What the **** do you mean it’s only Thursday night?

What a city I live in.  After hearing that he had missed my birthday(by only a few hours,) my boss’ husband decided to give me two extremely expensive tickets to the New York City Ballet.  I called everyone that I knew in the city—head count = about seven—and no one could come with me!  Oh well, at least I’ll go see some Corelli and Tchaikovsky before my birthday bash that evening, I thought.   Pink frilly dresses aren’t great, but it’ll keep me busy until my next show starts.

Man, I’m an idiot.  Not only was the ballet not Tchaikovsky, but Berg(!),  the dancers were the most disciplined people I have ever seen.  I’ll confess that I’ve never seen a brilliant concert pianist live.  I saw Mitsuko Uchida when I was about 15, way before I had any real connection to the instrument, and I got called out of town for the one day that I had Pierre-Laurant Aimard tickets.  Other seeing something like that, I can’t imagine a performance of such amazing control and grace as these dancers.  Every single movement was perfectly in time, and these people are concerned with millimeters of space.  There seem to be more elements of choice in choreography than in music, I find (now if I was a dancer, I may think differently, but we’ll never know).  The creative addition of a true third dimension terrifies me.

I would assume that for musicians, dynamics are sort of our third dimension.  We always talk of vertical (harmonic) and horizontal(rhythmic) movement, and I imagine that when one talks of bringing the score to life, that’s dynamics and articulation.  However, it seems that choreographers have to deal with how high the dancer can be lifted or thrown, how low they lie flat, and every place in between. To me, that seems like an impossible blank canvas to fill.

And the control of these dancers!  It has been said that until the computer, the piano had the most moving parts of any invention, and a virtuosic performance in the style of Liszt was the single human action that used the most parts of the brain and the most muscles of any other.  After seeing these dancers control every single movement within a hair’s length, I imagine that dancers have something to say about that.

I couldn’t see their recreation of West Side Story(I practice that choreography when I’m alone anyway…), because I had to go across the street to Dizzy’s to see… you guessed it!  Italian week!  And fortunately for me, the most Italian bassist they could find was John Patitucci and the most Italian drummer they could find was Billy Drummond.






Anyway, the Garzone and Bergonzi had the night off, and Enrico Rava and Chick Corea were I guess busy, so we were put with a less than stellar melodic content (with a tragic 317 E 32nd St accident).  Who cares.  My dead cat and a lobotomized polka accordionist could play a set at the Lady Gaga museum whilst backed by Patitucci and Billy, and I would be happy to appear and pay double cover for them.  If you haven’t ever experienced this and get the chance to hear their massive hookup, don’t pass on it.

The second band was Italy round two, and who did they find?  ALL CATS FROM TORONTO.  The most Italian bassist they could find was Roberto Occhipinti, and the most Italian Drummer they could find was Mark Kelso (please see above screenshot.)

Now hear this Toronto jazz musicians: when you put Guido Basso and Pat LaBarbera on an international NYC stage following a sub par front line, they bring the pain fast and hard.  I’ve never seen LaBarbera throw down like this.  You heard me right Toronto, the Canadian horn line mopped up the Italian-Living-In-NYC line.  And made sure that they’d remember it for quite some time.

Now, sure, this is a room filled with gruff Italian-Americans and aspiring artists, so Guido doing his usual Old Mill jokes didn’t exactly cut the ice, but the playing was superb.  And while I’m not going to sit here saying that Roberto and Kelso were up in the clouds like John and Billy, I have heard many worse professional rhythm sections on that stage, two times in recent weeks.

Now the most Italian pianist they could find (from Toronto at least) was Mario Romano.  I lived in Toronto for four years, and kept pretty close tabs on the then-current scene, and I had never even heard of Mario Romano.

After looking him up, I could tell why.  He’s a freaking construction mogul!  He plays for fun.  He must have been having some fun, because he tore it up.  I only wish that I had seen him in Toronto!  If any Torontonians see him on a schedule, get on it.  In fact, if you’re looking for a pianist in town, hire him.  He comes loaded with interesting arrangements, and an approach unlike any other pianist in Toronto.

Near future involves Winard Harper and Matt Wilson.  Awesome drummer Saturday!

“By the 1950s, Jazz Drumming had become s complicatd as undoing a four hook bra strap while driving a stick shift.” – Jeff Fitzgerald, Jazz Genius.



~ by Martin Porter on October 12, 2011.

2 Responses to “What the **** do you mean it’s only Thursday night?”

  1. Hello Martin,

    I just wanted to say thanks for your article in this Winter’s issue of the Hart House music magazine. Having not yet encountered an educated guide into the vast and somewhat intimidating genre of jazz, I have spent an embarassing length of time as a casual listener clinging to the outskirts of the jazz universe with a couple Miles Davis records and CBC jazz radio programs. Thanks for helping me break in.

    • Hi Karen.

      Thanks for reading! It’s great that the article got some attention. I’m glad that it helped someone. Just always remember that I only gave you ten choices, but you can find your own way from there. Look up the names of the players on those albums, look for other albums they’ve played on, and in no time, you’ll be a connoisseur.


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