It was thirteen years lucky on December 19, as vocalist Gaby Warren again led his group to host the annual pre-Christmas JazzWorks jam at the Carleton Tavern.
It's a tradition for Warren to bring his favourite local jazz musicians – Rob Frayne on Nord organ, Linsey Wellman on alto sax, Alrick Huebener on bass, Mike Essoudry on drums – together at the December jam to play his favourite jazz classics. This year, they were joined by guitarist Garry Elliott, and were dubbed (the ever-changing group name is another tradition) “Ana's Santas”. That was in honour of Warren's wife, Ana, who celebrated a very significant birthday the day before.
The repertoire was more jazz than Christmas, starting with John Coltrane's “Equinox”, continuing through “Ballad of the Sad Young Men” from the little-known musical The Nervous Set; and ending with “Bacchanal” by Kenny Barron.
This year, Warren released his first CD as leader, and included two songs in this set-list for which he wrote the lyrics: Sam Rivers' “Beatrice”, and Miles Davis' “Nardis”. The latter was recorded but eventually had to be left off the album because he couldn't get permission from Davis' estate.
But the music did turn Christmas-y for one song: “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”, for which Warren put on a knitted hat which was an amazing example of Christmas kitsch. It had not only a red Santa hat, but also a 3D snowman section with black eyes and carrot nose, and long earflaps ending in small Christmas balls!
Wellman and Elliott in particular had a chance to shine with several melodic and vehement solos, but all the musicians added to the fine post-bop collaboration.Warren did occasionally have to ask the audience to tone down its conversations so that the group's musical artistry could be fully heard and appreciated.
As usual, the stage was opened for jamming after the first set, with musicians playing both Christmas and more classic jazz.
– Alayne McGregor