Funked up serial modernism with the Kyle Brenders Big Band

OE16_Dodecaphunk 234

I hit The Jazz Room in Waterloo late Thursday night to catch the Kyle Brenders Big Band mashing up the atonal compositions of Webern and Schoenberg with funk a la George Clinton and Parliament. That all sounds like I sort of know what I’m talking about musically, and I guess I am a little better informed having interviewed Kyle and Allison Au (who opened) for an Open Ears piece on Dodecaphunk just a week earlier. The reality is I’m a curious cultural explorer who tries to keep an open mind. Not really knowing what to expect at this show, my curiosity was rewarded with a kick-ass performance by seven players whose passion for playing is matched by their depth of experience.

Interlude: if you dig my community-building work through these stories, please support it with your pocket change through Patreon. You can start/stop any time and set a monthly cap on your donation. I’m buskin’: this is my hat. Ok, back to the story.

My favourite seat at The Jazz Room is the corner perch, only six feet from the stage. From there I captured six sevenths of the big band in the photo above (L-R): Michael Davidson (vibes), Tom Richards (trombone), Nicole Rampersaud (trumpet), Brandon Valdivia (drums), Allison Au (alto sax), Kyle Brenders (tenor sax). You can’t see the amazing Scott Peterson (bass) here, but Scott don’t worry: I got you covered further down in this piece.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 011

Y’all know where The Jazz Room is, right? King and Princess uptown in Waterloo. I don’t often shoot here, but when I do it seems the photos just turn out.  There’s something in the music. The TL;DR here is: go hear some music that’s new for you.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 013

I peeked in on the stage shortly before 10pm. If you’re new: The Jazz Room has a killer sound system.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 015

There’s the lineup.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 018

Then I saw a familiar face in Café 1842 next door: super-talented saxophonist/composer/arranger Allison Au.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 021

Around the tables, the band: Allison, Nicole, Scott and Michael. Tom getting a drink in the background.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 023

Time to set up.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 029

Michael breaking out the vibraphone sticks.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 030

Kyle’s tenor sax.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 031

Allison in blue. Also if you’re new: the stage has some blue and violet lights that I really like for photography, especially on brass.

If you didn’t read my piece on Allison for Open Ears, let me say that she brought home a Juno for Best Jazz Album: Group this year. Respect!

OE16_Dodecaphunk 034

Mr. Scott Peterson on bass. Great chatting with Scott after the gig. He noted that most of this crew is part of the Massey Hall Band with Kyle. You can catch a free-no-pay gig they’re playing on the patio at Roy Thomson Hall on June 17 at 5pm.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 036

Brandon Valdivia, a Laurier Music grad from the mid-oughts. Man, this guy has some wicked chops on the drums.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 037

Michael on the vibraphone rounded out the opening quartet, playing a short set of Brazilian influence jazz.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 039

There are a ton more pics here, a quasi-unreasonable number. I occasionally get criticized for not editing harder, but this is my jam so if a photo appears here, rest assured I thought about it and it’s here for a reason that’s important to me.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 041

This playing with four sticks blows my mind.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 072

This is the first time I heard Allison play live. Wow.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 050

OE16_Dodecaphunk 077

OE16_Dodecaphunk 080

Best in shoe.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 083

OE16_Dodecaphunk 086


OE16_Dodecaphunk 092

OE16_Dodecaphunk 096

OE16_Dodecaphunk 102

This gig had a great informality. Like playing for friends.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 109

Brandon did this move on the drum that I’d never heard before. It was like sliding his hand across the drum head. I’m trying to google this and I’m not having much luck. So cool.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 114

Likewise, Michael did something with the mallet on vibraphone that I can only describe as a pitch bend. In the later set he busted out a bow and drew it across the edge of the bars.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 124

OE16_Dodecaphunk 120

OE16_Dodecaphunk 127

Mallets and bars of the vibes.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 137

Gregory Oh, Artistic Director for Open Ears. Quick break before Dodecaphunk.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 139


OE16_Dodecaphunk 148

In the house.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 168


OE16_Dodecaphunk 172

OE16_Dodecaphunk 173

Michael’s view.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 177

Tom with trombone.


OE16_Dodecaphunk 180

Horsing around.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 185

OE16_Dodecaphunk 197

OE16_Dodecaphunk 200

Getting ready for a few words from Greg.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 190

OE16_Dodecaphunk 214

OE16_Dodecaphunk 221

Greg’s a great cross-promoter: he’ll tell you about three other shows you should see in addition to this one.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 227

OE16_Dodecaphunk 252

Turnin’ it over to Kyle.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 259

OE16_Dodecaphunk 264


OE16_Dodecaphunk 244


OE16_Dodecaphunk 250

Kyle. The week before he had told me that the players would put out everything on stage for the audience. He said this was a live experience that couldn’t adequately be recorded and played back. Both of those things turned out to be true.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 266


OE16_Dodecaphunk 267


OE16_Dodecaphunk 283

I learned when Kyle puts his hand up, everybody is to move on to the next segment.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 289


OE16_Dodecaphunk 286

OE16_Dodecaphunk 299

Powerful horns. Everyone on stage was just wringing everything possible out of their instrument, right out to the edges. I liked the improvisation. I definitely caught the funk connection in the arrangements.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 302

And then it was done. Michael packed up the bow he used on the vibes.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 310

Lots of friendly hellos with composer/teacher Peter Hatch (centre) from Laurier Music.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 311

Scott packed up the bass.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 315

Brandon caught up with Colin Labadie who dropped in for the show.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 321

Check messages.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 326

OE16_Dodecaphunk 332

Waiting for the ride back to Toronto.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 333


OE16_Dodecaphunk 341


OE16_Dodecaphunk 353

Stage packed up.

OE16_Dodecaphunk 345

I left…

OE16_Dodecaphunk 355

and wandered back into the coffee-coloured night. So great to experience this show. The Kyle Brenders Big Band has a new fan: me.

At King and Princess, this is Waterloo.


This entry was posted in music and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.