia Tauro]
- One Note Samba [Antônio Carlos Jobim]
- You've Got a Friend [Carole King]
- Have You Ever Seen the Rain? [John Fogerty]
- Far Away [Cynthia Tauro]
- Why [Cynthia Tauro]
- Dancin' on My Own [Cynthia Tauro]
- Encore: Fly Me to the Moon [Bart Howard]
Read related stories by OttawaJazzScene.ca
Cynthia Tauro's 2019 Ontario/Quebec tour:
- September 4: Live! on Elgin [Ottawa] (with Alex Moxon (guitar), Marc Decho (bass), Stephen Adubofuor (drums))
- September 7: Upstairs Jazz Bar [Montreal] (with David Rourke (guitar), Jonathan Chapman (bass), Aaron Dolman (drums))
- September 14: Aylmer Performing Arts Council [Aylmer, Ontario (near London)] (with Ben Maclean (guitar), David Maclean (bass), Matt Lagan (sax), Julian Di Vito (drums))
- September 15: The Kensington Market Jazz Festival [Toronto] (with Jackson Steinwall (bass), Julian Di Vito (drums))
- September 19: Alchemy Food & Drink [Toronto]
- October 5: "Unplugged on Main" music series, Emmanuel Presbyterian Church [Schomberg, Ontario]