Nick Fraser sees double

Hello from Kelowna!

I'm out west with my other gig - as Operations Manager for Continuum Contemporary Music - as we prepare to premiere a project called Renaissance, a collaboration between Continuum and Ballet Kelowna. While the time change is a bit tricky - I'm waking up earlier than I want to, and coordinating phone calls takes a few extra steps - I don't have much else to complain about: the hotel is two minutes from the lake, the weather is spectacular, and the concerts are going to be an impressive display of creativity in music and dance.

Speaking of creativity (see what I did there?), I'm looking forward to the final presentation in this round of TD Discovery Series Special Projects - Nick Fraser's double-CD release extravaganza, May 4 and 5. Over two nights at The Rex Hotel, creativity will abound as some of the top musicians in the jazz and improvised music communities come together to perform selections from CDs which are already earning critical acclaim: Too Many Continents from the Nick Fraser Trio, and Starer from the Nick Fraser Quartet.

Nick Fraser has been a vital force on Toronto's jazz and creative music scenes for as long as I can remember. He's in demand as a leader and a side musician; although I'm sometimes surprised at the variety of recordings on which he's played, it never surprises me that musicians would want to have Nick on their recordings - great time, great feel, and a clear understanding of what is required, whatever the style. I've heard Nick live or on recordings in settings ranging from solo to big band, and he always seems right at home - no small feat.

The performances next week are, without a doubt, going to be adventurous, high-energy affairs. But, given the musicians involved, they have the potential to be absolutely incendiary. Nick has assembled some of the most creative musicians from at home at abroad (Andrew Downing, Rob Clutton, Tony Malaby, Kris Davis), all of whom have an intimate understanding of how to play as a group in a freer jazz setting. And this, to me, is important. The idea of free jazz can sometimes be daunting, but in the hands of experts, it can be just as exciting as a well-played standard swing tune. In fact, we're sure to hear basically the same elements from Nick and crew as we would from a standards trio: they'll introduce a melody, take some solos, and (probably) come back to the melody. They'll be communicating with each other throughout, following each other's lead, responding to each other's playing, and ultimately looking to create a musical arc. And if we in the audience allow ourselves - just as on any other gig - we're sure to be taken on a musical ride.

You can read some great reviews of Starer from Exclaim!, Wholenote and NOW; but of course the best way to experience the music is live and in person.

Join me next week at The Rex (I'll be there Thursday night) for two nights celebrating an outstanding group of musicians and an outstanding achievement - the release of two albums. Complete details are on the concert page.

And - congratulations to all of the Special Projects artists this year: Amanda Tosoff, Sundar Viswanathan, David Occhipinti and Nick Fraser. It's been a standout series of shows.


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