Horace Silver Tribute
Carleton University Jazz Camp
Kailash Mital Theatre, Carleton University
Wednesday, August 7, 2013 - 7 p.m.
“If you're in a bad mood, just put on a Horace Silver record and you'll feel better.”
That was Mark Ferguson's prescription Wednesday night, as he explained how much he enjoyed the music by the hard bop pianist and composer, and how he'd been wanting to put on a tribute to Silver for a long time. Ferguson chose and arranged all the music for the Wednesday concert by faculty at the Carleton University Jazz Camp, and had a big smile on his face at the end of the evening.
Silver is best known for his up-tempo instrumental jazz numbers, and there were certainly lots of those. But Ferguson also chose some slower ballads, and showed off Silver's talent for writing lyrics as well. He also picked primarily less-well-known pieces, but ones which were well worth the introduction.
The concert started with a 15-minute solo performance by veteran jazz pianist Brian Browne, a medley in which he slipped almost imperceptibly among a wide range of Great American Songbook standards. He moved from Art Tatum-style rhythms to slow blues to a dramatic ballad – and spiced things up a few times with a chorus from “Sesame Street”. When he finished with some rumbling chords and a last high note, the audience jumped to its feet for a standing ovation.
Browne was then joined on stage by Joel Frahm on tenor sax, Mike Tremblay on alto, Paul Tynan on trumpet, Ferguson on trombone, John Geggie on double bass, and André White on drums. They opened with “I Want You”, which alternated a powerful, bopping riff played by all the front line in unison, with solos which showed off each of the players' strengths.
That song was from the latter part of Silver's career: the 1996 album, “The Hardbop Grandpop” – a title bestowed on Silver by a journalist and which he liked so much he appropriated it. The group then played the title track from that album: a bright, cheerful number where the horns were swinging over sparkling piano and strong bass and drums. It was followed by “Nutville”, a high-velocity piece propelled by an insistent riff and featuring a slightly abrasive trumpet solo, as well as an extended tenor solo by Frahm with interesting quoting (for example, "Eleanor Rigby").
Then Ferguson pointed out that Silver wrote lyrics for all his compositions, and introduced vocalist Elise Letourneau to sing “Filthy McNasty”, a song about a cat who could swing. Accompanied by just piano, bass and drums, she paid tribute to the lyrics with a syncopated delivery, partway between speaking and singing – underlined by Browne's rollicking piano.
Next Letourneau sang a duet with Frahm on “Doodlin'”, in which both her voice and his tenor were clear, fast, and beautifully phrased. They alternated lines, with Letourneau primarily scatting. Geggie contributed a solid, bluesy bass solo which echoed some of Letourneau's phrasing, and then they returned to fast-paced vocals and tenor.
The pace slowed right down for “Peace”, an expressive ballad played by just Frahm and Browne. It was a highlight of the evening, with the two working together to bring out the melancholy sweetness in the music. Frahm added texture with a slightly breathy line on tenor, and the duet was greeted with strong applause from the audience.
“Liberated Brother” brought the original lineup back on-stage, for a blues-inflected swinging number that played with time signatures, and allowed each horn player to solo. The final piece, “The Jody Grind”, swung hard as well, with White's drums keeping up an intense pace. Tremblay played an exploratory solo on alto, adding extra accents, while Tynan called out on trumpet, before they all returned to the original motif and a final flourish.
The audience promptly gave them another standing ovation – not too surprisingly, given the combination of infectiously fun music, and musicians who enjoyed playing it and melded really well together.
– Alayne McGregor
- I Want You
- The Hardbop Grandpoo
- Filthy McNasty
- Liberated Brother
- The Jody Grind
Evening concerts continue this week at the Carleton University Jazz Camp, with:
- Thursday, August 8: Frahm/Ellias/Geggie and Eagles/McGowan/Essoudry at the Carleton University Jazz Camp
- Friday, August 9: The Carleton University Jazz Camp Faculty Big Band plays Paul Tynan
The concerts are open to all; admission is $10. They start at 7 p.m. each night. There are also free student concerts on Saturday, August 10, at 2:30 and 7 p.m.