Monday, October 3, 2011

Pure Jazz

Senator Tommy Banks / UofC Jazz Concert
Mak and I walked over to hear the first of the Monday Night Jazz Series for 2011/12 – Tommy Banks quartet.  Advertized as a quartet, but what we heard was a quintet -- Bank on piano; Rubim de Toledo on bass; Al Muirhead on trumpet; Tyler Hornby on Drums and a saxaphonist whose last name I did not catch.  But he was originally for Ft. McMurray, which made him memorable to me.  The music was in his body and if a person were deaf to the music, it would still have been a joy to watch the dance of jazz in his body.

At 4 pm five guys got together and of the 1500 basic jazz tunes, they figured out the 12 or so that they all know how to play, wrote them on a half a piece of paper, but didn’t play any of them through and away the evening went, an articulation of the melody and then passing it around the group until they came to the finale. 

At one point Banks smiled at the musicians, then turned to the audience and said, “Did you hear that ending?  We didn’t even practise it.” 

The sets began and ended with Duke Ellington tunes.  We also heard Hoagy Carmichael’s Georgia and so many other jazz standards.  The crowd was an older crowd, sprinkled with university students who are learning how to use their student cards that let them into these function free. When Banks was willing to do an encore, he asked the audience what they wanted to hear.  The woman across the isle was firing off the names of all of the old tunes – i.e.,St. James Infirmary. I didn't even learn that song until last year when I decided to memorize all of the tunes on 2 disc Louis Armstrong collection.How did so much of the world get so far ahead of me.

The  quartet finished with an encore of My Funny Valentine.

Slow.  Mellow. Lingering melodies. 

I am still humming.

On the way over, for some reason Mak and I were talking about lives where there is a lot of money.  Those are good lives, but I can’t think they are any better than mine tonight – a walk to the concert hall, no traffic, sophisticated jazz playing, and by the time we left to come home the night had turned balmy, the street lights were glowing through the fall leaves on the trees and we could take an invigorating fast clip to loosen up up muscles after what seemed like an hour of being suspended, motionless in time.


  1. ... yes, that sounded great. i am switching my ipod over to chet bakers version of 'my funny valentine', and will re-read!

  2. I figured out the name of the saxophone player. Gerry Hebert. I was hearing him introduce himself as "Jerry Ohbear", and no where on the programme could I find that name. That is, until I looked under the page where there is a welcome and a pitch for financial contributions to the department -- and then it clicked in for me that Gerry Hebert = Jerry Ohbear.

    Also, I met Ann and Bob Cowie at the concert. They were asking how old Tommy Banks is, so I went out to the blessed internet, the source of 99% of my knowledge, and ... Banks was born in 1936 and started his career in 1950. The math told me that he was a performing jazz musician by the time he was 14.

    Now back to Gerry Hebert from Ft. McMurray, ... in the introduction to the concert he told how Banks and other Alberta musicians would tour the rural towns, doing concerts and then doing master-classes (probably called jazz sessions) with the young kids in the town. How great was that to see Hebert now on the same stage, and in fact, organizing the jazz series that brings in famous national and international musicians.

    One more thing, since the concert was so laid back, at one point when Tommy Banks was explaining a little about the pieces they were going to play next, he played the first five notes of the pentatonic scale on the piano. Then he said, how many "How many songs start with those five notes." People from the audience began calling out tunes they knew: 'Someone to Watch Over Me', 'I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus', etc.

    Hope you got to Chet Baker's 'My Funny Valentine'. If not, Banks suggests that since the concert on Monday wasn't taped and he brought along no CD's to sell, that people should go out to the internet and buy a few tunes. How classy was that!