January 2006

Brian Chahley
January 4, 2006The Rex Jazz & Blues BarToronto
Play it again, Chahley
by Stanley Fefferman with photo by Greg King
There were a ‘lotta’ kids wearing jeans slipping off their asses clustered at the front tables of the Rex after nine the other night. By the door, there were a ‘lotta’ copper haired ladies who looked like your momma’s sisters, distributing hugs and kisses before gathering at the family conclave tables to the right of the bandstand. There was a ‘lotta’ peering quizzically at the charts on the music stands throughout the first set. The reason for all these ‘lottas’ was 18 year old trumpeter Brian Chahley, a 2005 graduate of a Toronto high school who is visiting here from California where he is privileged to be a two year fellow of the Brubeck Institute at the University of the Pacific.

On young Chahley’s slate of accomplishments are: playing for the second year in a row with the Gibson/Baldwin GRAMMY High School Jazz Ensemble in Los Angeles; playing the Toronto Jazz Festival, the North Sea Jazz Festival in Amsterdam, the Atlantic Jazz Festival in Nova Scotia, playing with Jim Galloway's Wee Big Band, and soloing with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. That’s a ‘lotta’ ‘lottas’.

As for the peering at charts, my guess is Chahley chose to work out on some difficult bop masterpieces. The first set started with Bud Powell’s “Bouncing with Bud” (1962); followed by Wayne Shorter’s inspired and daring “United”, first recorded by Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers in ‘61, featuring Chahley’s main horn inspiration, Freddie Hubbard. The set ended with Herbie Hancock’s funky, delicate, “One Finger Snap” (1964), also featuring Freddie Hubbard.
Most of the numbers started off with Chahley playing some unison intro bars in harmony with the commanding tenor sax of Kirk MacDonald. Holding down the bass line was Bill Mays’ favourite—Neil Swainson. Ted Warren, usually quite restrained, came out and had his own way with the drum kit this set. Brian Dickinson on piano, soloing or comping, made the music I most wanted to hear throughout the set. The music of the group was uneven, sometimes cluttered and muddy; often they found a groove, frequently came up with impressive solos. Dickenson’s work was outstanding, and his rapport with Swainson on bass was a highlight.

Brian Chahley’s ensemble work opening and closing the pieces was standup. His approach to soloing was to start with curt, spacey riffs, work up to longer runs, complex rhythms and tempos that made his fingers blur over the valves. He has a lot of technique and a lot of ideas coming out of him. His sidemen this gig were showing the way it is when control is well established, freedom well accustomed, so the music comes through more as feeling than energy and form. By the last number of the set, Chahley was warming up and starting to get past the abstractions of chops and was tuning into a gentle approach that made a ‘lotta’ sense to me.

One thing for sure, Chahley really enjoys the music, enjoys listening as much as playing, and he’s got what it takes to run with the best. There’s gotta be a lotta enjoyment coming outta him as time goes by.

We welcome your comments and feedback
Stanley Fefferman
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