Gaby Warren: jazz fanatic ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Gaby Warren: jazz fanatic ©Brett Delmage, 2013
Gaby Warren: Reflections of a Jazz Fanatic CD Launch
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage

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Partway through his CD release concert Tuesday, Ottawa vocalist Gaby Warren mentioned how he went to a club in the 1950s to hear Thelonious Monk. When he arrived, he saw a large Bentley parked out front, so he knew that Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter, the patroness of jazz musicians in general and Monk in particular, was there. So that was the only time he got to talk to “Nica”, he told the audience.

Warren told this story with such matter-of-factness and modesty that one had to hide one's raging envy: he heard Monk live? And talked to the legendary baroness? It was simply to give another angle on Horace Silver's song “Nica's Dream”, which appears on his new CD and which he and his quartet – saxophonist Kirk MacDonald, double bassist John Geggie, pianist Nancy Walker, and drummer Nick Fraser – performed with verve and exactitude.

Warren and his quartet attracted an almost-full house at the NAC Fourth Stage – friends, local jazz fans and musicians, and many ex-colleagues from the Canadian diplomatic service – although he did note he was lucky there was no Senators hockey playoff game that night. The audience was enthusiastic throughout, especially with his “Middle East Blues” which combined rueful and cynical lyrics with bravura free jazz playing by Geggie on bowed bass, Fraser on frantic drums, and MacDonald on eerie soprano. As Warren noted afterward, this was an interpretation completely different from the album – but equally interesting.

The group played some standards, a few originals, Warren's three-part "Cuban Fantasy", and two pieces by Canadian composers (MacDonald's tribute to his infant daughter, and Justin Haynes' “Montreal”) – all of which were on the album. They also added two songs that couldn't go on the album because Warren couldn't get the publishing rights to add his lyrics to the existing music: Miles Davis' “Nardis” (to which he added lyrics speculating why Davis never recorded that song), and Freddy Hubbard's “Crisis”, which got renamed “Whatever your vice is”.

After almost 65 years as a jazz fan(atic), years of preparation for and work on his album, and two hours of vibrant music which showed off the musicians' easy communication and innovativeness, Warren's show ended with a standing ovation.

    – Alayne McGregor

See also: Gaby Warren: a jazz fanatic steps to the other side of the footlights (interview)

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