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.
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.
I peeked in on the stage shortly before 10pm. If you’re new: The Jazz Room has a killer sound system.
There’s the lineup.
Then I saw a familiar face in Café 1842 next door: super-talented saxophonist/composer/arranger Allison Au.
Around the tables, the band: Allison, Nicole, Scott and Michael. Tom getting a drink in the background.
Time to set up.
Michael breaking out the vibraphone sticks.
Kyle’s tenor sax.
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!
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.
Brandon Valdivia, a Laurier Music grad from the mid-oughts. Man, this guy has some wicked chops on the drums.
Michael on the vibraphone rounded out the opening quartet, playing a short set of Brazilian influence jazz.
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.
This playing with four sticks blows my mind.
This is the first time I heard Allison play live. Wow.
Best in shoe.
This gig had a great informality. Like playing for friends.
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.
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.
Mallets and bars of the vibes.
Gregory Oh, Artistic Director for Open Ears. Quick break before Dodecaphunk.
In the house.
Tom with trombone.
Getting ready for a few words from Greg.
Greg’s a great cross-promoter: he’ll tell you about three other shows you should see in addition to this one.
Turnin’ it over to Kyle.
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.
I learned when Kyle puts his hand up, everybody is to move on to the next segment.
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.
And then it was done. Michael packed up the bow he used on the vibes.
Lots of friendly hellos with composer/teacher Peter Hatch (centre) from Laurier Music.
Scott packed up the bass.
Brandon caught up with Colin Labadie who dropped in for the show.
Waiting for the ride back to Toronto.
Stage packed up.
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.