It seems silly to say, but I sometimes forget just how good the musicians are who live in this city.
This past Saturday night I was at The Rex to catch some of the second night of the Alex Dean Big Band's two-night stay. I was gratified to see a full house (lineup out the door, even), though I should not have been surprised. On stage were some of Canada's top jazz musicians, including some younger musicians quickly on the rise, almost all of whom live, work and play in Toronto year-round. It was a celebration of Alex's soon-to-be-released big band CD, but felt also like a celebration of jazz in Toronto.
I'd expect that this Saturday night's performance of the Gordon Sheard & Sinal Aberto, the second concert in the Geary Lane Jazz Series, will be an equally apt reminder of the quality of musicianship we can find any day of the year here in Toronto.
Sinal Aberto performed back in June at the 2019 TD Toronto Jazz Festival, as they've done a few times before. So I knew what to expect - authentic Brazilian grooves, tight arrangements and great soloing. But, as I stood backstage listening to the beginning of their set, I was still amazed by the quality of the playing. (And this was despite a small rain delay and a corresponding small audience.) These are musicians who don't just dabble in Brazilian music - they know it inside and out. They've studied it, they've lived it, and what we get to hear as audience members is 100% the real deal. Here's a taste, from their recently released album "A New Day":
Sinal Aberto comprises of Rio de Janeiro-born vocalist Luanda Jones, who has made a significant mark on the Canadian musical scene since her arrival in Toronto in 2005; Mark Kelso, Head of Percussion at Humber College and one of Canada’s most in-demand drummers; bassist Robert Occhipinti (subbing here for George Koller), a first-call musician but also an acclaimed composer, and producer, who is equally at home in the jazz, classical, and popular music worlds; and pianist, composer and leader Gordon Sheard - a past member of Manteca, Rick Shadrach Lazar and the Montuno Police, and the bands of Chuck Mangione, Alain Caron, and Liona Boyd, and the Head of Composition at Humber College. So, to paraphrase what I've heard Alex Dean say on occasion, "not bad if you like that great sound, great groove, great playing kind of thing."
The new Sinal Aberto album, "A New Day," aims, according to the artists, to showcase "original compositions by Gordon Sheard and Luanda Jones that are rooted in a deep engagement with, and respect for, Brazilian popular and traditional music." There are a couple of Antonio Carlos Jobim covers on the album, but so ingrained are the variety of Brazilian musical traditions here - a testament again to the quality of the group's musicians - that you may not be able to tell the difference between Jobim's classic repertoire and the original compositions. Here's another example - an original composition which at the same time sounds, thanks to a Brazilian street beat from Mark Kelso and a melody reminiscent of the bridge from "One Note Samba", as though it could have been written and recorded in the heyday of the Brazilian bossa and samba explosion:
Whether originals or covers, we're in for a high-energy treat. Join us on Saturday night at Geary Lane for Gordon Sheard & Sinal Aberto. Doors open at 7 pm; concert starts at 8 pm. Complete concert information is available here.