January 2005

The Glenn Buhr Quartet
January 10 – 11, 2005 Top O' The Senator Toronto
I might have missed the Glenn Buhr Quartet, which opened a 2-day gig at the Senator last night if Jane hadn’t emailed me. Thanks, Jane.

The guitarist, Greg Lowe, plays an amplified Martin. When comping, he strums like they did in the early days of jazz when guitar (with banjo) was purely a rhythm instrument taking the place of drums, but when he solos, Greg likes to burn, ripping off staccato runs of 16th notes at double time, fast as Al DiMeola, spectacular as Django Reinhart. He also looks a bit like Willem Dafoe.

Richard Moody, the Stephane Grappelli of this hot club plays an amplified viola, which is a violin on steroids, and he sings slow and soft and high, torchy and blue, a bit like Chet Baker, whom Richard can resemble when he's not emoting.

Gilles Fournier reminds me of Gerard DePardieu, plucks his double bass with two fingers sending out a muscular pulse that grounds the group, but often when he duos a passage with the guitar, Gilles takes the melody while Greg comps chords.

On piano is the leader and lone arranger of the Quartet, Glenn Buhr, whose compositions have been performed by the Symphony Orchestras of Toronto, Montreal, St.Louis, and the BBC, to name a few. Which doesn’t mean he can’t swing, because he swings hard. From certain angles, Glenn resembles George Clooney.

You can get some idea of their sound and style from the set list, which included “That Slavic Smile,” by John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, Duke Ellington’s “Caravan,” and a piece by another jazz composer — Beethoven — the “Adagio” from Symphonie Pathetique.

The five original tunes they played, composed by Glenn, Richard, and Greg, reflect their stated philosophy that music is about Interplay—the title of their latest CD—of ideas from Mozart to Miles, Dylan to Funk, Sibelius to Swing.

The Glenn Buhr Quartet is fun to hear, and it is rewarding to listen to the interplay of spot-on tight ensemble work and unpredictable freedom in their arrangements.

Report and Photographs by Stanley Fefferman
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