Nov./Dec. 2004

Ron Davis Trio
November 5, 2004Top O' The SenatorToronto

What kind of handle can you make to grasp the music of a performer like stride-and-swing-based pianist Ron Davis who uses a minute-long rendition of one of Satie's "Gymnopédies" with a two-minute-and-a-half contemplative improvisation on the Satie tune before gliding into a lovely rendition of Mancini's Moon River? Well, Davis' music is full of surprises, touches of humour, and a kind of daring.

The trio's bassist, Drew Birston, is constructed a bit like a Modigliani when he's calmly keeping excellent time; but when he gets into an agony of passion, he appears to have been represented by El Greco, and gets surges of electricity happening out of his standup bass, arco as well as pizzicato.

What Ted Warren does on the drum-kit is worth listening to for it's own sake, because he never falls into monotony. Easygoing, never-too-aggressive, Warren manages to infuse the set with an astonishing variety of effects.

Richard Underhill, who always gives everything he's got, joined the Davis Trio during the second half of their 5-day gig at the Top o' the Senator, and rocked on alto sax, particularly during the outstanding tune "Savannah" written by Tony Quarrington, Davis' sometime guitarist partner in the band 'Swing Street'.

During the first half of the gig at the Senator, which I was unable to attend, the Trio was augmented by viola, two clarinets and cello, by arranger/conductor Tania Gill and mezzo-soprano Jean Stillwell. The augmented group is called 'The Shimmering Rhythm Ensemble', mixes jazz and classical elements, including Hebrew and Welsh hymns. The Ensemble and the material composed for it by Davis and Gill will be the basis for Davis' next CD, intended to be released in May 2005.

Report and photographs by Stanley Fefferman
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