Alex Dean engages the audience while Kieran Overs watches ©Brett Delmage, 2011
Alex Dean engages the audience while Kieran Overs watches ©Brett Delmage, 2011
Alex Dean, Kieran Overs, and Jeff Asselin
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University

One of the charms of the evening concerts at the Carleton University Jazz Camp is their informality.

Walking into the Tuesday concert, we saw saxophonist Alex Dean, bassist Kieran Overs, and drummer Jeff Asselin chatting animatedly with members of the audience. And a little while later, they climbed on-stage and played for 80 minutes.

Dean and Overs, both long-time veterans of the Toronto jazz scene, have played with each other and in each others' groups for years. However, they had not played with Asselin before, so the evening consisted  of jazz standards, ranging from "Love in Vain" to "Have you seen Miss Jones?" to "Giant Steps". They quickly found a groove together – one which allowed Asselin to play more assertively than in Monday's concert with Brian Browne – that included extended sax lines, clear, resonant bass notes, and fast drumming.

The lead switched frequently: Overs opened "Beatrice" by Sam Rivers with a bass solo, and later on in the piece Dean and Asselin traded solos, each  keeping the same tempo. And each song was used as a jumping-off place for extended improvisation: in fact, "Darn That Dream" only became recognizable several minutes in, after an intricate sax solo featuring circular breathing and notes travelling up and down the scale.

But what was most noticeable about the concert was the rapport the musicians had with the audience. The happy, energetic playing clicked right away, but it was Dean's humorous stories and reminiscences that got the audience relaxed and receptive. And since it was a jazz camp, Dean had fun analyzing the musical theory behind some of the songs (courtesy of his recently-acquired Masters in Music) – but then pointed out that Overs said "Why don't you just play it?".

The audience, which included a good contingent of Ottawa area jazz fans in addition to the jazz camp students, gave the trio two standing ovations and demanded an encore – and then everyone went back and chatted some more.

The series continues today with a seven-person tribute to pioneering saxophonist Charlie Parker.

    – Alayne McGregor

All photos ©Brett Delmage, 2011

Other coverage of the 2011 Carleton University Jazz Camp: