Now THAT'S how you do it!

I haven't yet slipped into full festival mode, nor have I decided how I will document this year's shenanigans (blog postings? Tweets? A series of grunts?), but I will say this: if I needed a refresher on how great music should sound, I got it yesterday evening at the hmv Underground.

We're pleased this year to present a series of three preview concerts in the recently unveiled hmv Underground. The series got underway yesterday with the Mike Downes Trio - Mike on bass with Robi Botos on piano and Larnell Lewis on drums. They were playing music from their 2014 JUNO Award-winning album Ripple Effect, along with arrangements of jazz and pop standards.

The show was, in a word, fantastic. I don't suppose this should be a surprise, given the caliber of the musicians on stage, but putting three great musicians together on the bandstand does not necessarily a good show make. Mike, Robi and Larnell have clearly been playing together as a unit for a while - they communicated brilliantly, displaying a relaxed demeanour which comes only from knowing each other intimately as bandmates. Intros, outros, melodies, solos - they nailed them all. And they were smiling the whole time. As I said on Twitter: "Whoa. @mikedownesmusic @robibotos and @Larnell_Lewis are putting on a clinic in amazing trio playing @HMVSuperstore…"

We should be in for similar treats each of the next two nights: this evening, Myriad 3 (Chris Donnelly, piano; Dan Fortin, bass; Ernesto Cervini, drums) celebrates the release of their new CD The Where - they've been playing together for four years. And tomorrow evening, Eliana Cuevas (voice) is joined by long-time bandmates Jeremy Ledbetter (keyboard) and Daniel Stone (percussion). Shows start at 6 pm.

The opportunity to hear well-rehearsed groups - ensembles which have been playing together for a while, who have gelled in a particular way - is one of the reasons I enjoy jazz festival season so well. While it's possible to hear great groups year-round, the "off-season" is also time to explore new ensembles, try new arrangements, work with different musicians - that sort of thing. It's a vital part of the creative process, and it's always fun to see in progress. But to see a group of musicians for whom playing together is second nature? That's something special - and there are lots of examples at this year's festival.

But more on that tomorrow. Tonight, join me at the hmv Underground for Myriad 3. Complete details here.

Josh

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