December 2005

Warren Chiasson
December 28 & 29, 2005Lula LoungeToronto
He strikes, he scores!
by Joyce Corbett with photo by Roger Humbert

Bopping in from New York, Nova Scotia-born vibraphonist Warren Chiasson won over Toronto audiences during his two-day gig at Lula Lounge. Wednesday night he played straight-ahead jazz with an all-star band of Toronto jazz musicians — Kevin Turcotte (trumpet), Joe Sealy (piano), Lorne Lofsky (guitar), Terry Clarke (drums) and Neil Swainson (bass). Thursday night he played Latin-jazz with another all-star band — Alexis Baro (trumpet), Luis Deniz (saxophone), Hilario Duran (piano), Roberto Occhipinti (bass), Mark Kelso (drums), Joaquin Hidalgo (congas) and Chendy Leon (timbales). Genevieve Marentette was the guest vocalist both nights.

Not having caught the first night myself, I asked someone who’d been to both performances which was the best. The reply? They were both great. You really can’t compare — you know, apples to oranges. What it comes down to is that Warren is versatile enough to play apples and oranges, bananas, pineapples and kiwi fruit.

Latin jazz night at Lula Lounge the vibes are center stage. Warren is poised by the vibraphone, each raised hand holding two blue-tipped mallets. The band starts up mid-tempo and the mallets descend, hitting four note chords.

Throughout the evening, Warren continues to wow us with his varied techniques, switching colours, configurations and numbers of mallets. He lunges, he strikes, he solos and jumps back from the vibes as from an electric shock. He presses his arm across the metal bars while striking them with the mallets in his other hand. He pushes hard on the bars with two mallets and slides two others down their surface. He sandwiches a bar between two mallets and strikes it from above and below. He bends notes. He opens eyes to the possibilities coiled in this 'new' instrument with its ancient roots.
Warren Chiasson

The first piece flows into the second which flows into the third, and by this time I’m thinking ‘what a dream rhythm section Warren is playing with’. Dense but not heavy, they trap you in their air-layered groove. Fragments of melodies develop, fleeting away before they can be grasped. I look at the tinseled background of the stage and the lights in the palm trees and feel relaxed but invigorated, far from the madding crowds of Christmas. The mood continues with Carol Novak’s “Dance of the Sun”, a samba featuring pleasing harmonics, tempo changes and interesting solos from Hilario Duran and Roberto Ochippinti. The set wraps up with “Manteca”!

The second set opens like a hard-starting motor in the cold with sudden sharp percussive bursts from drums, vibes, piano, bass and shaken gourd — are we going be-bop? — before decisively taking off in an Afro-Cuban direction. More Brazilian style pieces follow, including “Morning”, a samba written by Claire Fisher (keyboardist for Joao Gilberto) and another Carol Novak composition. For the sizzling “Bossa Nova Scotia” Warren Chiasson brandishes five mallets, two blue ones in one hand and a red one added to the blues in the other.

His impact was such that I wouldn’t be surprised if he caused some young musician in the audience to switch instruments, much as seeing Lionel Hampton in concert once inspired the young Warren (who previously played violin, guitar, piano and trombone) to run out and buy an xylophone (the closest thing to a vibraphone he could find).
We welcome your comments and feedback
Joyce Corbett
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Roger Humbert
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The Live Music Report

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