It's a little hard for me to sit still as I write this post because WE ARE FINALLY MAKING SOME MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENTS NEXT WEEK. There have been more 'i's to dot and 't's to cross this year, so it's taken a bit longer to get everything ready to announce...but we're almost ready to go. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, it's my pleasure to talk a bit about So Long Seven, who bring their TD Discovery Series Special Project presentation to the Small World Music Centre next Saturday, April 8. A collective of four musicians - Neil Hendry (guitar/mandolin), William Lamoureux (violin/voice), Ravi Naimpally (tabla/percussion) and Tim Posgate (banjo) - So Long Seven seeks to explore in their performances the intersection of jazz, classical, world music and folk; on April 8, they're adding master percussionist Amara Kante and taking their explorations even further, delving into the West African origins of jazz and blues.
Technically, operating as a collective, So Long Seven has no leader, so I'm not supposed to centre out any one musician. But I will say this: each of the four core musicians has made a mark on a variety of musical styles in Toronto (and further afield). Ravi Naimpally studied the art of tabla playing in India, has earned JUNO nominations and was part of Kiran Alhywalia's JUNO Award-winning CD Beyond Boundaries; his Indo-jazz ensemble Tasa has toured extensively and has released four albums of original music. Multi-instrumentalist Tim Posgate has released 7 CDs of his own music; he's performed at all of the major Canadian music festivals and at festivals in the United States, Sweden, Finland and Germany. Neil Hendry earned a Certificate in Performance on scholarship at Berklee College of Music and has performed or recorded with Melissa James, Urban Preacher, Rufus Harley, and Wide Mouth Mason. William Lamoureux studied at the Québec Conservatory of Music and then, in Toronto, with Drew Jurecka; he has performed solo and as a member of his rock band the Billy Love Band.
For their April 8th performance, So Long Seven will premiere new compositions which are meant to celebrate the diverse cultures that exist in Toronto, and to acknowledge the influences of West African music on contemporary music. At the same time, the performance will be an opportunity to explore the history of the banjo, whose lineage can be traced to Mali and an instrument called the ngoni. Just as So Long Seven performances often incorporate North Indian drumming techniques (courtesy of Ravi Naimpally), on April 8th, with special guest percussionist Amara Kante, the group will follow the roots of the banjo and demonstrate the rich rhythmic language of West Africa.
The April 8th performance will be particularly special for two reasons. First is the addition of Amara Kante, whose international touring schedule has included stints with musicians like Peter Gabriel; second is the unusual expansion of the ensemble to five musicians - their first concert with a special guest, with new music written specifically for this show.
And the music itself? It happily defies categorization. I feel it's a strange and wonderful mix of styles: depending on which instrument is taking the lead it sounds more like bluegrass, or folk, or jazz, or country, or something from the North Indian classical tradition. I find the mix of sounds and colours intriguing - each instrument is so different (acoustic guitar, violin, banjo, tabla) but they somehow work well together. In performance, the quartet seamlessly moves from improvised sections to more composed sections; each musician has ample room to show off some impressive soloing chops. The addition of Amara Kante's djembe is sure to open up new sonic and rhythmic possibilities; in fact, here's a sneak peek:
So Long Seven wraps up what has been an outstanding round of TD Discovery Series Special Projects presentations on Saturday, April 8, 8 pm at the Small World Music Centre. Complete details are available on our website.